Glu CEO breaks down the success of his celebrity based games

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood was downloaded 35M times and spawned a load of other games in the category

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 12, 2015
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My whole life I've seen games that are based on movies and TV shows. When I was a kid I played the Terminator 2 pinball machine game, and the Simpsons arcade game. And there were similar games that came out long before that. So that strategy is nothing new.

Here's something that is fairly recent, though: games that are not based on around proven properties, but around people. As in, the draw being not that you get to play as a character, but as a celebrity.

The pioneer in this format has been Glu, and at VentureBeat's GamesBeat 2015 on Tuesday, Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo De Masi explained why this has been a winning formula.

Basically, he said, people have more affection for real people than for franchises, because they are real. Or, I guess that least we think of them as real, even though we don't really know who these people are outside of their personas (if we learn nothing else from the Bill Cosby scandal, at least let it be that).

Since, yes, people like KIm Kardashian do exist, they also have big social media followings, which allow fans to feel close to them, and lets them promote the game, giving it a wider net. There is built in marketing.

The most popular game in this space is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood .The game, which launched last year, has been downloaded over 35 million times and allowed the company to raise $126 million by selling 21 million shares of its common stock to Tencent Holdings Limited.

In April, the Kardasian game actually caused Glu to raise its revenue outlook for the full year to between $262 million and $287 million. It has previously forecasted it to between $245 million to $275 million. And it lifted the company's second quarter earnings, with the company reporting non-GAAP revenue of $57.5 million, a 64 percent increase year-to-year, and higher than the $51.5 million consensus estimate. Its EPS of $0.01, while analysts had been expecting a loss of $0.04.

One of the drivers of all that growth: Kim Kardashian and her game. 

“During the quarter, our results were underpinned by the continued strength of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, Racing Rivals, Deer Hunter 2014 and Contract Killer: Sniper. We were also pleased with the robust performance of Tap Sports Baseball 2015 and Cooking Dash 2016 out of the gates," de Masi, said in a statement.

The Kardashian game came about when De Masi approached her in early 2013. All he did was take her brand and added it to the model already created for past games based around acquiring fame. Since then, the company has kept the game fresh by incorporating events from her life (I pity the poor fool whose job it is to keep track of... whatever it is that Kim Kardashian does).

“Kim and I have been the innovator for this category, and we think it’s here to stay,” De Masi said at the event.

This seems to be going much better than Kardashian's first foray into tech, which didn't go so well. She co-founded Shoedazzle in 2009 with Brian Lee, and though the company raised $66 million, it spun out of control when Lee left to found the Honest Company with Jessica Alba. New CEO Bill Strauss decided to cut subscriptions, hurting the company. Lee eventually came back, but ShoeDazzle was unable to climb back up, and the company, which was valued at $200 million in 2011, sold to Just Fab in 2013 for between $10 and $30 million

Kardashian's game has been so successful that it has caused Glu, the gaming company behind the game, to try to replicate that success with multiple other celebrities, including Britney Spears and Katy Perry.

In August the company announced that it has signed two new stars to make games around: hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj and action star Jason Statham, Glu’s first male celebrity partner.

While no details about the Minaj game were disclosed, it was revealed that the Statham game will be called Sniper X: Kill Confirmed.

Getting back to the thing about social media, with games starring Perry, Kardashian, Spears, Minaj, Statham, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Glu’s celebrity gaming platform is now supported by nearly 650 million total social followers.

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