Temple Run for Android proves that 'free' can be profitable
Temple Run for Android, released Tuesday, gives new momentum to Imangi Studios' mobile game sensation. Temple Run has already made a fortune off of its (free) iPhone and iPad app. But how?
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This vintage nature of Temple Run’s gameplay is appealing both to gamers and less video-game savvy players. It isn’t the only made-for-phone, points-based game that’s seeing success without attempting to mirror console games. Bejeweled Blitz, Poker by Zynga, Tetris, and Words with Friends have stayed high on the App Store charts for months. They compete with more heavy-duty opponents such as Grant Theft Auto 3, a mobile version of the 10-year-old console blockbuster. The app version performed well day-one but quickly disappeared.Skip to next paragraph
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Why? It stands to reason that not everyone who buys a mobile game is looking for the cutting edge. Those who are willing to shell out $60 for the premiere, eight- to 20-hour video games are in a league of their own. That being said, smart phones are becoming more and more popular and cost-friendly. Temple Run’s enormous success throws into question whether developers like Rockstar, the company behind Grand Theft Auto, can bridge the gap and appeal to millions of smart-phoners who aren’t necessarily looking to play a complicated game on the way to work.
Temple Run makes a great first impression because it’s, well, free. That was a savvy decision by the creators, not an act of kindness. The game was first sold for $0.99 in the App Store, but Luckyanova and Shepherd decided to remove the price tag when they weren’t seeing many downloads. This proved to be a wise decision – revenue quintupled. After the change, more people downloaded the app, got hooked, and decided to spend money on paid extras, including additional characters and power-ups. Add-ons become more useful as you try to beat your high score. Luckyanova and Shepherd capitalized on the idea that players would be less hesitant to throw money at a game that they learned to love than one they weren’t sure they would like.
As developers such as Rockstar attempt to jump on the games-for-phones bandwagon, the question remains – is it possible to beat the addicting simplicity of a Temple Run using old tricks? Can a TV-game mindset create a dynamite commuter game? As phones evolve, we can expect to see improvements in graphics and play modes. But the outcome lies with the consumer. Do people want their phones to be fully video-game functional, or is Temple Run a good compromise for on-the-go gamers?
For now, it looks as if console games will be console games, and mobile games will remain – well, mobile. Sure, there’s been some amount of integration, especially with tablets. But for now, Temple Run is the latest in mindless mobile entertainment.