First came Kim. Then came Katy. And now it's time for Britney, bitch. Vegas' pop-princess-in-residence is following in the digital footsteps of Kanye's notorious Instawife with a free-to-play mobile game out today on iOS and Android. Britney Spears: American Dream, the first release of a five-year deal with developer Glu Mobile, is described as narrative role-playing game. It positions you, the player, as an aspirational pop star seeking Britney's advice and approval, and, ultimately, fame in the finicky music industry. Despite headlining the game and providing access to her catalog of hits, however, Britney is mostly a side attraction.
The game, which opens with an aerial shot of Spears' Vegas act and a video of Britney on stage addressing players, is peppered with sound bites that lead into, but do not complete, her written dialogue. Make no mistake: The specter of Britney is present, but the game is more about players aping her achievement of the "American Dream" through performances, social media popularity and outfit changes (funded by in-app purchases).
Glu's CEO Niccolo de Masi is hoping user-generated content, which takes the form of customized cover art for singles in-game, will help spur a lingering community and become the defining factor of American Dream's success. De Masi says that already an overwhelming number of beta testers -- about 85 percent -- are spending time simply tweaking their avatar's single artwork, a feature that translates social-media likes into in-game points.
"There's a positive gamified feedback loop for having a more popular single than somebody else," says de Masi. "And that obviously is not only the way life works in the music industry, but it's also something that will keep players engaged and competing to be the most popular singles creator."
Whether that social-media slant will prove alluring enough to foster a robust community remains to be seen. But Glu's got a backup plan designed to attract the sort of player-vs.-player interaction that will keep players around and, in turn, help generate in-app purchases: competing "guilds," as de Masi calls them, or in American Dream's parlance, record labels.
As with all things tied to the business of being Britney Spears, the release of American Dream is timed to her new album, which is rumored to be dropping sometime soon. De Masi says once Britney's new music is out, the game will be updated with "more features, as well as messaging around ... her next singles" and even the next season of her Vegas show.
With the recent underwhelming performance of Glu's other high-profile, celeb-driven mobile experiments, Katy Perry Pop and Kendall and Kylie, and a subsequent round of layoffs, de Masi is pretty candid about the importance of Britney's resurgent popularity and expanding fanbase to the company's bottom line.
"She's been around long enough to capture not just 15-year-olds, but also 35-to-45-year-olds," he says. "I think that could be a real secret monetization weapon, so to speak. Because, of course, as people age, they tend to have more disposable income. And that might well be highly favorable to this game."
Spears, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, provided a statement to Engadget:
"I'm a creative person by nature, and I love expressing that through my show, music, personal style and dance. Now I get to flex my creative muscles in a whole new way! I'm so excited to share this project with my fans. Mobile gaming is something completely new for me and I can't wait to hear what my fans think of all the fun music, outfits, pets and artwork. I hope they adore it as much as I do!"
Image credits: Glu Mobile