Have you ever done a barrel roll in your browser, or tried to get walking directions to Mordor? Do you know the names of the UNSC’s two funniest marines? Is HESOYAM more than just a meaningless acronym to you, or UUDDLRLRBA a nostalgic link to your misspent youth? If you answered yes to any of these questions, congratulations! You have unlocked the Easter Egg Achievement of life.
Easter eggs in software, of course, are bits of unexpected behavior built in to a website, app, or game. They are usually activated by some undocumented command, but sometimes you just need sharp eyes to spot that special reference or inside joke. The term was probably first applied to a computer program in 1979, when Atari used it to describe secret credits released in the game Adventure. So, why do developers and customers love Easter eggs? How do they work? And, can you make money by using them?
Some Easter eggs are simply debugging tools left behind by forgetful programmers. The Konami Code, for example (above), originated this way. Others are used to convey a joke, cameo, or other content that might be unsanctioned or considered inappropriate. As a programmer, slipping something extra into production code—without getting caught—gives a little thrill and proves your l33t skilz.
The real reward for developers, though, is often just having created something unexpected or surprising, then looking forward with anticipation to how users will react when it is eventually discovered. For users, there is fun in the discovery of something few others have seen. Everyone likes to be in on a secret, and the harder it is to uncover, the more satisfying it is to be one of those in the know.
I remember the very first Easter egg I ever encountered, and the magical (yes, magical) effect it had on my young programmer’s mind. Technical docs for my Commodore 128 (successor to the Commodore 64) described RAM location 32800 as “storage for a highly encrypted political message,” or something to that effect. An esoteric BASIC command would unlock the secret message, however:
The result was modest, but I was amazed that the developers had gone to the trouble to include this code right in the ROM; it seemed so random, superfluous, and slightly against the rules. Did Commodore even know about it? Why else make it so hard to find? It began a life-long interest in finding (and programming) Easter eggs in software.
A special command like the one above is one approach to activating Easter eggs—the Grand Theft Auto series uses it extensively, for example—but there are many others. Games are famously loaded with secret key sequences and controller combinations, although completing certain in-game actions or achievements (often in a particular order or within a specific time period) is increasingly more common in today’s titles.
For example, there is a secret destructible wall in Batman: Arkham Asylum that leads to the Warden’s hidden office. Break through this wall in the game to gain access to a special blueprint for Batman: Arkham City, the next game in the series. Similarly, esoteric actions in other games lead to the sudden appearance of a chicken (Gears of War 3), death by maniacal ice cream truck (Hitman: Absolution), or giant squid sightings (Assassin’s Creed II).
In some cases, you just have to position your character in the right place at the right time. For example, look through a sniper rifle in a specific direction from a particular spot in Call of Duty: Black Ops II and you’ll get a jump scare that is truly terrifying. (That Easter egg is especially fun to share with loved ones.)
There are no limits on what an Easter egg can do. Enter “volcano” as the text to display in the Windows 3D text screensaver (before Windows XP) and it would instead cycle through the names of volcanoes in the US. Other Easter eggs award extra lives, unlock special powers, change the environment to a circus theme, reverse gravity, display a ninja squirrel, or play creepy music.
It turns out that there are sound business reasons for including Easter eggs in your applications, even if you haven’t considered doing so before. Easter eggs can generate buzz, especially if you hint at their existence or strategically release activation instructions to key influencers or social media.
Posting a screenshot that shows a secret avatar or weapon will encourage users to explore your application more closely, looking for the Easter egg to unlock it. More time in your app means greater user engagement, which leads to higher monetization.
You can also use Easter eggs to help build your personal brand and increase virality of your apps. Use them to express a common theme or motif between titles, or recognize (and maybe reward) the first person to discover each one. If you become known for including Easter eggs in your work, it will drive interest in future releases and updates.
Don’t be afraid to experiment! Make your Easter eggs as lighthearted or as serious as you want, and let your imagination guide you. There are thousands of Easter eggs out there, but users never seem to tire of finding new ones. Use this to your advantage: include Easter eggs in your own software to encourage engagement, build your brand, and drive interest when it’s time to publish your next app or update.
We want to hear about your Easter eggs experiences. Go to our Facebook page to tell us about your favorites, or share cool Easter eggs you have created yourself. You can also tweet them with the hashtag #AppEasterEggs.
