The Rise and Fall of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

In June 2014, Glu Mobile released a mobile game called Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. The game allowed players to create their own aspiring celebrity, interact with Kim Kardashian, and attempt to achieve A-list fame. It was an instant hit, earning over $1.6 million in revenue in its first 5 days and over $74 million in its first 6 months.

At its peak, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood was generating over $700,000 per day in revenue. It revolutionized the celebrity mobile gaming space and inspired numerous copycat games. However, after nearly 10 years, decreasing revenue and user engagement led Glu Mobile to sunset the once massively popular game on April 8, 2024.

The Rise

The early 2010s saw rapid growth in the mobile gaming market, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones. However, most mobile games at the time catered towards male audiences.

In 2013, Niccolo de Masi, the CEO of mobile game developer Glu Mobile, realized they had an underutilized game engine that could appeal to female audiences. Their game Stardom: The A List, which allowed players to roleplay as an aspiring celebrity, was already popular among women.

De Masi believed overlaying a female celebrity onto the game could turbocharge its success. He reached out to Kim Kardashian, who loved the idea. Kardashian believed her fans would enjoy the fantasy of following in her footsteps to fame.

After nearly a year of development, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood launched on iOS and Android in June 2014. The game let players customize their character and work odd jobs to build their fame, social connections, and wealth. They could travel to events and locations in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York to network and land modeling gigs. Players interacted with Kim Kardashian and other celebrities like Simon Cowell throughout the game.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood smartly monetized players through in-app purchases. Impatient users could buy virtual currency, called K stars, to immediately purchase premium clothing items, accelerate time spent traveling and networking, or replay depleted in-game actions.

This free-to-play model, paired with Kardashian's massive social media following, was a recipe for success. In its first 5 days, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood pulled in over $1.6 million in revenue. In its first 6 months, it generated $74.3 million. Based on Kardashian's contract terms, this earned her an estimated $45 million in that period alone.

By 2016, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood had been downloaded over 45 million times and racked up $160 million in revenue. It consistently ranked near the top of app store charts and was named one of the 100 best mobile games of the decade.

The Appeal

So what made Kim Kardashian: Hollywood so wildly popular?

It masterfully tapped into the fantasy of becoming a celebrity. This aspirational concept resonated strongly with Kardashian's primarily female audience. Players loved the escapism of rising from an unknown to an A-list star.

The game also benefited from perfect timing. Its launch coincided with the global obsession over Kim Kardashian and pop culture fame. Kardashian’s enormous social media following, over 100 million across platforms like Instagram, provided built-in promotion every time she posted about the game.

Gameplay wise, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood employed well-tested causal gaming mechanics around customization and progress-focused missions. The free-to-play model with paid boosts and cosmetic items was also increasingly popular. These examples of smart execution likely contributed to its success.

Finally, the game authentically embodied Kardashian’s brand. She was highly involved in its development, approving every outfit, storyline, and visual detail. This allowed her to extend her image into a new medium.

The Fall

However, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’s popularity eventually began todecline. Revenue peaked around 2015 and started decreasing year over year.

In June 2021, Electronic Arts acquired Glu Mobile for $2.4 billion. This eventually led to the demise of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

Here are some of the factors that contributed to its downfall after nearly 10 years:

Competition - Kim Kardashian: Hollywood sparked a wave of celebrity mobile games, including from Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Gordon Ramsay. These crowded the market and stole users.

Declining interest - User fatigue set in after years of playing. The novelty of roleplaying as a celebrity waned for Kardashian’s maturing fanbase.

Lack of updates - The game remained stagnant without major new features or gameplay innovations. This caused people to run out of content.

Technical issues - Poor ongoing maintenance led to buggy performance, off-putting glitches, and broken features. This frustrated loyal players.

Saturated brand - As Kardashian continued to overexpose her personal life, fans became less engaged. Her brand lost its aspirational quality.

New preferences - Casual gaming tastes shifted away from story-driven roleplaying games. Audience interest moved towards more competitive multiplayer experiences.

On April 3, 2024, Glu announced that Kim Kardashian: Hollywood would cease operations on April 8. The game was removed from the iOS and Google Play stores.

While players who already downloaded the app could continue playing until the shutdown date, all in-app purchases were disabled. Soon the game would become completely inaccessible.

After nearly 10 years in operation, the servers turned off for Kim Kardashian: Hollywood on April 8, 2024 - ending its reign as one of the most successful celebrity mobile games ever created.

Key Takeaways

The incredible rise and fall of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood offers some valuable insights into the world of mobile gaming:

- Virality and celebrity endorsement can lead to meteoric short-term success. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood went from 0 to $74 million in revenue in under 6 months. However, quality and consistency are crucial for maintaining popularity long-term.

- Lightning rarely strikes the same place twice. Despite their best efforts, Glu failed to recreate the success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood with similar celebrity games. Unique, strategic product-market fit is elusive.

- Player interest inevitably wanes without fresh content and innovation. Successful live service games require constant updates and new features to sustain revenue. Stagnation is a death knell.

- Acquisitions often sound the death knell for aging games. Large conglomerates like EA prioritize rising new titles over declining stalwarts.

- Even behemoth success stories eventually topple. No mobile gaming empire is immune from changing consumer preferences and technology disruption.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’s dramatic trajectory spotlights the inherent challenges around sustaining a hit game. However, with smart timing, execution, and constant evolution, the next mobile gaming phenomenon could arise at any moment.



- Business Insider

- Forbes

- Variety

- Game Observer

- EA Games (press release)


- Glu Mobile - developer of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

- Niccolo de Masi, CEO

- Electronic Arts (EA) - acquired Glu Mobile

- Andrew Wilson, CEO

- Whalerock Industries - developed Kim Kardashian app

- Pocket Gems - developer of celebrity mobile games

- Rovio - developer of Angry Birds and Shakira's Love Rocks Shakira

- Creative Mobile - developer of Fetty Wap: Nitro Nation Stories