How to create successful mobile apps like Temple Run and Angry Birds

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Updated on: August 23rd, 2022Sharon Sexton7 min read
How to create successful mobile apps like temple run and angry birds

How can you create successful mobile apps like Temple Run and Angry Birds? That is a good question and one that developers would love to have a perfect, concise answer to. Let’s look at the success of one of the biggest apps of all time, Temple Run, to see what they did and why it worked.

This month Imangi Studios, the maker of the very popular Temple Run and Temple Run 2 games announced that combined the games have surpasses one billion downloads. That is an amazing feat! The only other gaming franchise to achieve this level of success has been Angry Birds.

So how did they do it?

Success is built by enthusiasm

Imangi Studios is a fairly typical developer. In this case it is a two-person, husband and wife team who created apps in a spare room. They loved to make games. Temple Run was the tenth game they had released and they were not expecting it to blow up.

In their case, that they enjoyed making games is a pretty big key. For this particular niche, game APPs, that is very important because people who love games and play games regularly are going to have a lot of good input as to what works, doesn’t work, is fun and isn’t fun. That enthusiasm towards the niche is important. The same could be said for someone who loves organization.

Another note; it was their tenth game. While success right out of the gate is always the dream, Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova of Imangi Studios had created quite a few games already which lent them a bit of experience in the industry.

Improving the mouse trap

Can you build a better mouse trap? That is really what APP development is all about when you get down to it. Can you make something that is better than what is already out there? That goes for existing apps and apps that haven’t been created but are taking the place of something else that is available but not in a mobile setting.

Angry Birds focused on the puzzler style game in a physics-based style. Temple Run has defined the endless running game. In both cases, neither game was the first of its kinds, but instead jumped over existing, popular games.

So what was different in Temple Run? Imangi used the basic running game formula, added a familiar yet distinctive style of world that reminds people of Indiana Jones or other jungle-adventures, and then utilized the phone interface for swipe and tilt control. The combination of aspects creates a challenging and yet rewarding game, which for a mobile device is exactly what you want for a person looking to find something to distract themselves with for five minutes. Compared to the then top-running game Canabalt, they had built a better mousetrap that was also familiar.

Timing is everything

Of course even if you release the coolest APP in the world, releasing it at the right time is always paramount to success. In the case of Temple Run it launched right about the same time as the iPhone 4S was released. At the time the iPhone experienced a surge in purchased which then made popular application sales increase.

A great game with timely sales helped push the app into ‘Top 50 Downloaded Lists” which is the Holy Grail for application developers.

Does your new app use specific features that fit a certain model phone? Are you tracking release dates for new models as well as the price drops on old models that spur new sales? How are you going to maximize your release into the market?

The proper business model sells

Or in some cases the wrong business model stunts sales. Imangi used a freemium model rather than cost-to-download. At the time the top competitors were a paid download option. Temple Run utilized a solid upgrade system to generate money to unlock power-ups and characters and not at an annoying rate which forces users to buy or not be able to have fun after a certain number of sessions.

In this case it appears that their own enthusiasm for gaming helped them make the right decision for the business model used compared to other games.

The addiction aspect

Of course the best thing about all the top games is the level of addiction they achieve. In a certain sense, the top games allow you to do pretty well, regardless of skill level, for quite a while. Then the game reaches a point where it becomes increasingly challenging and makes victory elusive.

When you add the competitive factor, bragging to friends on social media, this makes the game hard to put down. People are naturally competitive and games like Temple Run and Angry Birds hit it out of the park for being fun, challenging and competitive without being too easy or too hard.

Charting the success of your APP

So considering this information how does your latest APP idea stand up? While the focus in this article was primarily game APPs, the concepts can be taken out to other genres as well. Are you building a better mouse trap? Do you have an idea about the best time to launch? What business model will you use and why? What are your competitors using for a model? What will make people keep coming back to your app rather than finding a replacement?

All of these questions should have good answers if you want to be the next developer to create something special that generates over one billion downloads. We hope you enjoyed this blog on How can you create successful mobile apps like Temple Run and Angry Birds.


Published on: July 11th, 2014
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