Temple Run makes 5 times more revenue as free-to-play

Imangi Studios co-founder explains massive boost that came from making iOS app free

Imangi Studios co-founder Natalia Luckyanova has revealed that the fast paced iOS game Temple Run made five times as much revenue once it became a free app.

"The revenue immediately went up about 5x when we set the app free," Luckyanova told Gamasutra.

"Keeping it free was a no-brainer."

Temple Run is currently number one in the free app charts on iPhone, and allows players to buy upgrades for their character, who has to dash across a temple avoiding obstacles. The switch from a low price of 69p to free came after the game's sales began to slump.

"At this point, we had little to lose, so we decided to try going free, which is the option we had in our back pocket from the start," she explained.

"If nothing else, we figured we'd have more people playing the game. If the revenue is similar, it's always better to have more players."

The game peaked at 300,000 downloads in one day, and revenue and download numbers are still growing.

She also explained that marketing was minimal relying on cross promotion with peers' apps and organic growth. She warned that free may not be the ideal business model for everyone.

"Not sure how we'll launch games in the future, but for now, our instinct is to stick with free," she concluded. "It's an amazing feeling to have millions of people playing your game!"

Imangi Studios is based in Washington and was launched by Luckyanova and her husband Keith Shepherd in 2008.

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Latest comments (10)

GameViewPoint Game Developer 5 years ago
It's an easy to get into game with some nice 3D visuals which don't overcomplicate the experience and it's free. I think it shows the way forward for many games on the app store.
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 5 years ago
Well, for people who payed for it, it must be a bitch, even if it's only 69p.. In the end, the game isn't really 'free-to-play', to advance you will have to buy stuff..
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Nicholas Peterson Founder, CFO, VisionaryX GmbH5 years ago
A well made free to play game is playable without ever having to buy things, what you buy should make things easier, nicer, prettier or faster etc, but not prevent a user from playing the game as such, some options like extra levels or difficulties could also be reasonable as long as the initial available levels hold up the users interest enough. Making the switch to free to play does not always mean your user base will be upset, if they have played your game a lot and you reward them for that with new stuff, and possibly some of the pay stuff to make up for the fact they bought the game, then most users will be positive about the change. When we did the change with our first game, we had the problem that we had not planned for the change, so we had no way of knowing wether a user had paid for the game or not, so if you plan to go this way some day, make sure you have a way of recognizing those that have paid for it.
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Anila Andrade Associate Producer, 99Games Online5 years ago
I agree with Nicholas. Personally, I think a free game with a well planned in-app purchase option would fare a lot better than a fully paid game. We've tried different options-going only paid, free-ad supported only, paid with in-app, free for a few levels and pay for the remaining levels. All in all, unless you measure how each of it works, you'd not really know what works well.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
There are lots of possible methodologies when it comes to implementing the freemium model.
It really depends on the individual game as to which of these magnetisation routes to go down.

What is for sure is that at long last the game industry is taking advantage of interaction to protect us from the theft of our work.
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I wonder what it's 5 times of?

I would love it if they just published their revenue figures before and after instead of using downloads and multiples of revenue. It makes it very difficult to have any idea what the bottom line is.

I was at a presentation given by a mobile developer and she said she had 10 times revenue after going free and downloads where about 10,000 a day. I asked her after the presentation how much that actually was and after being a bit evasive she revealed it had basically increased from 3 to 30 a day.

Now they have a totally different game with much higher downloads so I understand it's like comparing apples to oranges so I'm not saying that's the case here however without publishing actual revenue it's all a bit pointless.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
@John Owens

Apple have paid over $4 billion to app developers so far.
So your mobile developer obviously wasn't one of the successful ones.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game5 years ago
$4 billion over how many paid/freemium apps. Surely you need the mean or mode figures before you can say whether 30 is successful compared to the market. If there is 100 million paid apps, giving a mean figure of $40 per app, 30 per day is outperforming the market.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 5 years ago
A more pedantic pedant would also point out that it depends on the definition of success.
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Now now, you didn't have to get personal ;-)

The point I'm trying to make is that we're all trying to run a business and while downloads and users etc are cool it doesn't pay the bills so it would be nice to know revenue. With that information we can then judge the risk and define the budgets for future titles.

However you're right that sometimes it's about the definition of success as there are many from press/user reception to even just getting a game out there to showcase your studio so you can bring in work for hire at a later date. They could all be deemed successful however this article was about revenue, cold hard cash and ultimately in this context that's how success is judged.

I've no doubt Temple Run was profitable, this isn't an attack on the App Store. It would just be nice to know the figures.
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