When it comes to business Mona Scott-Young doesn’t play games…until now. The success of female-targeted video game apps such as Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which first launched in 2014, has a download tally of more than 40 million and generated more than $100 million in in-app purchases, caught the entertainment executive’s attention. Even better, she had something in common with Kardashian: a hit reality franchise.
Enter the recently released Love & Hip Hop: The Game, a fashion-driven role playing game that lets users create their own character to live out his or her life as an aspiring music industry VIP. Players go through a series of challenges, like recording in a studio or performing on stage, and even meet and date romantic love interests. Every activity helps you to “level up”. And much like in the real world of entertainment, looks are important. Your clothing choices help you perform better in romantic situations, by choosing clothing featuring kissy lips, or in professional activities, by choosing clothing emblazoned with a microphone. And the game is resonating with fans. A few weeks since launching, the app, available on both Android and iOS, has already reportedly amassed 854,800 downloads with 725,133 app downloads and 129,672 in-app purchases. Those numbers have earned it the #1 ranking Adventure Game on iOS, the #1 Simulation Game and the #5 Downloaded Game.
The Upload caught up with Mona Scott-Young, Love & Hip Hop’s series producer, to learn more behind-the-scenes tea about her latest hit.
EBONY.COM: What was the impetus for the game’s launch?
Mona Scott-Young: For me, whether now or when I was in music, the goal was to be multifaceted and multi platform in my approach. So Love & Hip Hop is a tremendously successful brand that lends itself naturally to extensions and we’ve been thinking about how we’d maximize the fan and consumer base. The brand has permeated pop culture and gaming has been an underserved platform for the African-American audience, specifically for the women who watch the shows. We felt like here is an opportunity for us to do something with the brand that is a perfect extension of what our fans love about the show. Through their avatars they experience the world themselves.
EBONY.COM: What’s the story driving the game?
MSY: The idea of the game each player is navigating his or her life through the music industry, but through fashion as a catalyst for that life. The game gives you an opportunity to create your avatar and dress her or him and decide what you want to look like as you go through your journey. But the purpose of your journey is to elevate or “level up,” through your experiences in the music industry. So your goal is to get the advice and information you need to further your career, to reach mogul status and you do that by the purchases you make through the game; the quests that you embark on in the game. It’s about your hustle and grind. Then we have side quests, so like in life when you’re navigating your career you also have personal and romantic relationships to deal with and that intersect and impact your career trajectory. We tried to replicate elements that you encounter in real life in the game.
EBONY.COM: Does a player’s character in the game interact with any cast members from the franchise?
MSY: We have Remy Ma, Papoose, Yandy and Rich Dollaz. This is just the first iteration and because we’re set in New York you’re meeting some of the folks from that cast. But what’s great about the game is that it’s a living breathing thing that gives us the flexibility to continue to add characters from the show and from the hip-hop industry itself. In a perfect world we’d love to have you encounter different personalities within the Hip-Hop space so that’s something that we’re moving toward. I’m in the game as well. I get unlocked further down the road but I’m also in the intro where you get a glimpse into what’s to come.
EBONY.COM: These types of games usually appeal to females. How do you plan to get males interested?
MSY: Marketing. So far, a lot of what you’ve seen in the promos are the females because that’s usually who games with fashion angles appeal to and target. The reality shows have strong male viewership and we want to see the same thing happen with the game, so we’re going to introduce more of our male cast members, make sure the story is reflective of a unisex voice, and even in some places create a more male-friendly experience to appeal to guys. [The updates will be in] storytelling, wardrobe and then specifically when we market the game to males.
EBONY.COM: Will you open the platform to your other shows in the franchise, such as Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta and Love and Hip-Hop Hollywood?
MSY: That’s the beauty of it. We we can move it into other cities because as you “level up” you need to be able to move around the country — that’s what real aspiring artists and stars do. That gives us an opportunity to introduce our other cities and cast members, and potentially be able to work out deals with the local celebrities and have them be represented in the game as well. The sky is the limit when you’re talking about gaming in this way with the mobile platform. You are literally able to come up with an idea and implement it within hours.
EBONY.COM: Were there any ideas or features that you wanted but didn’t make the cut?
MSY: I had a lot of ideas that the tech team said we can’t do just yet. For example, I wanted to be able to put the game in landscape mode, but eventually we had to go with portrait to enable Hi-Fi characters and to get better resolution on the screen. There was also the idea that fans should be able to interact with other players in the game and collaborate. It’s being addressed and there are some games doing that now, so we’re looking into how we can possibly make that part of our product.
EBONY.COM: How are you using social media to promote the game?
MSY: Social media plays such a huge role for us in rolling out the franchise. That was a big part of the popularity in the way the show took hold with the audience and the communities that were developed as fans were interacting with each other and creating the memes and continuing to talk about the show. We wanted to employ those same platforms in launching the game. In my perfect world, people will see the game as their own personal opportunity to live vicariously through the game their own little Love & Hip Hop adventure. We want them to adopt that thinking because as we continue to develop we have the ability to take their feedback and evolve the creative. We want the fans to know it’s their world and game. We want them to navigate and play as they see fit and tell us how to make it a better experience for them.
EBONY.COM: What about contests, will there be an opportunity to bring in-game experiences to real life?
MSY: Absolutely. We put in some games and contests to give away stuff, but in a perfect world this should be able to blur those lines because you can be followed by real producers on social media and you can interact with real producers whether it’s sending them a demo or meeting them in real life. We have the avatars you can post to your social media, but we want to seamlessly blend those lines between the reality of the game and the reality of real life and give people the opportunity to interact with real producers. Say, we’ll give windows of time to have your music heard or have a one-on-one and eventually we want to be able to let the fans win a walk on role on the show and have an opportunity to perform.
Lynne d Johnson has been writing about music since the early 1990s, tech since the late ’90s, and the intersection of technology and everything else since the early 2000s. She currently writes, teaches and consults companies on how to better engage with their audiences. Follow her on Twitter @lynneluvah.