Sunday, February 7, 2016
The grand strategy hit rough times in the latter half of 2015, with Glu's revenues and profits declining and Glu laying off 50 employees in December. What happened? The company's two new games, Katy Perry: Pop and James Bond: World of Espionage were flops. De Masi explained what happened with Katy Perry: Pop like this: "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." The James Bond game failed, with low installs and poor retention, because of "creative decisions made in partnership with the licensors to avoid firearms and classic shooter mechanics."
I think the celebrity license strategy is a good one in the abstract: Sign up a celebrity who has millions of social media followers, and you have an instant audience for your game. What Glu seems to have forgotten, or not felt important, was that the success of the strategy depends on a couple of key things. One, you have to have a good game -- one that's fun, has good retention and that generates good revenue -- regardless of what license is attached to it. Second, the game has to have a strong appeal for the celebrity's fans.
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood started with a good game -- one that already existed and had a proven audience appeal and ability to make money. Glu took the Stardom: Hollywood game and re-skinned it with Kim Kardashian, and it worked brilliantly because the games' activities were exactly what Kardashian's fans wanted.
Now, I don't know what the Katy Perry: Pop game is like, but I'm pretty sure there are significant differences between her fans and Kim Kardashian's. For one thing, Perry is a singer, so certainly her fans like her music. Maybe her fans want to sing with Perry, or dance with here. I don't know, but you'd sure want to know what Perry's fans want in a game before you started creating one. And it's a good bet you wouldn't be successful taking the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game and re-skinning it with Katy Perry.
Without enough time to do a thorough job of understanding the Perry fans, and a team with technical issues, the inevitable result is a bad game. Signing up celebrity licenses is not all you have to do; you have to make sure the license agreement gives you the time and the creative control you need to create a good game.
One major drawback of the celebrity licensed game is that you may lose the chance to effectively cross-market your game to players of your other games. Maybe a Taylor Swift player might like to see the Katy Perry: Pop game, but they probably won't be interested in the Jason Statham game.
I wish Glu success in the future, but they should realize by now it's that easy to have a hit game, whether or not you have a celebrity license. They've got some great licenses, but they also have great challenges in making hit games for those licenses.
Posted by Steve Peterson at 11:32 PM