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Glu's celebrity strategy faltered on Katy Perry, James Bond games

50 jobs were cut during restructuring after "extremely humbling" H2 2015

Glu Mobile cut 50 jobs across three different studios in December 2015, the result of difficulties in the second-half of the year that CEO Niccolo de Masi described as, "extremely humbling."

That comment was made in a call with investors, which followed the publication of full-year financial results that showed pervasive revenue and profit decline. A key contributor to that decline was the fallibility of its product strategy, which relies on licenses and celebrity partnerships to bring in users.

While that strategy was built on the remarkable success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, it faltered in the second half of 2015. De Masi pointed to Katy Perry: Pop as a prime example. "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."

With James Bond: World of Espionage, poor installs and retention were attributed to, "creative decisions made in partnership with the licensors to avoid firearms and classic shooter mechanics." Glu is still considering its options with both of the partnerships, but de Masi said it was likely to create new concepts rather than continue updating what it released last year.

"Having now reached our targeted scale, we intend to considerably slow the signing of additional celebrity partnerships"

In addition to de Masi's "overly aggressive" expansion of Glu's most successful studios, these commercial disappointments led to 50 redundancies as the company restructured and reorganised. According to de Masi, two studios contributed "eight-figure misses" relative to Glu's internal plans, while one studio came in $50 million below revenue projections. It isn't clear whether these studios were the same ones affected by the redundancies.

Glu has now centralised certain aspects of its studio operations, overseen by a SVP-level executive. It has also implemented "more rigorous" processes around greenlighting and milestones, as well as creating a Pixar-inspired "brain trust" to provide, "critical and unbiased peer input."

"Having these enhanced central systems in place moving forward should pay dividends with future releases," de Masi said, later adding that Glu intends to support existing titles for longer in an effort to limit its reliance on revenue from new launches.

Nevertheless, the company remains committed to its strategy in the near term. It has announced partnerships with Gordon Ramsay and Taylor Swift in the last month, and de Masi told investors about a peculiar new target: "By the end of 2017, we anticipate games being live featuring celebrities with approximately 1.3 billion social followers."

"Having now reached our targeted scale, we intend to considerably slow the signing of additional celebrity partnerships," de Masi said. "We have one known musician male and one female celebrity signed that will be announced near their 2017 game launches."

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Latest comments (5)

Mark Neri Property Management System Specialist, Courtesy Point Technologies, Inc.5 years ago
That's a lot of talk of metrics. And use of corporate-speak.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
Yeah. No talk about fun or solid gameplay (no firearms in a Bond game? Geez, why not make a Bond Casino Simulation TM?) and all about corpo-speak to investors means those aren't "games" as much as they are wallet draining 3-card monte dealers in disguise. No thanks.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam5 years ago
I think the problem with James Bond was less the lack of guns than the lack of .. er .. game. All you seemed to do was a tap a button over and over again until you ran out of stamina. Awful.
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Show all comments (5)
Random by-the-numbers licensed game fails to sell? It's almost as if the audience has taste and brains.
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Gary LaRochelle Digital Artist / UI/UX Designer / Game Designer, Flea Ranch Games5 years ago
It's going to be interesting to see what they come up with for the Gordon Ramsay game. If they took the guns away from James Bond, will they take away Ramsay's harsh style of commenting? We he be a nice guy now? If you screw up the cooking of a meal will he come over and say "Nice try. You put a little too much salt in it and the addition of the weasel feet was not a good choice."
On the other hand, it might be a fun game to see how pissed off you can make him. Purposely screw up the meal to see what kind rants you can get out of him. It you can get him to experience a complete nuclear meltdown, you win.
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