How to localize the game into Arabic? Experience working with Belka Games and Inlingo on Solitaire Cruise

The experience of localization into Arabic on the example of Solitaire Cruise, — in his column on App2Top.ru Executive producer Yevgeny Gilmanov and lead localization manager Denis Ivanov from Belka Games, as well as project manager Eleonora Artemyeva from Inlingo shared.

Evgeny Gilmanov, Denis Ivanov and Eleonora Artemyeva

Belka Games: the liner departs

The development team began work on the new game at the end of 2019. The project originated in the RnD department, a special division of Belka Games, whose task is to look at new genres for the company, prototype mechanics and test hypotheses. One of the fruits of the research was the concept of the solitaire game.

Executive Producer at Belka Games

The department offered two versions of the solitaire game developed before the stage of playable prototypes. Both options were tested, and according to the results of the research, the team chose the best version. She became the progenitor of Solitaire Cruise.

In the story, the player goes on a cruise ship trip to famous cities and plays solitaire. For successful completion and combinations of cards, he receives stars and coins. With their help, the player can open new locations and make in-game purchases. On board, the player meets different characters who offer him to participate in events and tell their stories. In addition, mini golf is periodically opened and sailing regattas are held.

Executive Producer at Belka Games

Inlingo gets on board

The softlonch of the game took place in the spring of 2020. Initially, Solitaire Cruise was released in two languages — Russian and English. In October 2020, by the time the project entered the global market, Belka Games applied for localization in Inlingo. At first, the project was translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. This made it possible to simplify promotion in the European market and become closer to the players.

After the global release of the project, the Belka Games marketing team tested different directions of product expansion. Since Solitaire Cruise’s main competitors did not operate in Asian countries, it was decided to add Chinese, Japanese and Korean to the list of languages. Localization was successful, and solitaire managed to win a fairly large audience and a share of revenue in this market.

However, the developers did not stop there and in 2021 they turned to Inlingo with a new task — localization into Arabic in order to conquer the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa).

As much as this region is interesting, it is so difficult to work with. The first thing to do here is to understand the audience's interest in your product. Check if the game can achieve good performance in the region. Success in Western countries does not guarantee success in Arab countries at all. The second is the language, style, and national characteristics of the games present in the MENA region. These components can make serious changes to both the strategy and the product, so it is pointless to enter a new market without them.

Evgeny Gilmanov

Executive Producer at Belka Games

It was possible to conduct a risk assessment before launching in Arabic with the help of native speakers with whom Inlingo cooperates. Work on localization began with a survey about the peculiarities of Arab culture. Based on its results, the Inlingo team compiled a checklist for Belka Games on acceptable and unacceptable elements in the game. Since Islam prevails in Arab countries, it is very important to avoid sensitive topics so as not to offend the players.

In addition, the specifics of the project have added difficulties with finding translators into Arabic. Many native speakers refused to translate card games, which are considered gambling, and therefore forbidden for Muslims. Fortunately, there were different performers in the Inlingo database. Including those that are not bound by any restrictions.

The game was translated into Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). It is a superdialect variety of Arabic, which is widely used in the media, entertainment industry, education and politics. MSA may seem a bit formal, but it is understood in all Arab countries, so it is customary to use it for localization of many products. Inlingo adheres to the same policy.

Together with native speakers, the project’s style guide was compiled to prevent dialect forms of the language from getting into translation, as well as to consolidate other important rules.

The most important thing when translating games into Arabic is to be careful and take into account the peculiarities of the life of native speakers of this language. Many topics are sensitive or even forbidden. For example, homosexuality, excessive frankness and details of intimate aspects of life, the use of products prohibited in Islam, religious symbols. There are a lot of such topics. If they occur in the main language version of the game, the translators and I localize the text by choosing neutral descriptions of events or omitting them from the translation altogether, if this does not interfere with the understanding of the text

Louise Safarova

Arabic Editor in Inlingo


During the work, the Belka Games and Inlingo teams had to face difficulties related to linguistic nuances and the perception of Arabic-speaking players. But thanks to close interaction with native speakers, careful verification and thorough testing, all the pitfalls were circumvented.