With the Easter holiday coming up, we thought it would be fun to hide something special for you. Go to www.amazon.com/appstore and look for our overflowing Easter egg to unlock great discounts as low as $0.99 and Amazon Coin rewards (up to 50% back) on select top titles from today through Saturday. Happy hunting!
If you’re not familiar with the famous Easter eggs mentioned above, here is more information about each one:
Player engagement is the key to success for most mobile games, and Amazon GameCircle is designed to help developers increase engagement through player Achievements, Leaderboards, and game data synchronization. We recently added two new features: (1) expanded player profiles with cross-game experience points, called XP, which allow players to track and share their total play time and (2) GameCircle-created achievements across multiple games, called Badges, which enhance players’ overall GameCircle Profile. Players will enjoy these features as they offer new reasons to revisit favorites as well as incentives to try new games.
Your GameCircle-enabled game now helps players build their public reputation with their friends and the GameCircle community, an advantage over games without GameCircle enabled. The new GameCircle Badges help new players discover your game and re-engage existing customers as they return to satisfy the requirements associated with your game.
If your mobile game integrates GameCircle, then your players will automatically earn Experience Points (XP) for the time they spend playing your game; no changes are required to your code. In addition, each achievement in your game now carries an XP reward from 0 to 100 that you specify, up to a total of 1,500 XP for the entire game. We recommend allocating no more than 1,000 XP when launching a new title, leaving at least 500 XP for future expansion in case you add more achievements later. You can change XP allocation at any time for draft achievements, but once an achievement is published, its corresponding XP value is fixed for good.
By earning experience points through playing your games, a player increases their GameCircle Level compared to their peers. GameCircle Level increases steadily as players earn XP for spending time and unlocking achievements in GameCircle-enabled games. For current players with an existing GameCircle account, Amazon has already given them XP, and the appropriate GameCircle Level, based on the achievements they unlocked in the past. New players joining after today will begin at Level 1.
Integrating GameCircle into your mobile game benefits your players, who automatically receive more XP the longer they play. If you take advantage of the GameCircle Achievements service, your game becomes eligible for cross-game badges which offer even more opportunity for players to advance.
In addition to Experience Points, GameCircle also includes new support for special Badges. Badges are cross-game achievements awarded by GameCircle. These are earned by completing challenges associated with unlocking specific achievements in select games of similar type or in a particular game genre. Up to three badges can be displayed on the player’s profile so he or she can show off favorites earned so far.
For example, players can earn the Zombie Killer badge for unlocking certain achievements in three zombie-related games. Similarly, the Burning Rubber badge is awarded for unlocking specific objectives in two driving games. At launch, there are close to forty special badges available.
Zombie Killer Burning Rubber
For players who don’t know your app (but have played similar titles), genre-spanning Badges or Badges connecting similar achievements in other games may serve as an introduction to your product. Existing customers may rediscover your game as they explore Badges in game categories that intere them.
GameCircle has always offered Achievements, Leaderboards, and game data synchronization through Whispersync for Games. With these updates to the player profiles—including Achievement XP, GameCircle Level, and Badges—players can easily track and compare their progress across all GameCircle-enabled games.
GameCircle is designed to increase player engagement, improve retention, and enhance the customer experience when playing mobile games on iOS, Android, or Fire OS. For more information about player profiles mobile development, see our online documentation:
G5 Entertainment participated in Amazon Appstore for Android’s in-app purchasing (IAP) beta program because they had successfully launched over 100 games with in-app purchasing on other devices. Larissa McCleary, Director of Marketing at G5 Entertainment writes, “We found that by offering a product with IAP, rather than a traditional "lite" or "full" set of offerings, our conversion rates went up as did our revenue on a per title basis. Although our experience on Amazon has always been great, we are thrilled now that IAP is available. This will allow us to continue our business model, but also to allow other developers to partake as well. Eventually, if more and more developers participate, we think we will experience even higher conversion rates, since players will be more familiar with what IAP is and how it functions, making the play experience even more engaging.”
G5 Entertainment takes the approach that if the game is interesting, customers will be more engaged. The maker of popular games such as Virtual City Playground and Mahjong Artifacts, McCleary tells us, “Our basic strategy has been to make the games as fun as possible. We are working hard to optimize and improve our features on an on-going basis.” How do they decide what will be fun for players? Playing the games themselves, focus testing, and team brainstorms have all led to added content. However, McCleary notes, “In the end we decided that we should let players decide what they want, by giving them as many in-app options as possible.”
