Foreign sales market

From time to time on the “MacSB list”:http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/macsb people ask about the value of localization and what percentage of sales come from foreign customers. Since day 1 of “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/ I’ve always been surprised at how many sales are from Europe. At times it felt as if over half of sales were outside the United States, so I finally ran the numbers to know for sure.

My homegrown customer database doesn’t actually include the physical address, so I grabbed the last 500 sales from PayPal and wrote a quick script to group the countries. Here’s the chart:

Wii Transfer countries chart

The United States represents just over half. If you add up the other English-speaking countries, it hits 70%. Still, this is a purely English-only piece of software. I’ve resisted the push to localize until I feel the codebase is better prepared for it, and the UI more stable.

At “VitalSource”:http://www.vitalsource.com/ last year I wrote a custom Rails web app to manage localization resources for both the Mac and Windows products and deal with the outsource translators, and the takeaway from that experience was definitely to go slowly. It’s easy to end up with a foreign language version that makes compromises and is potentially less useful to customers than the English version. Depending on the size of the product, localization could take weeks or months, time that might be better spent adding features.

Back to the real stats. Why are the foreign numbers so high? I think the weak dollar combined with an already relatively inexpensive price makes Wii Transfer even more of an impulse buy in Europe.