Kim Kardashian may have melted the Internet – or almost – with her risqué magazine cover last year, but it seems she won’t be able to supply a business model to save the mobile gaming industry.
Kardashian’s mobile game, called “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” has proven popular since it hit the market last June, but not nearly as popular as early projections had indicated. Back then Wall Street analysts expected the app, which lets players lead a virtual life sort of like the reality television star, would bring in $200 million for publisher Glu Mobile (GLUU).
But after a strong summer, the app had been fading. Kardashian’s game spent much of the summer as one of the five highest-grossing apps in Apple’s (AAPL) U.S. app store, then faded in the fall and has dipped to the 19th spot as of Friday. It’s much the same story on the Android stores run by Google (GOOGL) and Amazon (AMZN), according to data collected by market tracker App Annie.
Glu doesn’t report its fourth-quarter earnings until Feb. 4, but with the game’s sales in free-fall, the $200 million marks seems far out of reach.
In the game, which can be downloaded for free, players try to become famous, with occasional advice from a virtual Kim. Advancing quickly requires frequent in-game purchases of currency, "Koins," used to customize a character's appearance and enhance social status. Some players got addicted, but the appeal wore off over time, as it does with most mobile games.
Even amid the hysteria of Kardashian’s nude pose on the cover of Paper Magazine in November, the app’s revenue ranking rose only a blip and then largely tailed off again.
The stock market long ago recognized that mobile game players were too fickle to stick with one celebrity’s hot game. Shares of Glu peaked at $7.60 in July but have since lost 50%. That was just as the $200 million predictions were flying. But the game earned only $43 million in the third quarter.
The reality star herself should make out just fine. She earns a reported royalty of 45% of revenues.
Other celebrities haven’t fared as well, either. Lindsay Lohan’s app, “The Price of Fame,” never cracked the 350 top-grossing apps on iTunes and fell out of the top 1,500 in mid-December, according to App Annie.
So for struggling mobile gaming companies like Glu, it's back to the drawing board.