The G5 team reported that overall, the integration was quick and simple. McCleary says, “The code was ready in one day, and metadata was entered quickly too.” Comparing their experience to past integrations, the Amazon Appstore compared favorably. “It’s definitely easier to integrate the Amazon IAP APIs than other IAP solutions we have implemented,” notes McCleary.
During the beta program, G5 found their main hiccup in the testing process. G5’s QA team provided feedback that helped the Amazon Appstore improve the testing process by introducing the SDK Tester. The SDK Tester allows a developer to validate common path and edge case scenarios in their app, all without uploading or configuring anything in the Amazon Developer Portal. This approach reduces the friction a developer faces when testing their apps, and allows for rapid testing across any device that supports the Amazon Appstore. Still, the IAP API was well worth integrating for G5, and the G5 team recommends “reading the documents available on Amazon’s Developer Portal and keeping your code simple.”
About G5 Entertainment AB
G5 Entertainment AB is a developer and publisher of high quality downloadable games. G5 started as the leading mobile game development studio working for Electronic Arts and Disney. In 2009 G5 changed the business model to become a publisher of original games developed by G5 and over 30 partner studios in Eastern and Western Europe and the U.S. G5 owns a number of successful game franchises, including Virtual City Playground and Mahjongg Artifacts.
A few months ago, Amazon introduced Kindle Fire and, here on the blog, we talked about how you can get your app(s) onto Kindle Fire. We endeavor to provide our developers with useful, relevant information to help you develop your app(s) and we continue to get queries about developing for Kindle Fire. We have more information to share!
Your app requires an SD card—does Kindle Fire have one?
Kindle Fire has an internal SD card that your app can write to. Kindle Fire's SD card is internal and is not removable. You should not have to change your app for Kindle Fire if it currently stores data on the SD card. Using getExternalStorageDirectory() will enable you to write to the internal SD card on Kindle Fire.
Your app uses Adobe Air—will it work on Kindle Fire?
Yes, Adobe Air 220.127.116.119 is pre-installed on Kindle Fire. If you wish to create and publish Adobe AIR 3 applications, you may do so by packaging them as 'captive runtime' apps. Note that captive runtime apps will not support on-device debugging.
Your app needs the support of an e-mail client—is that a feature of Kindle Fire?
Kindle Fire has a pre-installed e-mail client that will respond to both mailto links and e-mail intents.
How do you configure the supports-screens element for compatibility with Kindle Fire?
To ensure your app is compatible with Kindle Fire, specify <supports-screen android:largeScreens="true"/> in your manifest file.
Your app has audio—what audio playback does Kindle Fire support?
Kindle Fire supports the following audio formats natively:
You plan to upgrade your app to Android v4.x (Ice Cream Sandwich)—will your upgraded app work on Kindle Fire?
To increase the probability that your app will be compatible with Kindle Fire, you should only use Android 4.x APIs that are backwards compatible with Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
Your app has lots features—what specific features does Kindle Fire support?
Kindle Fire supports the features in the following list. To ensure your app is compatible with Kindle Fire, it should only use features found in this list.
Note: Effective 08-26-2015 Free App of the Day (FAD) has been replaced with Amazon Underground.
Fire Maple Games is a mobile app developer located in Garnet Valley, PA. Their adventure game app, The Secret of Grisly Manor, continues to be a best-selling title since the launch of the Amazon Appstore for Android in March 2011. The sharp graphics and engaging storyline of this hidden object game continue to amass downloads and excellent reviews.
Fire Maple Games has taken advantage of many Amazon Appstore offerings including the Free App of the Day promotion. The Free App of the Day program has offered customers a paid app, for free, every day since the launch of the store. Additional, Fire Maple Games capitalized on app placement throughout the store and targeted e-mail campaigns. They also optimized their application for the Kindle Fire. By leveraging the Amazon Appstore platform, downloads of The Secret of Grisly Manor have seen significant gains on a weekly basis.
Initially engaged by the Free App of the Day promotion out of pure curiosity—what does and does not work when selling apps?—Fire Maple Games was pleased with the level of exposure they got from participating. “It was a fantastic increase of our user base,” said Joe Kauffman, owner of Fire Maple Games. “It wasn’t directly profitable, of course, as we were giving the game away for free, but now many more people have been exposed to the company and our games.” Kauffman has gotten many e-mails from people saying they would definitely buy the company’s next game. “For an indie developer on a limited budget, it was a great way to get the game into lots of people's hands,” he added.
