The Swift Life, a gamified app developed in partnership with freemium mobile games maker Glu Mobile, announced this week that it would shut down effective February 1. Users of the app have until that date to spend any of their virtual currency, which they had to accumulate in order to purchase Taymojis and access exclusive content.
Glu is a formerly venture-backed business behind a number of celebrity-branded apps that help the A-listers find additional profit off their fan base. It’s responsible for “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” which recently announced it would shut down alongside all the Kardashian sisters’ mobile apps; “Britney Spears: American Dream,” “Katy Perry Pop” and “Nicki Minaj: The Empire.” Kim Kardashian’s app was reportedly the biggest success for Glu and at one point was expected to rake in more than $200 million in lifetime revenue. Other attempts by Glu to mimic Kim’s success failed, however.
Glu has already fallen on hard times, with reports indicating that a company restructure in 2017 led to the loss of at least 100 employees. Now it’s mourning the loss of two of its largest celebrity app plays, signaling what could be a dire future for the company. We reached out to Glu for comment.
There are no available Swift Life revenue figures, but its short lifespan coupled with fan complaints suggest it wasn’t the moneymaker Glu and Swift’s camp hoped for. The app was designed to provide Swift yet another avenue to intimately converse with fans, something she’s become known for in her more than 10-year career. Swift often chats directly with fans on Tumblr, views some of her 114 million Instagram followers stories and, offline, she invites select groups of fans into her home for album listening parties. An app where she could interact with and provide her biggest of fans unique material made sense.
Until all hell broke loose.
After reportedly soaring in its App Store debut, The Swift Life swiftly turned into a battleground for her politically opposing fans: “Less than 48 hours after launching, Taylor Swift’s new app has become plagued with Trump-loving trolls and homophobic comments,” Taylor Lorenz wrote for The Daily Beast in December 2017, just days after the app’s release.
What followed was an eruption of tweets and Reddit posts denouncing the app and its inability to prevent hate from spreading like wildfire across what was meant to be a wholesome, affectionate space for Swifites — on brand with Swift’s mostly squeaky clean image. It’s a wonder the app wasn’t shut down immediately.
Instead, the singer continued to earn money off the app, while some users complained an unannounced moderator was coming in and deleting certain posts. Simple fixes could have improved the user experience, and more access to Swift, something users were promised, would have bandaged the wound.
This week’s announcement cited the end of the Reputation era as the reason for the app’s shut down, but the reality is it failed to meet user expectations and prevent combative behavior.
The demise of Swift’s app, as well as Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and Kylie’s (Kendall got rid of hers long before), can only mean one thing: “We are mourning the end of the golden age of the celebrity app,” writes Vox’s Kaitlyn Tiffany.
In the age of Instagram, consumers, even Swift’s biggest fans — and she does have some very big fans — don’t need yet another app to suck up their time and money. When it comes to the Kardashian family, who have made themselves more accessible to their fans via social media and their reality television show than has ever been possible in the past, an app touting “exclusive content” seems especially lacking in credibility.
Sure, several other celebrity-promoted apps remain, but if Swift and Kim Kardashian, who have more than 230 million Instagram followers between them, can’t generate sticky users then who can?