Imangi Studios' Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova have been making solid games on iOS for years now, from their original hit Harbor Master and their charming dual-stick shooter Max Adventure. But it wasn't until Temple Run this past year (which I first saw in an off-the-record prototype form at GDC last year) that Imangi really hit it big. The freemium game has over 40 million players already, and it's consistently sitting up among the top-grossing spots on the App Store.
Imangi's perfectly happy with that success, if not a little overwhelmed by it. "This is ridiculous, what is happening," says Luckyanova. Temple Run actually came at a great time for the couple -- they've just purchased a house, and they have a baby on the way, so they'll definitely be busy ove the next few months, even without a new game. And Shepherd says that's the plan: While Imangi has "a lot of ideas, they're all on the back burner for now." The current goal is to push Temple Run as far as it will go.
First things first, that means an Android release -- Imangi has announced the game will arrive on that platform on March 27. After that, says Shepherd, you might see Temple Run in a few other places, including the Mac App Store, and somewhere on the web, in a browser-based form. The couple has also had requests for versions of the game on PC and Facebook, so they're considering those as well.
The issue with having this kind of success on the App Store, however, is that once you get a popular game up and running, your inbox starts to fill with all kinds of offers: Merchandising, porting, offers for other markets, and different amounts of money that come with each. Imangi says they're considering all of these, but their main goal is to stay as independent as possible. "We like being independent," says Shepherd. The couple have always had an artist working with them as a third developer, and have since brought on a few more people to help with support and other tasks, but "we're not trying to grow," they say.
And that's the biggest issue with selling the company itself. Certainly, they've had offers from bigger publishers, but "if we were to really sell the company," says Shepherd, "we'd have to grow the team a lot." And while they admit extra resources might be nice, Imangi still seems perfectly happy as a core team of two.
On iOS itself, Temple Run is getting an update in the next few weeks, with more objectives to take on, possibly more environments to run through, and some "powerup stuff" as well. But outside of that, Imangi is taking a well-deserved breather on development at the moment, and focusing on simply growing all of the business they have. What advice do they have for other developers searching for freemium success? "You need to start with solid work," says Luckyanova. Imangi's been putting good games together on iOS for a while, and so it was probably only a matter of time before one of their titles was able to pay off.