Celebs tap into gaming addiction, cash in on their fame
While Kanye West was busy tweeting Mark Zuckerberg about his financial problems, his wife Kim Kardashian was laughing all the way to the bank with a cool $80 million in profits from her game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, proving once again, that the folks up at Glu Mobile really know their business.
Banking on the success of their original venture Stardom: the A-list, and its equally popular sequel Stardom: Hollywood, decided to hitch their wagon to Mrs West’s brand power and the gamble paid off. The casual role-playing game would rake in a revenue of $100million in its first year, according to Forbes magazine, and continues to make bank for its titular character. “Everyone quickly recognised the tremendous business opportunity”
The buzz was enough to make other celebs sit up and take notice. Celeb siblings Kendall and Kylie Jenner soon followed their famous sister with their own app Kendall and Kylie, and the numbers were so good (Thinkgaming.com reports a daily revenue of $15,628) that even reigning pop princesses have jumped on board for a piece of the action. Katy Perry released Katy Perry Pop in December last year, and no less than Britney Spears followed suite with Britney Spears: American Dream this May. There’s even a Bollywood version of the game.
For each of the games, you start from the bottom as a nobody with big dreams, and a serendipitous tip-off from one of your friends leads you to the path of stardom, where, depending on whose life you’re playing, you’ll have to sing, act, make celebrity appearances, until you stand at the very pinnacle, adored by fans, worshipped by the press. There’s usually one big antagonist who has it in for you throughout the game, trying to foil your every move, and providing a little bit of competition.
How they compare
The original Glu Game Stardom: The A-list took the basic tycoon game format, added customisations and then sent it out to the world.
Stardom: Hollywood took it a step further with tongue-in-cheek references to actual movies, sly nods to real life gossip and trivia, and is a treat for film buffs and pop-culture geeks as you keep wondering what you’ll come across next.
Kim K’s game, in focusing on the rise and rise of the reality-TV star, took a lot of the creative talent and work ethics out of the game-play and replaced it with media savvy and empty consumerism. As Jessica Winter, the features editor at Slate magazine said: “With 21st-century shades of Pygmalion and Fitzgerald’s Bernice Bobs Her Hair, KK:H allows Kim to enshrine the lessons of her climb to the top without having to write a memoir. That KK:H has achieved its success by mimicking another Glu Mobile game, Stardom Hollywood, also maps neatly onto Kim’s biography, which itself mimics the template set by her one-time employer Paris Hilton: a voyage from L.A. socialite to sex-tape protagonist to reality-TV star to generalised stander-in-front-of-things.” Make no mistake; for all the criticism one has for the soullessness of the game, it is still the top earner amongst Glu Games, and has expanded from a phone app to a desktop version available on Facebook.
Kendall and Kylie went all out with personalising their game with real video clips and a feature that allows you to Instagram actual screenshots from your progress, but the resulting app is buggy, slow and prone to hanging.
Ms Perry tried to bring the conversation back to the creative aspect of the long road to fame, but perhaps got a little too creative, what with the “Katy Vision” feature taking the storyline down what feels like one long acid trip, and predictably enough, this is one game that tanked.
The other one that didn’t get far is the Bollywood game, which is actually not a Glu Games product, but an attempt at copying the format, and not a very good one. Some how “pose maro” as an activity doesn’t sit well in the stomach.
Moving on to the latest release, the Britney Spears game take elements from the Stardom format, includes a live chat option, and allows the player greater control over the storyline. Whether it will have the same success as KK:H, only time will tell.
However you feel about the content of the games, there’s no denying that the intimate access into the lives of celebs can make an experience as addicting as those gossip tabloids you pretend you don’t read. And the numbers don’t lie. We’re hearing rumours that Nicki Minaj, Demi Lovato, and weirdly, Jason Statham are also in talks with Glu Games for their animated biographies, so it looks like we can look forward to a lot more where Stardom came from.