For the past few weeks, Gordon Ramsay and I have been cooking together. We made pepperoni pizza on the train on my way to a meeting Monday afternoon, a late-night turkey wrap when I couldn’t sleep last Wednesday, and I’ve made more hamburgers in the past 14 days than I’ve possibly put together in my entire lifetime. There’s just one catch to my new culinary achievement: It all happened on my iPad.
My cooking skills have been put to the test in Gordon Ramsay Dash, the latest game by Glu Mobile, the same company behind the exceptionally popular game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which celebrated its second birthday this week. In its two years on the market that game has made over $157.8 million in revenue and has been downloaded over 45 million times.
Much like Kim Kardashian’s game, which is a rebrand of the existing game Stardom, Ramsay’s game builds on Glu’s popular Dash franchise, putting players in a chef’s apron at a diner in San Francisco, a pizza joint in New York, and a seafood restaurant in Las Vegas, where they serve customers interesting dishes while battling the clock to reach a new high score.
The standard version of Dash has been around for 10 years, and has over 500 million installs. Much like Hollywood, Glu’s counting on the addition of celebrity-chef Ramsay to the game to make the franchise even more of a hit.
“Both Kim and Gordon are the same thing: We think that they’re the category killer in their category,” Glu Mobile CEO Niccolo de Masi tells Fast Company. “They have the most social followers. They have the most name recognition. If you can combine name recognition and social following with a great game, you can have the makings of a very, very special outcome creatively as well as financially.”
Glu has been working with Ramsay for about 18 months on the game, and actually wasn’t the first game developer to approach the chef.
“I was approached just over three years ago. It wasn’t right,” Ramsay told us during a launch event for the game in San Francisco. Part of his concern with original company that approached him was that it wasn’t quite clear how the game would be able to make an impact in the market. When Glu came along a little over a year later, everything fell into place fairly quickly.
“The level of input has been extraordinary from the first think tank process,” Ramsay says. “They’ve let me be me. They’ve respected their integrity, and they’ve kept the sort of essence of what I stand for, and I think you’ll see that in the app.”
For Ramsay fans that means, yes, he does curse at you during the game. That profanity is bleeped out, however, to keep things age appropriate.
When it comes to creating celebrity-focused games, de Masi says that input from people like Ramsay and Kardashian is an important part of the process.
“It really helps that both Gordon and Kim are very disciplined and very responsive,” he says. “You get out what you put in to these partnerships, and they both recognize that this can be good for their brand, good for of course their revenues, and they both saw the huge potential of this almost immediately.”
He says that typically the process of working with a celebrity involves the studio coming up with ideas and then presenting several versions of the same thing to a celebrity who will then select one of the choices, or make suggestions on how to improve them. More than just a onetime meeting, that collaboration keeps happening even long after the game is in the hands of players.
“I talk to Kim Kardashian over text and email, often multiple times per day, certainly multiple times a week,” he says. “Our studio lead on the Play First team is talking with Gordon. It is a frequent and rapid iterative loop, and that’s what makes these partnerships successful: frequent, and rapid iterations.”
One of the suggestions Gordon made during the process of building the game was to include a Wichelin star system, a play on the Michelin stars that chefs go after in the real world.
“We live and die on the scrutiny of the critics and the Michelin guide we’ve been up against for the last 15 years, so we’ve got the Wichelin stars across the game,” says Ramsay. “We take them away if you’re not running your restaurant on a proper basis.”
Another thing that’s a little different from the other Dash games? There’s a Master Chef-eque battle mode where you take on your friends (or strangers) in a cooking contest at restaurants in the game. That feature in particular is one that Ramsay hopes will help spur a little competition in the real world as well.
“I’ve been knocking on Bobbly Flay’s door for the last two years asking for a chef-off with him,” he says. “I’m hoping once he downloads the app he’s going to go up and say yes finally.”