Last year, game studio Glu Mobile unleashed a monster hit from which the world never fully recovered: Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. As a role-playing game it was an enormous success, with initial (and perhaps overstated?) estimates predicting $200 million in annual revenue. ($85 million of which would go to Kardashian-West herself). So far, the game has tallied 28 million downloads to go with 11 billion minutes played since last summer. The list of Kardashian-sized triumphs goes on and on and on.
Now in a new cover story with AdWeek, Kim revealed a few of the secrets that she and Glu used to keep her fans coming back to the game, again and again. One of the key insights, she says, is that she and the mobile team in San Francisco corresponded daily—over email and chat—to ensure the game mimicked her real life as much as possible. Hollywood was aggressively updated with new add-ons for gamers to purchase, like new wardrobe pieces, travel destinations, and silly adventures.
The look of the game was really important to me. I must have pulled thousands of references of all the different ways that characters should have their hair, the outfits and the shoes. One time there was a strap wrong on one of the character’s shoes—her feet weren’t matching. I had to change the programming to fix that. It was important to me that everything is right.
This intense planning paid off. As one of the most followed people on Instagram (27.2 million followers) and Twitter (29.6 million followers)—with many fans earnestly tracking her every move—this open communication allowed for happy accidents, like serendipitous moments that seemed to blur Kim’s real-world happenings with what was going on in the game:
Something that really worked in the game that was kind of an accident are the updates. [For example], your character can go on vacation to Mexico, and that’s one of the places that I go all the time.
I actually didn’t know the date of the launch, but I happened to be going to Mexico on the same day. Once I started posting pictures through Instagram that I was in Mexico, everyone was playing along [and saying], “I just updated my game, and I’m in Mexico with you.” They would literally get a bikini like the one I had Instagrammed in a photo.
The apparent lesson? When it comes to delighting your fans (or customers), it’s up to you to create opportunity. All day. As Glu CEO Niccolo De Masi told Co.Create about Kardashian-West last summer: “She’s been deeply involved with every aspect of the game, from the look and feel to new items for sale and new locations to travel, all of it is something she’s had a hand in… She’s a delightful partner. She’s also her own brand licensor and game consultant, so it’s very easy to work with her because she’s doing her own approvals for ideas.”