The pop-culture phenomenon Glee ended its six-year run on television in 2015. Fans of any media long to keep the magic and nostalgia alive as long as possible, and luckily for Glee fans, the show’s musical premise was an obvious fit for a mobile rhythm game. Developer Klabs Inc. launched Glee Forever worldwide on September 8th, 2015.
The game itself was simple: players attempted to accurately tap notes to songs featured on the show for high scores and rewards. There were daily and weekly song challenges, and the player leveled up not only their own ranking but also virtual cards of in-game characters. In short, it was a rhythm and collectible card game hybrid. Glee coins gave players a higher chance at rare cards, and were up for purchase in the game’s store.
Klab had previously developed another popular rhythm-and-card-collectible game in the Japanese multimedia series, Love Live! School Idol Project, to great success. At a glance, it’s clear from the similar design and premise that they attempted to capitalize on the legacy of Love Live! School Idol Festival with Glee Forever.
By most standards, the venture went over well: Glee Forever has over 500,000 downloads on Google Play alone, mostly positive reviews, and seemingly tapped into the show’s hardcore fanbase. The game was consistently updated with new songs and challenges, and ostensibly everyone was happy.
Except in March of 2016, not even a year after the game’s debut, Klab announced they were terminating service effective May 31. Fans reacted with shock and demanded to know why the game was scrapped, but also why it would be taken down entirely—meaning the game could not be playable beyond May. The general consensus was that fans wanted to continue playing even without the possibility of further updates.
Many players had sunk endless hours and significant amounts of money into the app; their desire to find a compromise that wasn’t a total end to their gaming experience is completely understandable.
Due to fan outcry, Klab posted more information about the game’s termination of service and made it clear that they had not generated enough users to remain financially viable—and that the game’s license was due to expire.
Glee Forever isn’t the first game to face finance or licensing issues. It likely won’t be the last. However, one assumes that a decently popular game developed by a company with the success of a very similar game under its belt would not have fizzled out within a year.
The question became, how unprofitable was Glee Forever? How much of a profit would it have to turn in order to continue existing? The answer is still somewhat of a mystery, although there is illuminating information to be found.
Klab’s financial statement for 2015 shows that their net income was only around 700,000,000 yen (roughly $6 million USD). Considering their net sales were over $183 million USD, that kind of operating budget means they don’t—or didn’t, as of 2015—have a huge profit margin to play around with. Klab’s profits dropped over 60% from 2014 to 2015, which further showcases the lack of financial leeway the company faces.
Their profits shrank by millions of dollars. Though finding exact figures for this article proved impossible, one assumes that licensing Glee IP—including characters/actor likenesses and the songs themselves—could not have been cheap.
Though the first quarterly financial statement for the company has not yet been released, if the trend of dropped profit continued into 2016, it’s no wonder that the company decided against renewing the license.
If Love Live! Is also now a diminishing return for them, after having been a cash cow with 25,000,000 users worldwide, Glee Forever‘s comparatively fractional amount of users was likely actually costing them money, not earning it. It would need to have seen millions of players to remain afloat.
Launching an app for a show after its end—and after the peak of its cultural relevancy, as Glee’s ratings and critical standing declined through its run—may have been a mistake. Though the game clearly still has a fanbase, it simply wasn’t large enough to offset the enormous costs Klab incurred.
Much like its television predecessor, Glee Forever is drawing its curtains. “Forever” ended up not even lasting a year. If Klab’s profits do not improve, it’s entirely possible that Love Live! will see the same fate, to the dismay of its fans.