The Hollywood-ification Of The App Store

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Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’s success in the App Store could open the doors to future celebrity-publisher partnerships, suggests app analytics firm App Annie in a new report out this morning which looks back on the latest in app store trends. The game, a joint effort between the celeb and publisher Glu, was the most downloaded game on iOS in July, and helped Glu become the number one publisher by game downloads worldwide, as well as #10 in iOS game revenue.

The game also exists as further proof of the App Store’s push into the mainstream, where its top charts now tend to highlight titles that are more broadly accessible by everyday users. The Flappy Bird’s du jour. Or, more pessimistically, the app store is proof we’re in Idiocracy as ridiculous titles like Toilet Time and Make it Rain become temporary hits until the crowd moves on to the next time-waster.

Kim Kardashian, however, at least requires its users to devotedly play for an extended period of time in order to advance. But it also encourages those users to part with their money, or risk losing all their hard “work” as they rapidly lose their “KStars” (energy levels).

The strategy clearly works: the game made $1.6 million in its first five days and is reportedly on track for $200 million in annual revenue, thanks to its in-app purchases.

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Last month, the game saw 68,000 iTunes reviews. And to put that in perspective, that’s more than all the other new releases in the iOS top 10 by downloads combined. It’s just a massive success, not only in terms of celeb-publisher match-ups, but of games in general.

The Hollywood takeover the App Store wasn’t limited to Kim’s game last month, though it was clearly a dominating force. Another top title was Transformers: Age of Extinction, whose release was designed to coincide with that of the movie’s, and quickly became a top 5 Google Play game. It, too, showcased another Hollywood-powered app store trend in action, by again demonstrating how well movies and apps can go hand-and-hand, and how successful those tie-ins can be. For instance, other recent winners in this genre have included Despicable Me: Minion Rush, Frozen Free Fall, and Maleficent Free Fall.

Outside the games genre, celebrity match-ups can work well when they are seen more of an extension of the Hollywood icon, rather than some mindless vanity project where the celeb simply agrees to let someone use their name, or donates a small amount in order to play “investor.” (And generate press releases announcing such a thing.)

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For example, Tom Hanks’ well-built Hanx Writer typewriter app, which mimics the act of typing on old-school clickity-clack machines, shot up to the top of the App Store shortly after its launch in August. People connected with not only the Hanks “brand” but also the man’s personal passion for typewriters, which he eloquently spoke of in an NYT op-ed last summer.

Hanx Writer was the Overall #1 app and the #1 Productivity app on the App Store from August 15th through 20th in the U.S. It was released on the 14th and quickly shot up to #2 Overall and #1 in Productivity. But since the 21st, the app has declined proving that Hanks’ app did not have the staying power of Kim’s.

Not all celeb-publisher partnerships play out as well as Kim’s, of course. Neither Justin Bieber’s “selfie” app Shots nor Leonardo DiCaprio’s investment Mobli have found massive success. Meanwhile, other celebs – especially those in the music space – see apps as these complementary accessories that exist alongside their real passions (i.e., their music) – like Snoop Dogg (Snoopify), Taylor Swift (American Greetings partnership), Jay Z (Magna Carta Holy Grail), and Lady Gaga (Artpop), for example.

The older generations had liner notes; modern kids have apps.

But even if celeb-backed titles become more common thanks to the fallout from Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, that doesn’t mean newcomers don’t have a chance. Viral hit Timberman, developed by Polish indie developer Digital Melody, was able to finish last month in the top 5 apps by downloads, even briefly displacing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood at the top of the iPhone download ranks in the U.S. for a time.