imangiImangi founder and CEO Keith Shepherd is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He founded the self funded Imangi with his wife Natalia Luckyanova in 2008. Together they released a series of good games with modest success. Then in 2011 a little game called Temple Run was released. Temple Run and then Temple Run 2 quickly rose to amazing heights and now has well over 500 million players and has generated millions in revenue. Disney even came calling and licensed Temple Run to create Temple Run: Brave and Temple Run: Oz. A true App Store success story.

148Apps: How has the App Store changed your life?

Keith Shepherd, Founder and CEO of Imangi Studios: The biggest change for us has been going from working for someone else to running our own company and having complete creative freedom in the things we do.  That’s been the most life changing element, even more so than the financial success of Temple Run.

148Apps: Imangi had good success in the App Store early on. But it was
Temple Run that really exploded. What do you think resonated with
users so much?

Keith Shepherd: I think Temple Run is so successful for a number of reasons.  Primarily it’s a fun game.  It’s simple enough that everyone can have fun within the first seconds of opening the game and it’s deep enough that people keep coming back – there are always objectives to complete, challenges to do, and stuff to unlock for your characters.   Ultimately, I think a lot of games share these traits, but I think the reason Temple Run stood out when it launched is because it was new and novel.  At the time there were no other 3D endless runners that used the simple swipe to control your character mechanic. Now there are dozens, but at the time it was original and novel.  People loved the idea and simplicity and wanted to share the game and compete with their friends. Once we set the game free that word of mouth exploded and the game spread virally!

148Apps: What about one thing you have done that you think should have taken
off, but never did?

Keith Shepherd: It’s hard to say.  We only aim to launch games that we think will succeed, but it’s always hard to know what will resonate with players. I think Max Adventure is one of our hidden gems, it got a lot of great reviews but was a total flop for us commercially.  If you are into dual stick shooters, I highly recommend giving it a try.  

148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence your path five years ago, what would you say?

Keith Shepherd: I’d encourage us to stick to our original strategy of quick pick up and play games that are simple to learn yet difficult to master.  Games that we as a small studio could develop and launch in 3-6 months.  Our biggest flops have always been the games that strayed the farthest from that formula that involved levels and a lot of designed content.  Those types of projects always ended up taking more time that we anticipated to develop and in my mind aren’t the best fit for mobile devices.  I think I would also encourage our younger-selves to look into free apps / freemium long before we actually did.  Oh, and I would have also encouraged our younger-selves to make a Scrabble like game instead of our bizarre original word puzzle Imangi as our first game. ;-)  

148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps you are associated with, that has surprised you most?

Keith Shepherd: The insane rise of Angry Birds and their expansion beyond apps to licensed products / physical goods.  I think at one point or another every developer has probably thought to themselves that Angry Birds is a fad and that people will get sick of it sometime soon.  I think to everyone’s amazement and to Rovio’s credit, it hasn’t.   Angry Birds has lasted incredibly long and has established themselves as a global brand and I think they are here to stay for a good long while.   I find that incredibly inspiring that something that started as a simple game can turn into something so much bigger, and I hope that we can achieve the same level of success with Temple Run.

148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?

Keith Shepherd: Who knows, I can barely comprehend where this industry is now, but I’m sure it will be an exciting ride! ;-)

Many thanks to Keith Shepherd for his time.

[ Photo credit: Pocketgamer.biz ]

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