RockLive and Olympian Usain Bolt Release Addictive Mobile Game With the Help of Celebrity Friends

By Michael Carney , written on July 17, 2012

From The News Desk

World’s fastest man Usain Bolt, plus the upcoming Olympics, a Gatorade partnership, and a rolodex of celebrity friends make for pretty good ingredients in the launch of a humble mobile game.

With those things and more working in its favor, celebrity driven social gaming platform RockLive is at it again, today announcing the launch of Bolt! The company that previously released branded mobile games with Chad Ochocinco,  Mike Tyson, and Cristiano Ronaldo, is launching its latest title with the world famous sprinter just one week ahead of the Summer Olympic Games.

Like each of its predecessor games, this one is addictive as hell. (Seriously, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

The game, which is deliberately simple and casual, places the user in Bolt’s home country of Jamaica, running to collect a booty of gold coins while avoiding Caribbean pirates, cannon fire, and the occasional explosion. Users play one continuous level for as long as possible, hoping collect the maximum number of coins while avoid the inevitable death by pirate. Coins can be exchanged for in game essentials like fuel and ammo to (hopefully) extend survival.

In standard video game fashion with a product marketing twist, the game features a “hydration meter” which affects Usain's speed and which users can refill by collecting "power-ups." The twist: the power-ups are Gatorade logoed bubbles.

Social is where RockLive really excels. While Bolt! offers the standard features like score sharing across social networks, social leaderboards, and badges rewarding engagement, the secret sauce is in the celebrity participation.

On its first day in the market, the game got purportedly unsolicited Tweets from Gatorade, “Iron Mike” Tyson, Rob Kardashian, and even the CEO of popular video curation startup Chill Brian Norgard -- not to mention Bolt himself. That’s a total of more than six million twitter followers among those five accounts alone.

RockLIve co-founders and brothers John and Sam Shahidi are ringside mainstays with buddy Floyd Mayweather at Las Vegas prize fights and regularly interact on Twitter with celebrity social influencer du jour Justin Bieber. It’s entirely possible, and even likely, that these Tweets weren’t explicitly requested. But judging by what has taken place with previous releases, this is simply par for the course in a “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” sort of celebrity support-group way.

The timing of the launch, which came after a full 90 days of development, couldn’t have turned out better, says President and CEO John Shahidi. It’s close enough to the Olympics to ride the wave of that event, but just days before the July 18th cutoff after which participating athletes can no longer promote any products. (Wouldn’t want to miss out on the bump of promotion from Bolt and his athlete friends!)

According to John Shahidi, Bolt is a big gamer which proved rather helpful during the development process. The developers sent the star athlete nightly test builds to evaluate and got regular, insightful feedback on areas for improvement.

"I've always been a big gamer and love games like Call of Duty and Temple Run," says Bolt. "Ever since seeing Bruce Jenner's Decathlon [game] I've wanted to have my own video game. So I'm excited to see Bolt! released to the public and hope all my fans will enjoy playing it."

The app currently has 77 App Store ratings and an average rating of five stars. It’s the number 54 free iOS game, with little to no traditional marketing.

Across its platform, RockLive has more than three million active users. According to its CEO, the team and their investors have prioritized community development ahead of monetization. “The goal at this point is to make sure RockLive is known as a really fun place with something for everyone,” he says. “Like when a group of friends goes to Disneyland, everyone has different tastes but is excited to go. We aim to offer something for everyone.”

RockLive has been cautious about monetization thus far. In fact, lead angel investor Tom McInerney instructed the company to remove ads from its Ronaldo game at risk of alienating users. “We don’t want to monetize at the wrong time or in the wrong way,” says John Shahidi. “There are pleanty of ways to monetize when the time comes.”

To date, revenue has come mostly through brand partnerships. The Mike Tyson game featured integrated Sobe product placement and associated contests that RockLive and its partner Pepsi say drove significant engagement. Similarly, the Gatorade (also a Pepsi product) integration with Bolt! was a paid placement.

RockLive has raised an undisclosed seed round from the aforementioned McInerney and fellow angel Shervin Pishevar, athletes Floyd Mayweather and Jozy Altidore, and actor Omar Epps. The company has plans to raise an institutional round in the near future.

[Photo source: wikimedia]