Fire Maple Games joined the Amazon Appstore in November 2010 and was part of the Amazon Appstore launch four months later. “Amazon is such a great brand with such a powerful presence…we had high hopes for the Amazon Appstore for Android,” Kauffman said. They were also intrigued by the approval process and liked “that the apps would be curated, so a nicer selection of apps could be promoted.”
Fire Maple Games recently added a second adventure game, The Lost City, to their Amazon Appstore catalog, and the app has been getting stellar reviews. With the traction Fire Maple Games has seen thus far, new titles are sure to be a hit. “We use previous games to cross-sell new games,” Kauffman explained. “It seems to be working pretty well…both games have stayed within the Top 25!”
Kauffman revealed that the company hasn’t gotten any specific emails from customers regarding their experience with the Amazon Appstore and that that is a good thing: “It means that the process is pretty seamless. I recommend that everyone partner with Amazon! It is a nice, curated app-store with a great customer experience.”
Recently Amazon released Kindle Fire, our newest addition to the Kindle family that showcases a color touch display and provides instant access to the Amazon Appstore for Android and Amazon’s massive selection of digital content, as well as free storage in the Amazon Cloud.
Kindle Fire puts Amazon’s digital powerhouse of content at customers’ fingertips. In addition to the thousands of popular apps and games available in the Amazon Appstore for Android, customers can also choose from over 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books—and all of their Amazon content is automatically stored in the Amazon cloud, free of charge. Web browsing is simple and fast with Amazon Silk and an even better experience because of the Kindle Fire’s vibrant color touchscreen with an extra-wide viewing angle. All this, plus a fast, powerful dual-core processor, and an unbeatable price, make us proud of this newest member of our Kindle family.
Don’t take our word on it though—we’re not the only ones admiring Kindle Fire!
The first easy-to-use, affordable small-screen tablet, the Amazon Kindle Fire is revolutionary...I can't emphasize this "ease of use" thing enough. More than anything else, that's what's been holding non-iPad tablets back. Amazon cracked it. End of story." - PC Mag
"The Kindle Fire is a 7-inch tablet that links seamlessly with Amazon's impressive collection of digital music, video, magazine, and book services in one easy-to-use package. It boasts a great Web browser, and its curated Android app store includes most of the big must-have apps (such as Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu). The Fire has an ultra-affordable price tag, and the screen quality is exceptional for the price." – CNET
How do you get your app onto the Kindle Fire?
Submit it! Simply join the Amazon Appstore Developer Program, if you haven’t already, and submit your app using the Amazon Appstore Developer Portal just as you would if you were submitting to our store for any other supported Android device. All apps will go through regular Amazon Appstore testing, as well as testing for Kindle Fire.
What are the requirements for your app to work on Kindle Fire?
For your app to work on Kindle Fire, it needs to be compatible with the device's specifications. At a high level, it must be optimized for non-Google Mobile Services (GMS), Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), and a 7" screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600. Your app cannot require a gyroscope, camera, WAN module, Bluetooth, microphone, GPS, or micro-SD to function. In addition, your app must not be a theme or wallpaper that manipulates the user interface of the device. As with any other app submission to the Amazon Appstore for Android, your app will also need to comply with our Content Guidelines. For additional information, please visit our Kindle Fire FAQs.
What if your app was already submitted - will it be considered?
Yes. If you already have an app published in the Amazon Appstore for Android, we will automatically review the app for Kindle Fire compatibility. We're currently in the process of testing our entire catalog of published apps to ensure each app provides a high-quality customer experience on Kindle Fire.
What if you want to test your app(s) prior to submitting?
We strongly recommend you test your app on your own and submit an update if you discover any problems. It is possible to configure a standard Android emulator to simulate the Kindle Fire device platform. You should configure your emulator with the following characteristics:
Note: Effective 08-26-2015 Free App of the Day (FAD) has been replaced with Amazon Underground.
Farkle Dice - Free and Farkle Dice Deluxe (Ad-Free) are two popular and well-reviewed apps in the Amazon Appstore for Android. Developed by Smart Box Games, the apps present a fast-paced dice game and offer both solo and social gaming experiences.
Smart Box Games was one of the first developers to join the developer program after the Amazon Appstore launched in March.
