Jonathan Hillebrand



How I pushed breaking changes to my iOS app without risking a sh*tstorm



My bestselling app is a geography game called "Where is that?". It's on the market since 2012 and in 2014 I was thinking about a fresh version with a new technological platform and new game mechanics. But I was scared of a shitstorm, if I published an update with breaking changes. And this app pays for my living. So I thought of a new brand called "Geo Arena". It had a revamped singleplayer mode and a brand new multiplayer mode. It received good ratings and I thought I could shift users from "Where is that?" to "Geo Arena", but that didn't work out.

The first version back in 2012 was a huge success with millions of downloads and top 1 spots in the charts. However from todays perspective it looked like crap.

After about a year I published a major update and that's how my app looked like until December 2015. It kept having steady downloads and engagement figures, but no growth.

In fall 2015 I finally figured out, how to update "Where is that?" without the risk of upsetting regular users. Why not include the existing code as a "Classic Mode"? That's what I did and it worked out perfectly. There were still a few grumblers, but no major complains. A prominent Classic Mode button is shown, if the app was previously installed. For fresh installs there is still an option in the settings menu.

The app is monetized via ads and In App Purchases. Both revenue sources generated roughly the same income before the update. While advertising revenue stayed pretty constant, IAP revenues went up by 596% percent.

And these revenues were not driven by increased download or retention figures. So my next steps are increasing these KPIs.

Jonathan Hillebrand

I sketch, develop and publish mobile apps.