Unicorn Labs: Building an Award-Winning App Portfolio with Corona

Rabbit and Turtle
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A successful San Francisco-based studio, Unicorn Labs has used Corona SDK to develop a number of popular apps, including the App of the Week winner, Rabbit and Turtle’s Amazing Race. This impressive app even cracked the Top 10 list for free eBooks, and went on to become one of the top grossing eBooks for iPad in late 2010.

What’s the company’s secret sauce and how has Corona SDK contributed to Unicorn Labs’ success? Mark Sigal, Chief Product Officer of Unicorn Labs and long-time Corona SDK user, shares his thoughts on why the Corona platform is the standout choice for mobile development.

Unicorn Labs is a respected maker of interactive eBooks and eLearning solutions for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and NOOK. Since the San Francisco-based company’s founding in early 2010, Unicorn has released six Top 30 apps and garnered millions of downloads, with popular titles that include:

  • Rabbit and Turtle’s Amazing Race (children’s eBook app)
  • Spot the Dot (children’s educational game) – Named one of the Best Kids’ Book Apps of 2011 by Kirkus Book Reviews
  • Jolly and Roger’s Misguided Adventures (children’s eBook app)
  • Unicorn Disco (music and dance visualizer)
  • Unicorn Shots (photo-based scene maker)

Having started our initial development using Objective-C + Cocoa Touch, we began looking for tools and solutions to shorten the development time for creating compelling apps, without sacrificing the functionality necessary to delight users. Our initial assessment led us to begin testing around Cocos2d and Corona. Both have their benefits, but Corona stood out in three areas:

  1. Consistent Leverage: With Cocos2d we found lots of instances where we had to write “glue code” to tie the Cocos2d functionality to the Objective-C functionality. Alternatively, Corona offered a coherent, integrated approach. We weren’t stuck perennially re-creating the wheel or having to debug a bunch of fragile interfaces between two different sandboxes.With Corona, there was only one sandbox to work with. As a result, we were able to launch more rapidly and iterate with more agility in-market. We also found that the capabilities that we created more naturally lent themselves to re-useable frameworks. This wasn’t the case with Cocos2d.
  2. Evolving Platform: Corona is truly dedicated to cultivating a mission-critical platform. In the past, when the platform needed support for new APIs, overlay of core libraries, tool enhancements, or broader target support, Corona evolved at a rapid pace.
  3. Superior Support: Sometimes it’s as basic as knowing that you can count on real human beings to help you solve problems when things go wrong. Corona has consistently been great in both responsiveness and resolution.

This combination of core technical strengths combined with rapid iteration and support has impressed us. Within six months, we were able to deeply evolve our core technology platform, Unicorn Engine, and secure major design wins with some of the most recognized book publishers in the world. This is important because in addition to building our own apps, we support third-party book publishers, and media operators. For this reason, we decided to use Corona for our new project developing a multi-title educational game series for one of the ‘Big Six’ book publishers.

Corona is a material part of our success, and we highly recommend the platform to others.

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scott@coronalabs.com

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