Mobile gaming is now a significant part of the games industry. In October, research firm Newzoo estimated that not only would mobile gaming grow by half during 2015, but that its revenues could very well exceed the sales of console games. Looking at the Japanese console gaming market, which has been hit so hard by mobile games that some developers think it’s on its last legs, those suggestions seem likely.
It’s games like Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Saga, and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood that are driving up these figures. While Kim Kardashian’s gaming debut was incredibly divisive when it launched last year, it was also incredibly popular. The game has RPG elements, allowing people to level up their socialites and gain new fans and followers and its use of collectibles (there are apartments, clothes, and even pets to buy) also made Hollywood addictive. Plus, it featured cameos by Kim, her sisters, and their mother Kris Jenner, which would have appealed to many Kardashian superfans.
So successful did the game turn out to be, that Kim Kardashian: Hollywood earned developer Glu Games $74.3 million last year. This figure was way off the $200 million estimate touted by some analysts, but in an interview with VentureBeat, Glu CEO Niccolo De Masi has revealed that this made up 30% of the company’s revenue. By 2020, Glu Games expects half of their revenue to come from celebrity-endorsed games.
The company aims to make $1 billion by the year 2020, which will mean that they earn $500 million from celebrity endorsements alone. Glu Games recently signed up Britney Spears, Katy Perry, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner (Kim Kardashian’s sisters) to deals and De Masi expects that their social followings will help their games do well, thus leading to that half a billion dollar total. He also notes that “the celebrity platform at the moment is just one genre, as a 2D role-playing game. But in the long term, we’ll expand that engine and that type of genre and expand the celebrities across multiple engines and multiple genres.”
Of course there is the risk that Glu Games is putting too much stock in celebrities. $500 million is a lot of money and it entirely hinges on the fluctuating popularity of these celebs – given that Perry, Spears and the two Jenner sisters aren’t strangers to controversy, something could happen between now and 2020 that makes those deals a lot less valuable.
Glu will be hoping then, that some of its other endeavours will pay off. The developer is also behind restaurant management franchise Diner Dash and the first-person shooter Frontline Commandos, and De Masi says that the company will also invest in virtual reality devices and wearables such as the Apple Watch. The CEO further claimed that “I feel we are on a good-to-great journey. We are early in that journey, but I am proud to say that ten years into Glu’s existence, we’ve made a lot of progress” so whether that progress continues will have to be seen.