Why did Smart Box Games act so quickly to join a brand new store? Todd Sherman, president of Smart Box Games, said that as a small, independent game company, “Our priority is to make sure the games have beautiful art, professional sound effects, and music, and are programmed to be stable and responsive. We typically have limited resources for marketing. The Amazon Appstore gives developers like us a chance for success by offering customers multiple ways to explore and find games.” He added, “For example, you can navigate the store by Top 100 Games, or by category, or through widgets powered by Amazon’s recommendation engine such as ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.’ Plus, the first year fee for the developer program was waived.”
Within a few weeks of its publishing, Farkle Dice - Free skyrocketed to the top of the Board Games category and soon climbed the charts under the Top 100 Free Bestselling Games.
Amazon featured Farkle Dice Deluxe (Ad-Free) on July 23 as the Free App of the Day, a daily promotion in which we make a premium app available to our customers for free and prominently promote the app on Amazon.com and in the Amazon Appstore.
We set an expectation of approximately 75,000 downloads for the Free App of the Day promotion with Farkle Dice - Deluxe. “Our actual downloads far exceeded that expectation, and we were thrilled by the exposure and the comments from new players,” Sherman said regarding the result of the promotion. What does it mean for Smart Box Games to have so many new users? “As part of a long-term monetization strategy, we plan to contact those newly acquired users via the messaging function within Farkle Dice - Deluxe when we release our new game later this year.”
If you’ve seen or heard of the movie Rio, you may have seen that Blu isn’t in his cage anymore – no mirror, no little bell. He’s ready to hit the beach. And with Blu gaining his freedom, Rovio has released an updated Android version of Angry Birds Rio exclusively in the Amazon Appstore for Android with 30 new levels and, you guessed it, Blu is a playable character filled with feathered fury.
What does this mean for you?
The more customers we engage, the more opportunities we have to monetize your apps. When we launched, we had the Android version of Angry Birds Rio exclusively in the Amazon Appstore. As part of our launch marketing we advertised the Amazon Appstore and leveraged an Android exclusive of Angry Birds Rio as a hook across Amazon.com online, in mobile advertising, in social outlets, and more. The results have been tremendous.
There will also be another marketing campaign surrounding the update of Angry Birds Rio exclusive on the Amazon Appstore. Angry Birds Rio has a large and loyal fanbase, many of whom will come to the Amazon Appstore get the update and ultimately purchase other apps.
When to consider updates:
There are many things to take into consideration when updating your app. Here are some high level things to consider:
<p>We’d like to clear up some confusion about conflicting versions of our developer agreement. There are both PDF and plain text versions on our developer portal, and these versions didn’t agree. The PDF version was correct; the plain text version was old. This has now been fixed. The old plain text version was outdated and didn’t show the updates we made to the agreement last November, including that the definition of list price applies only to the app’s current price on a similar store. Thanks for making the store a success.</p>
The manifest of your Android app provides essential information about the app to the Amazon Appstore for Android. Your app must include an “AndroidManifest.xml” file in the root directory.
The Amazon Appstore uses the app manifest file to ensure we merchandise apps appropriately. Prior to submitting your app to Amazon, please ensure the manifest is packaged with your app and includes the following elements and data:
• VersionName: A string value that represents the release version of the application code, as it should be shown to users. The value is a string so that you can describe the application version as a <major>.<minor>.<point> string, or as any other type of absolute or relative version identifier. There is a hundred-character maximum on the length of the version name string.
• Uses-sdk: Tells us which OS the app runs on.
• Uses-configuration: Tells us which configuration is required by the app. (This element may be left empty if nothing is required.)
• Uses-feature: Tells us which features of the phone are used, such as the camera. (This section may be left empty if there are no required features.)
• Supports-screens: Tells us if the app supports large and/or high-intensity screens
• Uses-permissions: These are Android permissions and are required by the platform. (This should NOT be present if your app does not require permissions.)
Below is an example manifest structure with required elements in red:
<intent-filter> . . . </intent-filter>
<intent-filter> . . . </intent-filter>
<intent-filter> . . . </intent-filter>
If you do not have any data for a certain element--for instance, if your app does not utilize any permission--you should remove that element entirely instead of leaving it empty. Empty elements can cause issues in the ingestion process. Also, make sure your app only requests permissions that it actually needs to function properly. Unnecessary permission requests can cause a spyware or malware concern from a customer’s perspective.
If your manifest does not comply with this set of rules, it may be rejected directly by the Developer Portal or in the app approval phase.
You can find more information about the AndroidManifest.xml File on the Android Dev Guide: