Taylor Swift is the latest musician to sign up to front a mobile game developed by Glu Mobile, the company behind the lucrative Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game.
Swift joins Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears on Glu’s roster of licensing partners, although only Perry’s game has been launched so far. Swift’s will be released in late December as part of a multi-year exclusive deal.
The question is whether Swift’s game will be a Kardashian-sized hit, or a Perry-sized flop. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood has been a decent-sized hit since its launch in June 2014, generating nearly $127m in revenues so far. It was Glu’s biggest game in 2015, generating $71.8m that year – 30% of the publisher’s total revenues.
Katy Perry Pop, on the other hand, hasn’t been a success. Glu CEO Niccolo de Masi was blunt in his appraisal for analysts last night: “In Katy Perry Pop, poor technical decisions coupled with the newly hired team led to all key metrics being below thresholds required for an ROI positive title,” he said. “Additional development time was not provided due to contractual restrictions as well as the team’s mediocre trajectory.”
Glu has tended to talk about its licensing partners in terms of their social reach: “Katy has over 170 million total social followers,” said de Masi in February 2015 after signing that deal. Persuading those followers to download her game – let alone pay for virtual currency within it – has clearly been tougher than the company expected.
The question is whether this is a problem with the game itself; with Perry as a celebrity; or with musicians as subjects for this kind of mobile game, compared with lifestyle-driven celebrities like Kardashian.
Glu can (hopefully) make a better game for Taylor Swift; and it’s certainly possible that Swift’s relationship with her fans is stronger than Perry’s. But if Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears’ games tank this summer, it may shine more of a spotlight on the third of those questions.