Last year, Glu Mobile, the company responsible for games like Deer Hunter and Diner Dash, took a wild leap of faith in re-branding their already popular app Stardom Hollywood. For this task, they employed the help of A-list celebrity Kim Kardashian. Glu approached Ms. Kardashian personally to help them develop Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a free to download role-playing app that lets users move up the social ranks in Hollywood.
Why should we care about keeping up with Kardashian’s latest display of brand power? Well, to begin with, the app raked in $1.6 million in revenue within five days of its release, according to the New York Times, and that amount is expected to balloon to $200 million by the end of 2014. What’s driving the app’s success?
Keeping Users Engaged
Kardashian’s app, which is powered by in-game purchases, does an exceptional job of keeping its users interested and eager for more. The premise is fairly simple: a casual role-playing game that lets you move your avatar from the Hollywood E-list all the way up to the A-list by dressing to the nines, going to photo shoots and other events, earning money, and maybe dating a famous person or two. Kim herself serves as the user’s mentor, offering advice along the way.
Despite its simplistic design, mobile users are taken with the game. For a time, it held the distinguished status as the only app on the iTunes market with a 5-star rating from over 40,000 users, according to Bloomberg, which certainly speaks to the overall app quality. People may have been drawn in by the Kardashian name, but they stayed because the design actually works.
A Personal Touch
Incorporating Kardashian’s likeness, even her real voice, was a wise move by developers, but the personal Kardashian flair goes far beyond that.
“In addition to her in-game audio commentary, she provided a significant amount of creative feedback. She hand-selected the majority of the outfits, accessories, hairstyles, and other in-game items – and her deep involvement continues as we roll out updates and new content – from the aesthetics to new locations and features,” Glu’s chief executive Niccolo de Masi told Forbes.
Ultimately, the authenticity afforded by Kardashian’s involvement lends itself to the app’s quality. Users obsessed with Kim’s outfits or hairstyles have direct access, albeit digital, to experience them as Kardashian herself intended.
Essentially, the game ends up being a simulation of Kardashian’s own life, which could mean a great deal in terms of longevity. De Masi described the game as a narrative that can be extended infinitely to parallel Kardashian’s life.
Currently, users familiar with the Kardashian brand are met with references—some subtle, others not so much—to many of her experiences in the lime light, from catty Twitter wars to good-natured quips at her own storied past and reputation: “ Dating another celebrity will make you more famous,” virtual Kardashian tells users.
Keeping Up With Kim
The app’s seemingly up-to-the-minute reflection of Kardashian’s antics is a big draw, according to Ali Hussainy, a fan of the game. From the Yeezus tour t-shirt to the massive rock on Kardashian’s finger, users will instantly recognize that the app thrives on the present:
“It doesn’t look like the Kim from two years ago, or even a year ago,” Hussainy told Forbes. “It is pretty much up to date with the Kim you constantly see. You think to yourself, wasn’t Kim just wearing that dress, like, a month ago?”
The app’s popularity is certainly fueled by having a high-profile name attached, but Glu did a fine job of finding the perfect balance of pop culture appeal and exceptional app quality. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’s success depends heavily on high quality content and execution to keep its users engaged and coming back for more.