5 Important Lessons Kim Kardashian Taught Us About Mobile Game Development

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Kevin Ford

September 22nd, 2015

“Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” became the number two app overall on the App Store one day after it was released. Within a few weeks, it became the top ranking app overall and has made a home in the top five since then. Why?


No one can argue against Kim Kardashian’s incredible fame. A number of key events have contributed to her stardom, but a lot of people have done those same things and aren’t able to sustain the same popularity. The goal of this blog post isn’t to analyze Kim Kardashian’s popularity, it’s to review how she is going to make 85 million dollars from her new game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

For those who haven’t played Kim Kardashian: Hollywood yet, TechCrunch sums it up pretty well: “The app is a classic role-playing game where players take the part of an up and coming Hollywood celebrity determined to climb the ranks up to “A-List” status. To get there, players must pass through lower levels of stardom on the E, D, C, and B-Lists. Moving through these levels requires completing tasks like posing for magazines and going on dates.”

Glu seriously hit a homerun when they called in Kim Kardashian for this game. It’s a match made in heaven and there is a lot to learn from their success. It’s worth noting that the game uses IAPs and ads for monetization. In the first six months of this game’s life, it’s projected to earn $225 million dollars which, financially, makes it Glu’s most successful game ever. It also means Kim Kardashian is going to make more from this game than she did from all of her other ventures last year, combined.

In making this game, Glu basically took everything they’ve learned about mobile gaming over the past few years, mixed it with everything Kim Kardashian has learned about popularity, and packaged it into a 70.1 mb app available for you on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

I started playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood because it was the game of the week for NativeX’s “Gamers Club.” The NativeX Gamers Club is similar to a book club in that we choose a mobile game to play for one week and then meet up to discuss the game’s mechanics, monetization techniques, user experience, what we liked, what we disliked, etc.

After playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood for a week, I get why it’s been so successful. It’s not my genre and I didn’t continue playing it the following week; but others will for months, maybe years to come because it’s perfect for its audience. To help us all learn from this massive success, I compiled a list of five lessons for mobile game developers.

5 Lessons Mobile Game Developers Can Learn from Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

Choose your partners wisely. Everything Kim Kardashian touches turns into gold because she is selective about her partners – personally and professionally. Just as she selected a spouse with a history of producing hit singles, Glu has a history of developing top games. They are veteran game developers with an expertise in game monetization. Kim Kardashian can stand on her own and so can Glu; together they’re a super-couple.



Be controversial. Kim Kardashian remains relevant because she knows how to stir up controversy. Embracing this as a positive trait, Glu baked controversy into the DNA of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. For instance, players are given the option to take nude photos to further their careers and take shots at bars to “power up.”



While Kim Kardashian isn’t the only controversial celebrity capable of making a hit game, she got the timing right with technology adoption when others like Paris Hilton have not been as successful. In 2006, smartphone users had Blackberries, iPads didn’t exist, Twitter was a startup, and Teens weren’t playing games on handheld devices like the Nintendo DS – their younger siblings were.

Be social media savvy. When I’ve asked people if they like Kim Kardashian, I get one of two reactions. The first is a firm, “no.” These people usually don’t know anything about her and they don’t want to. The second reaction starts with an awkward smile and then goes something like, “well… it’s just funny how ridiculous she is. She’s fun.” It doesn’t matter which camp you’re in, both like to talk about her. In a 140 character world, that’s a good thing that will put you into the “Trending” topics list every time. As a result, Kim Kardashian has 22.8 million followers on both Twitter and Facebook.



In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, viral loops play a major role in spreading the word about the game. Labeled as the “viral oops” by TechCrunch, this game shares messages like, “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Come join me and become famous too, by playing on iPhone!” as you progress through the celebrity ranks.

They’re literally pumping out thousands of Tweets every day which helped the game spread like wildfire the day it launched. Taking it one step further, they created a Twitter account for one of the characters in the game which has collected half a million followers, giving Glu the ability to re-engage users when retention starts to dip.

As shown below, the community manager for the U.S. EPA fell victim to Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’s “viral oops.”



Again, controversy can work in your favor as this accidental Tweet went viral, creating awareness for both the EPA and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.



Create an incredible first-time user experience (FTUE). Kim Kardashian: Hollywood uses a really smart tutorial that guides players through the natural progression of the game. It’s clever and informative, directions are concise and clear, and tips only appear when you really need them.

The first thing you get to do as a new player is customize your avatar, which metaphorically lays the foundation of your fame. Features like this create an emotional attachment to the game that keeps players coming back. As players progress, the game uses positive reinforcement to reward them with money for new outfits.

Know your audience and design for them. Why is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood so popular? As the Guardianput it so elegantly, “because people like it,” and their 4.5 star rating from 12,735 reviews on the App Store backs that up. The target market for this game is young women, a segment that is often ignored by game developers and Glu delivered them a hit. As you can imagine, since the game is focused on popularity and consumerism, people are attacking it; a topic that echos the war on violent video games like Grand Theft Auto that were said to be making young men violent (even though the research doesn’t think so).

At the end of the day, like her or not, Kim Kardashian is doing magic for your career as a game developer. Not only is this game creating more demand for new games by converting new audiences into mobile gamers, it is bridging the gap between Hollywood entertainment and the mobile games industry. We at NativeX have long said that, “games are the new TV” and just this week we “hit peak TV” in the United States. The profile of a “typical gamer” will continue to fade as games continue to grow in popularity and it’s good news for game developers, big and small.

Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Kevin Ford

Marketing Manager


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