You’ve probably heard of Demi Lovato. The former Disney star turned international pop star (“Camp Rock”aired nine years ago this month) has a huge audience of devoted fans, but not many people know that she’s also used that fan base to create a successful game that's brought in $18 million in revenue since its launch in 2015.
Lovato's game resides inside Episode, an interactive storytelling app in which people can view over 60,000 animated stories. The app invites viewers to become characters in a number of original stories, celebrity-inspired episodes, and popular Hollywood franchises. Episode users drive each narrative in their own personalized direction.
“What drew me to the app in the first place was I wanted to create a game," Lovato recently told Business Insider. "And so we had looked at different ways we could create my game that I had in mind and we ended up partnering with Episode — and Episode is really great. I love what they do and we've had a great relationship ever since."
Since her story launched in 2015, in addition to the $18 million in revenue, it's gotten 446 million episode views and 27 million unique visitors. Those numbers highlight that Lovato truly knows her fans, and she knows exactly how to connect with them. In Lovato's Episode story, "Path to Fame," players get an honest look at balancing fame with friends, family, and life in general. It also helps people understand what the life of a famous musician is like, and integrates Lovato’s style and music throughout.
“Some of the things that have changed over that period [since Demi’s partnership with Episode started] are more people, broader audiences," Michael Dawson, Episode's cocreator and head of studios, told Business Insider. "Even back in 2014, there was a demographic of people in their teens and early 20s who were basically using their phones to do almost everything, and that group just continues to grow and grow.”
Dawson also pointed out some surprising statistics Episode found after surveying its audience: 12% say they take their phone into the shower, and 14% say they use their phone 12 hours or more a day. According to Episode's data, girls ages 13-17 say they check their phone every few seconds. Dawson and his team found that Lovato is quite popular among their users, which is how they got the idea to create a story starring her.
“My fans have reacted very, very well, and they're very excited about it,” Lovato said. “For the storyline for Episode, they came up with ideas, and I also came up with ideas. Sometimes I'd be going through stuff and I'd send all these ideas and they'd turn them into games, which is so cool. I was very hands-on in the process and every time they came up with ideas for storylines I would make sure that I really loved it and wanted to make sure that it was my vision. It was very different from anything I've ever done. It was a challenge and it was so fun.”
Lovato is devoted to her fans in many other ways. She openly discusses her personal experiences with mental illness, bullying, body confidence, and her sobriety. These topics are often evident in her music. Lovato said that of all her songs, she feels that her fans connect with "Warrior" most. As Lovato's career has taken off in ways she admitted she couldn't imagine back when she was doing "Camp Rock," she's kept millions of devoted fans from her Disney days and gained millions of new ones, and all view her as a role model.
Lovato engages with her fans on social media and opens up to them on a deeply personal level, whether it’s in a tweet or an Instagram post. Lovato says her fans are some of the most active on Instagram these days (she has 59.2 million followers on the platform).
Asked if there are days when she just doesn’t feel like sharing things with her fans, Lovato told Business Insider, “Yeah, there are some days where it’s really hard and I don’t want to share what I’m thinking or feeling, but I have to do it because I have a responsibility to my fans, they're really important to me.”
With Episode, Lovato has tapped into her young fan base’s desire for visual storytelling — and offered up her highly public life — in a new way.
The final season of "Path to Fame" premieres on the Episode app June 24. You can download Episode from the App Store or Google Play.