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A Billion Downloads Later, Temple Run Creator Thinks About the Future (And China)

How do you follow up on a series like Temple Run?

How do you follow up on a hit game like Temple Run?

Imangi Studios’ Keith Shepherd says he’s working on that one. But, in the meantime, the Raleigh, N.C.-based mobile gaming startup is singing its own praises as it crosses a download milestone.

The four games in the Temple Run series have joined the billion-download club, with players spending some combined 216,000 years of playtime on the endless runners since the first game debuted in August 2011. As Shepherd, who co-created the game with his wife, Natalia Luckyanova, said last year, Imangi “had no idea” Temple Run would be so successful.

Now, it’s time to start thinking about the future. In an interview with Re/code earlier this week, Shepherd said new games are in the works at Imangi, both with and without the Temple Run name on them. He won’t say much more than that right now, but the 11-person company has spent the past year “building to the point” of prototyping new titles after focusing mainly on updates to Temple Run 2.

“My vision for Imangi has always been for us to focus on making innovative games,” Shepherd said.

Innovating is easier said than done, of course, especially now that the studio is entering a maturing app ecosystem where the big money-makers have a firm hold on the top of the App Store charts. Shepherd said he has his finger on one of the most important app trends, though: Breaking through in China.

In fact, one could argue that Imangi has already done that. A whopping 36 percent of its players are in China, versus only 21 percent in the U.S.

As Betaworks recently discovered with the Chinese port of its puzzle game Dots, that sort of uptake requires some China-specific localization. Unlike Betaworks, though, Imangi didn’t need to make over its tutorial process; instead, it focused on cultural changes, tweaking the game’s pop culture references and celebrating region-specific holidays like the Chinese New Year in-game, Shepherd said.

So what’s next? In addition to those new games, Imangi is mulling another twist to the Chinese version of the game: A WeChat-friendly update that encourages head-to-head competition.

Here’s a cute infographic with all the fluffy post-billion download stats:

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