I heard the news about the mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (KKH) shutting down in the same way I get all of my news – on social media of course. One user’s amusing and stirring TikTok video about the news came up on my For You page. I was fascinated to learn that this game has been around for nearly ten years and that there is a loyal and active player community who are heartbroken about the sunsetting.

KKH launched on June 24, 2014 as a free to play mobile game with ad support and in-game purchases. It is a celebrity life simulator and fashion story game where players create an avatar who is mentored by Ms. K on the player’s journey to become an A-list star. Players amass fans by completing tasks such as acting gigs, public appearances, modeling jobs, networking, and going on dates. An in-game currency, K-Stars, could be purchased or earned to obtain outfits and accessories and to speed up wait times between gameplay actions.

While the gameplay may sound fairly standard for casual mobile role playing games, KKH earned a reported $160 million as of 2016 and was named one of the 100 best games of the decade by Polygon. Despite initial skepticism from critics, Polygon described it as one of the more progressive mobile games for its time and one of the first successful mobile games targeted for women.

Let’s take a look at developer Glu Mobile’s sunsetting approach and unpack some of the takeaways for game companies to keep in mind when shutting down online games.

  • Notice to players: Glu gave notice of the impending shutdown through its community forum page and an in-game message on start-up with a countdown timer.

Game companies want to provide advance notice through multiple channels (e.g., email, social, in-game, game website, platforms) and update messaging or send reminders throughout the sunsetting period as necessary. The goal is for a game company to be able to show that they made all reasonable attempts to contact affected players about the game shutting down.

  • Timeline: Glu announced on January 3, 2024 that the game’s sunsetting process had begun and that players who had already installed the game can continue to play until April 8, 2024. That gives players a period of 96 days from the sunset notice until shutdown.

Players, particularly those who have spent real money, should be afforded time to continue to use the services leading up to the end. Regardless of what the game’s EULA or TOS might say about discontinuing services at any given time, it should not be a surprise to players when a game is eventually shutdown.

  • Be clear about what will and will not function after sunset: The forum and in-game notices informed players that in-app purchases were discontinued but any existing in-game currency can still be used until April 8. After April 8, KKH will be inaccessible for all players.

Players should have an opportunity to use virtual currency and access any items they previously purchased until shutdown. It may not be feasible for game companies to keep game servers on to allow for indefinite access, but providing partial use of features after sunset can provide continued value for loyal players.

  • Access to game and player data during sunsetting period: In Glu’s forum notice, there are instructions on how to save a player’s Hollywood ID so that Glu can better assist players.

Some companies may be able to provide save files on request, but it is a good idea to inform players as to what will happen to players’ gameplay stats and progress and whether they will have access to it during and after the sunsetting period. Coordinate with privacy and development teams so that player data is handled in compliance with privacy requirements and the game’s privacy policy.

  • Prepare for refund requests: Glu removed the app from the platforms and included instructions in the forum notice directing players to cancel subscriptions handled through the platforms.

Coordinate with support teams to be prepared to respond to refund requests. Turning off subscriptions and removing games from the platforms will help avoid additional purchases and reduce potential refund requests from players.

  • Dedicate customer support resources: Based on the activity in the forum, the Glu customer experience team and forum moderators are continuing to respond to and address players’ inquiries.

Being prepared to address an increased volume of requests will aid in making the transition as painless as possible. Identifying how many players are active and how many purchases have been made in recent months can help gauge the size of the customer support team that may be necessary during this period. Creating an FAQ can be a great resource to direct players to find additional information.

  • Bonus content and make-goods can help: It’s unclear whether Glu has development resources to enable additional content in-game, but some players appear to be making the most of the game’s final days by planning what outfit to wear to the game’s funeral and sharing ways to keep in touch.

If a game will not function post-sunset, game companies can consider alternative ways for players to enjoy the game during its final days. Unlocking existing content, gifting in-game currency, or adding new free content are some ways to create an enjoyable player experience during sunsetting.

It can be a difficult time for developers and for players when a game is winding down, but having a plan should help ease the heartache. A sunsetting plan is also important to mitigate risk from a consumer protection perspective. Being prepared for (and hopefully avoiding) the issues that lead to consumer claims and attention from regulators allows companies to give an online game a proper sendoff.