Updating your iPhone app for Christmas

There seems to be a bit of a tradition in which many developers update their iPhone apps or games for the Christmas season. Whether the update consists of new artwork, adding a Santa Claus, Christmas music, or even creating a completely new Christmas app, everyone seems to be getting in on the Christmas spirit, and expressing it through their iPhone apps.

Some may call it a cheap way to get back into the "New and notable" section of the App Store and bring fresh attention to your app, but the less cynical may see it as a fun way to add some new elements and features, along with some Christmas cheer.

At ReignDesign, we decided to update three of our apps for the season (Pig Rush, Bible Promises, Spot the Difference!), each in different ways. We thought the iPhone user and development community might be interested in what we did, what worked for us, and what didn't.

Pig Rush

Pig Rush

App description

Pig Rush, is a simple and addictive platform game where you control a cute cartoon pig who jumps from platform to platform dodging obstacles.

Reindeer Rush

How did we update it for Christmas?

We re-skinned the game as "Reindeer Rush", changing all of the main artwork, and by adding some falling snow. Additionally, we changed the background music to something with a more Christmas feel.

Since very few programming changes were made, other than the artwork, it took relatively little development and testing effort to come up with this release.

We decided to implement it via - ironically - an Easter egg. I won't go into how to unlock it here, but triggering the Easter egg unlocks a "Christmas mode", in this case "Reindeer Rush". We decided to go the Easter egg route for a number of reasons:

  • Completely re-branding the game as a Christmas app would not only cause brand confusion, but guarantees we'll have to re-release another version in January.
  • Creating it as a separate app may also cause brand confusion, and - since it's a 'new' app - take longer for Apple's reviewers to approve than an update to an existing app.
  • Implementing it as an Easter egg means that the game will never be dated as a "Christmas app", but it will have the benefit of users being able to access the "Christams mode" any time of year, as long as we don't remove it from future updates.

Spot the Difference!

Spot the Difference!

App description

Spot the Difference!, as the name suggests, is a game that shows you two images with subtle differences which you must identify and tap before the timer runs out.

Spot the Difference!

How did we update it for Christmas?

With Spot the Difference!, we decided that it would be better to focus on implementing our most requested feature than to spend too much time on a seasonal update. With this type of game, we decided that seasonal content would seem outdated quickly. Instead, our plan is to implement an in-app purchase feature for level packs.

We did add a Christmas level, though. And while we had the code open, we also took the opportunity to fix a couple of bugs and throw in some other user requested features like a victory screen and time penalty for mistakes made.

Bible Promises

Bible Promises

App description

Probably our top selling app, Bible Promises is a topical Bible reference guide that enables users to find verses from the Bible organized by various topics such as Peace, Encouragement, Grief, etc. Verses are displayed on top of background photos.

Bible Promises

How did we update it for Christmas?

Unlike our other apps, updating Bible Promises was fairly straightforward. We added a new Christmas category, along with several Christmas themed verses from the Bible. Additionally, we had to hack the Christmas category a bit to only display photos that were relevant to Christmas. It seemed a bit out of place to display a background image of a summer field with a quote from the Christmas category, so we modified it so that only relevant images display when a user selects a verse from this category.

Obviously not every app is the same, and the methods we used may not work for your existing apps. However, adding some Christmas spirit to your app through an update doesn't have to be too difficult, and it can be a fun way to mark the holiday season and provide a little Christmas cheer to your users. One point that is very worth noting however: as of this writing, none of our updates have been approved yet, so remember (for now and for next year): submit your app for review as early as possible!

Stephen Ceresia

Stephen Ceresia is Marketing Manager at ReignDesign. Stephen is from Canada and is currently based in Shanghai.

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