Former Glu CEO decodes reasons why the company’s celebrity games failed


We all know how popular celebrity games are given they bank on the success of the big names. Over the years, we have seen plenty of them on mobile itself, with one of the popular simulation mobile games, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood being a trendsetter for this genre of games. Glu Mobile was one developer that made many celebrity games but it had its own share of failures, which the former CEO Niccolo De Masi addressed in a recent interview.

Glu’s efforts to recreate the success of the Kim Kardashian game were in vain

Speaking to mobilegamer.biz, Niccolo De Masi reflected on the successes and failures of the company’s celebrity tie-in games, shedding light on why some ventures faltered while others thrived. Among the discussed titles was The Swift Life, a collaboration with Taylor Swift that ultimately shuttered in early 2019.

De Masi, despite admiring Swift’s business acumen, admitted that the game struggled because of challenges in engaging her vast social media following and a lack of sustained interest from fans in her day-to-day activities.

Kim Kardashian Hollywood
Image via Glu Mobile

Other potential collaborations, such as projects with Kanye West, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Selena Gomez, and Vin Diesel, failed to materialize into successful games. He cites interest from Kanye West but confirms that ultimately he didn’t want to be involved.

He stated: “We built a Jason Statham shooter, I actually loved that shooter. And we almost did a Vin Diesel racing game. Sylvester Stallone sat in my office once and wanted to build an action game. We almost booked a Selena Gomez game, we signed all of these people up. And we didn’t quite pull the trigger on them for a number of different reasons, temporal and development capacity issues.”

New celebrity games could be a possibility with “Glu 2.0”, states De Masi

Yet, Glu achieved moderate success with Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant Dash; their second-best performer after Kim Kardashian: Hollywood despite two long years of setbacks. De Masi attributed the game’s relative success to Ramsay’s strong work ethic and involvement in the project.

However, he stressed that none of the subsequent celebrity tie-ins, including those with Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj, managed to replicate the success of Kardashian’s game. Dealing with talent proved to be a challenge for Glu, with issues ranging from tardiness to disagreements over creative direction.

Restaurant Dash game cover
Image via Glu

Looking ahead, De Masi felt optimistic about the resurgence of celebrity-driven mobile games but suggested that any future iterations would take on a different form. Reflecting on his past collaborations, he stated, “In the history of my career, it never ceases to amaze me how often what’s old is new again.”

With Kim Kardashian: Hollywood shut down on April 18, 2024 after a successful decade of its mobile run, he hinted at the possibility of a “Glu 2.0” in the future, indicating that another collaboration similar to his partnership with Kim Kardashian could one day come to fruit.

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