It turns out that it might be possible to "live your best life" and still be mildly addicted to a mobile game.
That's if Oprah Winfrey has her way, at least. Today OWN, the media mogul's cable network, launches Bold Moves, its first mobile game. The game, which is free to play, is a feel-good cross between Candy Crush and Wheel of Fortune: Players must solve match-three puzzles with tiles in order to fill in the missing letters from quotes and mantras that the former talk-show doyenne has curated over the years. Of course, they can also purchase power-ups along the way, which range from $.99 to $19.99, to get help or new lives.
While it might seem that Winfrey's brand of enlightenment and empowerment doesn't exactly scream mobile games, OWN executives say it makes perfect business sense. "As the network got on its feet, we started looking at what our key network demographic, which is females 45 to 54, were doing with their discretionary time and income," says Erik Logan, president of OWN. "We found out that a huge percentage play these games."
The company is back on its feet and then some. Mired by low ratings and the high expectations that could only come with being an Oprah Winfrey enterprise, OWN got off to a slow start after its launch via co-owner Discovery Communications. However, thanks to hit original shows by Tyler Perry—and more recently, Greenleaf and Queen Sugar, whose double-day September premiere notched OWN its best "night two" ever—OWN has actually grown subscribers at a time when competitor networks are losing them to streaming services. OWN subscribers grew 12% in 2015, compared to Oxygen, for example, which lost 36%.
Now, the network is expanding digitally. After transforming Oprah.com from a marketing vehicle for a talk show into an audacious e-learning platform with classes and audio meditations from the likes of Deepak Chopra, the digital interactive agency Red got to work on developing Bold Moves. "It's actually helping spread that word of 'live your best life' in a way that's very organic to the game play,'" says Donny Makower, Red's president. When players unlock quotes, whose originators range from Maya Angelou to Carl Lentz, they can easily share them on social media. "[We wanted it] to feel like an extension of her, particularly as this is her first foray into the space."
Market research firm NewZoo pegs the mobile gaming industry to be worth $99.6 billion in 2016—up 8.4% from last year. Still, the field is very hit-driven, and only a relatively small portion of players pay for in-game content. (A recent report puts that figure at 2%.) To that end, OWN is also approaching Bold Moves as a way to learn more about the space, and where to take the company next. "We don't know if this is a viable platform for OWN five years from now," says Logan. "It's like television: You put it on the air, and the audience will watch it, or they won't."
However, the game has already enraptured one very important fan, he says.
"Gayle loves this thing. We could not get it out of her hands, just FYI."