1. Don’t confuse right and left

Arabic is written from right to left. It was important to adapt the texts in the game to this style of writing. Everyone had to get used to and master the new localization in Belka Games: leading managers, developers, testers, UI designers. In order to adapt to the new format, it was necessary to study a large number of materials.

Denis Ivanov

Leading Localization Manager at Belka Games

The localization team also could not forget about the “toggle switch”. When checking, special attention should be paid to the display of the text — each time make sure that it is aligned to the right and has an RTL direction. Some text editors (Google Docs/Sheets, Excel, Word) do not always correctly display Arabic text if it contains Latin letters and numbers, so it is so important to test the project before launching.

2. Monitor the reflection

The text in the Arabic localization has an RTL direction, but the numbers are written from left to right. Because of this, an unpleasant problem arose: the cost of kits and prices in the bank were “reflected” due to the orientation of the texts. For example, the price tag of $4.99 turned into $99.4, which could cause some embarrassment to users. Fortunately, the problem was detected and fixed as soon as possible.

This is how prices on interactive buttons looked before solving the problem with reflection

Correct display of the cost on the buttons for Arab countries

3. Observe neutrality

In Arabic, each verb, noun and adjective is always assigned a masculine or feminine gender. The masculine gender is used by default in most cases, but on many projects it is important to try to adhere to gender neutrality. The Inlingo team proposed a successful solution — to use verbal nouns (masdar) for such cases.

Many modern companies in Arabic localization use this form of the word. Arabic has a complex grammar, especially regarding verbs. Moreover, Arabic has three grammatical numbers — singular, dual and plural — so there are many rules for declension of verbs. In live speech, Arabs try to avoid using verbs altogether and often use masdars and participles.

Louise Safarova

Arabic Editor in Inlingo

Squared word means “buy”. There is no such neutral infinitive verb form in the Arabic language, so masdar is used for such cases, as here — ——-.

4. Consider all the nuances

When preparing events in the game, it was especially important to take into account the cultural and religious peculiarities of the region. Here, the expertise of neytiv translators has again proved indispensable. Together with Inlingo, localization of three big events in the game was carried out, timed to coincide with important holidays for Arabic—speaking players – the National Day of Saudi Arabia, the National Day of the UAE and Ramadan. The team conducted a survey among native speakers to gather information about holiday traditions and religious restrictions.

It's great when there is an opportunity to clarify all the questions from the direct representatives of the region we are interested in. Thanks to their advice and recommendations, we managed to make quite good and memorable events for the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Denis Ivanov

Leading Localization Manager at Belka Games

The Inlingo team found out that during the celebrations, residents of these countries dress in the colors of national flags. It was necessary to pay special attention to the choice of clothing for women — it must be closed. And when preparing the event for one of the most important holidays in the Muslim world — Ramadan or Ramadan — the developers gave the synopsis to Inlingo carriers so that they carefully studied the narrative.

Our regular neitives were pleasantly surprised when we came to them with a synopsis about Ramadan and questions from a client. We paid special attention to the place of action — Istanbul — because we wanted to make sure that this city is exactly right for this event. In general, native speakers liked the synopsis very much. We have not received a large number of edits on the text — only a few ideas that will smooth out the sharp corners.

Eleonora Artemyeva

Project Manager in Inlingo

Also, native speakers in Inlingo have made an important clarification in the synopsis of the event taking place in the Bahamas. According to the plot, as entertainment, the characters can swim with mini-pigs. All the interviewed native speakers noted that it is better not to mention pigs, since this animal is considered “unclean” in Islam.

Results of joint work:

  • we translated the project into ten languages in two years;
  • we have successfully mastered not only the European and Asian markets, but also a new region — MENA;
  • led the project to stable results in retention and monetization metrics.
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