Temple Run, a franchise of Imangi Studios has been downloaded more than 1 billion times on mobile devices.
The game whicht hit the market in August, 2011 has had a steady presence in the market with multiple versions that kept gamers coming back.
Built by just three people, the game has defied the odds, standing out among 1.2 million active apps in the App Store for years at a time when most games last for nanoseconds.
It was a pioneering 3D game that popularized the “endless runner,” or a game where a character is constantly running toward the horizon. You swipe the touchscreen to make them turn left or right. You swipe down to make them slide, or swipe up to make them jump. All the while they’re being chased by monkeys or other creatures. These simple mechanics have proven to be incredibly addictive.
Over time, that has translated into 50 trillion total meters run, 32 billion deaths and 140 billion “save me” options used, 147 trillion gold coins collected, 1 billion artifacts discovered, and 216,018 total years played.
“It snuck up on us a bit,” said Keith Shepherd, cofounder of Imangi Studios, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s kind of crazy….It’s changed so many things for us. It’s opened up cool opportunities. Over the past three years, we’ve spent a lot of effort on Temple Run. We created a sequel.”
“We worked with Disney twice, doing Temple Run Brave and Temple Run Oz. We started this worldwide licensing and merchandise program. We have arcade machines and apparel and plush toys and board games. It’s been an amazing ride,” he added.
This huge number of downloads translates into a lot of money for a small company. But Shepherd and his wife, Natalia Luckyanova, don’t want to turn their company in to a giant empire with hundreds of employees. Raleigh, N.C.-based Imangi has remained a small startup, with just 11 employees.
“We decided we wanted to keep working on Temple Run and keep our fans engaged and keep doing more with that intellectual property and continue to build Temple Run into a franchise that’ll be around for the long term,” Shepherd said. “At the same time, we wanted to bring some of that new game development back into our lives…. We opened up a studio and started hiring people about a year ago. We moved into our new office in January. These days we’re 11 people, still a really tiny team. But we’ve gotten to the point where we can continue doing these regular updates to Temple Run and building on that franchise. At the same time, we’ve gotten back to our roots and started prototyping a lot of new game ideas.”
Temple Run, built by Shepherd and Luckyanova with freelance artist Kiril Tchangov, was Imangi’s tenth mobile game. It was made in an apartment over five months, and the company still wants to stay true to those indie roots.
“We’re still grounded in the experience of wanting to be really creative and innovative and prototyping and messing around with what will ultimately become our next great product as well. It’s a cool time here at Imangi,” Shepherd said.