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Celebrity integration in mobile gaming

Since the release and speedy success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a casual lifestyle game based on social climbing, celebrity endorsed games have been on the rise. The game’s developer Glu claims celebrities have turned out to be an even better tool for successful branded games than currently more commonly used movie brands. A real person rather than a movie or TV show character brings more awareness and fosters a stronger feeling of identification for the player.

A trend beyond the lifestyle genre

Glu’s biggest celebrity endorsed achievement Kim Kardashian: Hollywood opened the market and was recently followed by a thriving casual restaurant game featuring TV-famous gourmet chef Gordon Ramsay. The developer has also released an action shooting game with Jason Statham shortly after, in which the movie star is a military commander narrating and giving advice on how to stay alive in the game.

Another popular sphere Glu Games and other developers have recently tackled is the music industry. Glu has released games based on pop music featuring Katy Perry and Britney Spears and is now planning on launching a Taylor Swift endorsed game in late 2016. Glu’s CEO Niccolo de Masi is convinced it will quickly conquer the App Store considering her large loyal fan base.

Pocket Gems developed Path of Fame, a simulation singing career game featuring Demi Lovato. Rovio, known for the hugely successful arcade game Angry Birds, created a puzzle game with Shakira. Cerulean Games and Steve Aoki, one of the top 10 DJs in the world, recently published the puzzle game BeatBomb. The game includes ten of his songs, one of which was exclusively written for it, and used as a marketing tool to potentially boost the game’s chances of success.

However, compared to the original Kim Kardashian game, other games jumping on the bandwagon of celebrity endorsements in other game genres have not been as successful thus far. There are a few important aspects to consider beyond celebrity affiliation, in order to attract a large number of players willing to pay.

Two key factors for success

Social media following

A large social media following is crucial for the visibility and success of a celebrity endorsed mobile game. A high number of followers means low marketing costs for the developer and facilitated promotion of the game. In order to achieve follower engagement with the game, players need to be able to identify with the celebrity they follow in real life. In the case of Kim Kardashian’s lifestyle game, for instance, the player becomes friends with the socialite. This way the user develops a certain virtual relationship to the celebrity, which leads to an addictive gameplay and ultimately an openness towards potential purchases within the game.

Popular In-App Purchases

The most important revenue stream for these games is a large amount of in-app purchases. Kim Kardashian’s game has generated over $100 Million since its launch in 2014, mostly originating from players using virtual currency to purchase fashion items or pretend social media fans. The game features collaborations with high fashion labels like Balmain and Karl Lagerfeld, both enjoying high brand engagement. In the case of Karl Lagerfeld 200,000 players used their “K Stars” for Lagerfeld pieces featured in the game during the launch month.

Both these factors are undeniably connected and result in the player’s willingness to purchase items in the game. Celebrity endorsed games that have not been as successful so far, possibly need to adopt a similar strategy.

About the author

Evghenia Reazanschi
Evghenia Reazanschi
Working Student

Evghenia supports the product and customers success team. Apart from her work with Iconicfuture she is a graduate student at the University of Hamburg in international business.

In her free time Evghenia loves to do yoga. She has a weakness for fashion.

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