Kim Kardashian Reveals Story Behind Her $74M App, Future Tech Aspirations
The reality TV star also explains her social media obsession.
A version of this story first appeared on adweek.com
Kim Kardashian West first grabbed our attention in October 2007 with the premiere of E!'s Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Who could have guessed where that basic-cable reality show moment would lead? Since then, Kim, 34, has entered that rare pantheon of mononymous celebrities. Like Madonna and Oprah, Pele and Plato, it's just Kim — global trendsetter, designer, model, actress, celebrity endorser, magazine cover queen, tabloid leading lady, social media pioneer, famous wife (twice), famous mom (and sister and daughter) — and now, a superstar in the tech world. Coming off her dual, high-octane covers of Vogue and Paper in 2014 and a buzzy T-Mobile ad in this year's Super Bowl, she is now looking to build on the success of her massively huge mobile game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which raked in more than $74 million last year and which Adweek selected as the year's Hottest Mobile Game in our annual Hot List. (The New York Post reported last week that the game is on track to bring in another $200 million this year, with Kim getting an $85 million cut.) Earlier this month, the most famous woman in the universe spoke to (and posed for!) us, and here she reveals how her hit game came about (and how she plans to make it even bigger), her further aspirations in the tech space, why she's so unapologetically obsessed with Twitter and Instagram, and what is ahead for the 10th season of a TV show that gave the world a megabrand called Kardashian.
Where did the idea for Kim Kardashian: Hollywood come from?
I had just had the baby [North West], and so I was being really choosy about what I was working on. I got a call from the company Glu Mobile to partner up and do a video game. I asked my husband [Kanye West], "What do you think of this? What would the concept be?" And he was like, "Oh my God, you have to do a video game? It's so cool."
So, we went back and we came up with this really cute concept that I thought was relatable and very much like me. It had to be something that fit my personality.
The game is a monster hit, with 28 million downloads and 11 billion minutes of play since it launched last summer. What do you credit that success to?
Something that really worked in the game that was kind of an accident are the updates. [For example], your character can go on vacation to Mexico, and that's one of the places that I go all the time. I actually didn't know the date of the launch, but I happened to be going to Mexico on the same day. Once I started posting pictures through Instagram that I was in Mexico, everyone was playing along [and saying], "I just updated my game, and I'm in Mexico with you." They would literally get a bikini like the one I had Instagrammed in a photo.
People thought we were doing that on purpose and that it was planned, and it wasn't. We realized that it worked so well because we are in such good communication — myself and the Glu team — to make updates in real time. I try to tell them as far in advance of when I know I have a trip planned, and we try to get as many lifelike things that I'm actually doing to really happen in the game so you can play along with my real life.
Does the game always correlate to your real-life schedule?
We try to mirror it as much as possible. The look of the game was really important to me. I must have pulled thousands of references of all the different ways that characters should have their hair, the outfits and the shoes. One time there was a strap wrong on one of the character's shoes — her feet weren't matching. I had to change the programming to fix that. It was important to me that everything is right.
How involved are you with the game on a day-to-day basis?
[The developers and I] talk daily — no set time, but we have these open emails and chats. If I have an idea, I send it to them. I [also] go down to [their home base] San Francisco every other month and meet with the whole team. The process and the approval process would just take too long [otherwise]. It's important that we connect and have a good relationship. And I think they value that because we do get everything done and expedite everything because we just have that open relationship.
Why do you think the game has taken off to the extent that it has?
I don't know if I expected it to do this well. I'm really thankful that it has because I've put a lot of hard work into it and spent a lot of time on it. It's how I think of my show — someone can always relate. People always want to get their mind off of things and have something fun to do because their lives are so hectic. It's a fun game that you can really get addicted to and just lose yourself in for a couple of hours.
Gaming apps are well-known for their quick life cycles. How do you plan to keep the momentum behind your own game going?
I think that adding my family members [as characters] and a bunch of cameos will get people excited. I started with adding my mom and now my sisters [last year]. Even my pets that I've had either now or in the past are in it. I want to make it as lifelike as possible.
Within the tech space, where do you see yourself fitting in?
I hope to have a bigger presence in the tech world. I love coming up with different app ideas, and I have a few more that are coming out. Once you get started and you have this creative bug of ideas that you want to get out, I feel like I've partnered with the right team, and now I have the creative outlet to make that happen. I'm happy that people are into it and perceiving it well. I just want to create more apps.
Click here to read more of Adweek's interview with Kim Kardashian and watch the behind-the-scenes video.