Why Sunrays?

Why not unlock all beaches right away?

A long time ago, a story of a fascinating study crossed my way. It was a study about enjoyment. According to the legend, this is roughly what happened: On a beautiful Sunday morning, a smart professor who kind of looked like Gandalf woke up from the bright sunlight that shone on his happy face. Excited about what was waiting for him in the drawer, he got up very quick, brushed his teeth, drank his coffee, rushed over to the drawer and opened it. He stared at a box of fantastic pralines which he bought at a souvenir shop. These were special pralines in a magic box. Only six unique pralines in total. Each costing thousands of dollars in production, hand crafted, with parallax effects and 3D beach sounds. The best, rarest pralines in the world. Each was wrapped in translucent paper that blurred the view, so he could only see the colors shining through. He had no idea what a praline was like until he would unwrap it and carefully bite off a piece.

After tapping away the intro, he opened the first, and it looked, smelled and sounded so incredibly good that he swallowed it within seconds. The great taste lasted for a while, and he felt very relaxed. The sun was shining. He was on the beach. At home. Everything was great. Except, his brain screamed for more. More pralines. More more more. The next one. Eat it. Do it. Come on. Check it out right now. Eventually he unwrapped the next. Knowing how rare they were, he carefully looked at it and sniffed at it from all angles. He couldn’t resist the urge, and ate it too. It was phenomenal. He saw a rainbow. Then a unicorn. It poked him with its horn. It felt so real. Before he knew it, the box was empty, with nothing new to explore. The next day he got up, he walked over to the drawer. He opened it, picked up the box, felt how light it was, and dusted it off. All pralines were gone. He began to wonder: Could he have enjoyed them more, and longer? Brightening up more of his days?

So he decided to run an experiment with his students. Two groups, A and B. Both received a huge bag full of chocolates, and were ordered to come back after seven sunrises. Both received a sample chocolate to eat right away. Which group would enjoy them more? The group which was asked to return all chocolates in full, or the one which was allowed to keep and eat them?

Seven days later both groups returned, and he offered them chocolates. Each participant in group A, the one which was ordered not to touch the chocolates, happily accepted and enjoyed a chocolate. Group B however felt sick of chocolates and politely declined the offer.

He realized that this was a great insight into motivation theory. Give your fellows something too often and too fast, and they will enjoy it less. Give it to them on special occasions only, and they will enjoy it much more.

I admit I tweaked this story just a little bit. But the point is, it is true that receiving and exploring a new beach every now and then is much more enjoyable than unwrapping and exploring them all instantly. Sure, we’re humans. We’re explorers. We’re impatient. We want it all right now, regardless of what comes tomorrow. In fact, who cares about tomorrow. I hate taking the bus because I don’t like to wait. It’s hard. But also very rewarding when you finally get what you waited for.

I truly believe that you are better off NOT to buy the instant beach access, and that you will get more enjoyment out of Sunny by going through the process of regular relaxation and enjoying beach after beach up to the point where you feel you’ve had enough of it and want something new.

The time it takes to unlock all beaches is designed after the Fibonacci sequence, a sequence of numbers that appears almost everywhere in nature. It takes exceedingly longer, roughly 30 days if you keep visiting the beach daily for at least 3 minutes. This gently increasing duration is supposed to increase tension over time as you get used to the rewards, which makes the beaches increasingly more special.

My vision for Sunny is that you don’t consume it all instantly, and take your time to enjoy every beach. They are special, and we are slow at producing more. In fact, they are insanely costly, and thus will remain very rare. You won’t see dozens of new beaches in the near future unless Sunny gets acquired by Disney. You might be waiting 6 months or a year until I have a new fantastic app for you. This is supposed to bridge the gap, and give you something you can get excited about over a longer period of time than just, say, the day you downloaded Sunny.

Of course the beaches are useful beyond first discovery, though it is a special moment to unlock a new one. This was a conceptual choice to enhance the overall experience for the vast majority who does seem to appreciate it so far.

There is a way to skip this process and get access to all beaches instantly, which is the equivalent of eating all the pralines at once. If it had no price tag, it would be far too tempting to just tap that button, and most people would just do that even though they would not get out as much enjoyment of Sunny as they could get otherwise.

I was stuck in a dilemma between doing the right thing, and not looking like someone who wants to squeeze out extra money from people for something that they might think they’ve already paid for. When Windy launched, it cost $2.99 and had 6 wind scenes unlocked right away. Sunny cost $1.99, and has a $0.99 IAP to access it all instantly, which sums up to the price of Windy. So, in reality, rather than making extra money through this, I am actually losing money, and lots of it. Roughly 30% of all customers take the shortcut to all bays. I’m happy this number is not higher, because that’s great for most of you.

You’ll do yourself a favor by earning the beaches over time, rather than just buying instant access to them. You will get more enjoyment out of Sunny for your investment. I realize some of you have multiple devices, and I’m looking into solutions for how to sync your achievements in both Windy and Sunny.

Hopefully this shed some bright sunlight on why Sunny is the way it is, and why I think this was the right thing to do. Believe it or not, even as the developer, I installed Sunny on my iPhone and used it for weeks by earning beach after beach. And every time I unlocked a new one, I felt the excitement.

Update, Jan 22: Pricing via logic doesn’t seem to work. After receiving many complaints, I’ve dropped the price of the instant access to FREE, and raised the price for Sunny to Windy’s price point. New concepts like these require some experimentation, and we will keep iterating. If you feel mad about having paid, check out some free relaxing music from my friend Michael, over here.

Update, Jan 31: After the experiment of setting the instant beach unlock to free failed too, Sunny will pivot to the freemium business model starting February 4. The instant beach unlock will get raised to a relatively high price. The majority of early adopters had round about 8 days to grab it for free, and I hope many of you did. Starting today (Jan 31), the price of the instant beach unlock will subtly increase until Feb 4 to soften the transition.