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Localization Case Study: Fortune City

Creating a finance tracker that records income and expenses is one thing. Engaging users so that they track their spending in the app every day is another story. This is a stumbling-block for most developers. A user-friendly interface isn’t enough to create personal finance habits. That said, there is a company that found a way.

The Fourdesire team created a finance tracker that has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times. Fortune City isn’t just a personal finance app — it’s a fully-fledged game. In this article, we’ll discuss how the developers are able to keep gamers’ attention and help them develop good habits, what functions help with saving money, and what problems our translators ran into while adapting Fortune City into three languages.

Fourdesire’s Initial Projects and the Gamification of Personal Finance

This isn’t the first time the mobile development team at Fourdesire has worked with tracker apps. They started with Plant Nanny, an app for tracking water intake, and Walkr, a space-themed step counter. When it was time to develop a new project, general director Taco Chen noted that the majority of personal finance apps on the market were purely functional. They were boring and repetitive, which made people lose interest in tracking their spending. With that thought in mind, in 2016 the team started working on a new app, Fortune City.

They wanted to make a personal finance tracker that was entertaining, so that creating good habits didn’t require lots of effort. This was the developers’ main goal: creating an app that was fun to play. If users are engaged in the process, then the thought of tracking spending doesn’t cause annoyance. It’s no longer a daily hassle for them.

Wei-Fan Chen, CEO, producer, founder at Fourdesire

During the early stages of development, the Fourdesire team consisted of only three people: a developer, a designer and an artist. Together we contemplated how to gamify an expense tracker and tossed around lots of ideas. Our first idea was to use the image of a businessman in a suit who would get richer as you regularly manage your spending: his pockets would bulge and his suit would change. That concept was thrown out because it felt too primitive.

From there, we thought of the classic game Monopoly, and realized that most people have two fundamental associations with the idea of personal finance: earning money and acquiring property. That’s how we got the idea to depict in-game transactions as buildings.

Fortune City’s Mechanics and Visual Style

In Fortune City, every expense you enter turns into real estate. So, if you spend money at the grocery store, a food stall appears in your city. You can upgrade the building category and combine several stalls into a large family restaurant. As you keep track of your spending, you create a megalopolis on your phone. After some time goes by, you can evaluate your consumer habits just by looking at your buildings. How does your city look right now? What types of buildings are dominating and which are falling behind?

You become the mayor of the city and take responsibility for its fate. You build new buildings, earn money and spend it on developing your megalopolis. The citizens of Fortune City aren’t sitting idle, either: they work in your establishments, achieving their goals and sometimes giving you tasks, like finding something and getting a valuable reward for it.

It’s worth noting that the developers tried to make life in the virtual city reflect reality as much as possible: every citizen has a unique appearance and personality, as well as their own demands and favorite activities. You can only make your citizens truly happy if you take their wishes into consideration.

At first, the Fortune City interface was designed in a “Hollywood” style, with bold lines and bright colors. With time, the developers realized that the target audience required a different approach.

Sophia Wang, Fortune City Artist

The app is aimed at students and people who are just starting their careers. They want to relax and have fun, not just frantically track their spending. That’s why the visual style of Fortune City was changed to be less harsh: the color scheme has become softer and the characters have acquired more rounded shapes without many sharp corners.

At first, the artists drew the city from a 45 degree angle, because the app was 2-D. Now, we use a different approach, and draw the buildings in the style of 3-D cards. When you open Fortune City, all your real estate is shown off with attractive cards.

While building and developing their cities, users found their demands changing. It turned out that for some Mayors, it wasn’t enough to just track spending. They needed a more powerful tool for managing money, which would help them gradually earn a fortune.

So, in 2018 the Fourdesire team developed the CFO service. When players subscribe to the service, they gain access to detailed analysis and learn to develop an effective financial strategy. They can set limits on categories of goods, recognize overspending in time, and get detailed reports for each month.

Inlingo Studio: How We Translated Fortune City

Before Inlingo got involved, the app supported five languages: traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean and English. When deciding which additional languages to localize into, the developers considered several factors: the location of existing players, the financial situation and economy of the regions, and the overall number of speakers. In the end, the choice fell on Brazilian Portuguese, Thai and Latin-American Spanish.

The app’s main screen in the source language, English, and our translations: Latin-American Spanish, Thai and Brazilian Portuguese.

Sammy Long, Associate Producer at Fourdesire

We put together all the content in English, added some explanatory text about specifics of style and interface, then sent it all to Inlingo. The translators were very professional, so the translation process went smoothly. If the team had any questions, they flagged specific issues and asked for more information. For the most part, they handled it on their own.

At Inlingo, the choice of translators for a specific project is very important, since the team is what determines the results, to a large extent. The translators who were chosen to work on Fortune City all had experience in the field of finance.

Olga Perevoshchikova, Project Manager at Inlingo

We had already worked on projects with a similar theme, so we were happy to take on the translation of Fortune City. It was important to choose translators with good knowledge of finance, so we made our decision based on the results of a test task. It consisted of 800 words to be translated, which we divided in half. The first 400 words were sent on a schedule, but the second half was sent out unexpectedly.

During the real work process at Inlingo, force majeure situations are very rare. We respect our translators and try not to overwhelm them. However, we highly value flexibility and the ability to react quickly. So, only the translators who handled our test task on time and with high standards were added to the team for Fortune City.

The Inlingo team finished translating 35,000 words into 3 languages over 1.5 months, and results were almost instant. The number of downloads in the new markets doubled, on average, over the year.

The app enjoyed particular popularity in Brazil, where the number of players grew by 3,768%.

Localization Examples

Localizing content for people with different cultural backgrounds has many complexities. Our translators often have to find imaginative solutions to convey the necessary meaning to a new audience. Fortune City was no exception.

New Seasons

During the translation into Portuguese, our translator noted that the seasons there did not correspond to the customary seasons used in Western Europe. One feature of the southern hemisphere is that the seasons are reversed. When it’s winter in Russia, it’s summer in Brazil. There, summer starts in December and ends in March.

Olga Perevoshchikova, Project Manager at Inlingo

The game had text that said something like: “Born in the drizzling rains of spring, Gemini’s spirit is flexible and curious.”

For us, that sounds completely natural — we know that Geminis are born from the end of May through the end of June. This is the end of spring and the start of summer. But for people living in the southern hemisphere, that time is the start of winter, and so when translating into Portuguese we used different seasons. We consider it important for the new audience to feel like the text was written specifically for them.

Struggling With Limits

During translation into a new language, the text often becomes longer than it was in the original. When dealing with character limits, this nuance can be a big headache.

In our case, a problem arose when translating the name of the app: it had to be 30 symbols or fewer. The original English name is exactly 30 symbols: Fortune City — Expense Tracker. Finding a literal translation and staying under the character limit proved difficult.

For the Spanish translation, we suggested a new name to the client: Fortune City: Sigue Tus Gasto‪s‬, where the second part means “track your expenses.” The same problem arose in Portuguese, so the original name turned into something with a similar idea: Fortune City — Finança Fácil, which translates as «Fortune City — Easy Finances».

No Brands Allowed

One of the client’s most important requirements was attention to names — no references to popular brands were allowed in the app. However, surprises can appear where you don’t expect them during translation.

One of the characters in the app is an owl named Owdy. During the translation into Thai, an exact transliteration of the name ended up matching the name of the car brand, อาวดี้ or Audi. We had to rename the animal and give him a literal name: Owl, or น้องฮูก. That was the only way to avoid referencing a popular brand in the text.

Culturalization is obligatory

Localization is more than just a literal translation of text. It also involves adapting to the culture of another country. When working on Fortune City, we often changed the details to make it sound more natural for people living in another hemisphere.

Adapting Asian cultural nuances for a Brazilian audience was one of the biggest problems we encountered when working on Fortune City. For example, the traditional Asian dish “hot pot” became feijoada, a very popular dish in Brazil made of beans, meat and cassava flour.

Translator: Can “Hot pot” be replaced by any local cuisine?
Client: Yes. You can replace it with any local cuisine but not alcohol.

Before (on the left): hot pot. After (on the right): feijoada.

A similar adjustment was made regarding sports. A baseball had to give way to a soccer ball, since soccer is the national pastime in Brazil.

In the end, we:

  1. Localized the text into 3 languages
    We translated 35,000 words into Brazilian Portuguese, Thai and Latin-American Spanish over 1.5 months.
  2. Nearly doubled the number of downloads in new markets
    In Brazil alone, the number of users grew by 3,768%.
  3. Ensured cultural adaptation
    We didn’t just change the language. We also considered the cultural nuances of the new regions.
  4. Tested the app with the new language options
    We made sure that all the text fit in the app interface after translation.
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