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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ellen DeGeneres\' iPhone Game Quickly Becomes a Sensation

On her talk show, Ellen DeGeneres plays a game with celebrity guests where she holds a card up to her forehead showing a word or name, like “Justin Bieber.” The guest then gives clues to Ms. DeGeneres to help her guess the word.

It's a game that many have played in college dorms or bars. Some call it Celebrity; others might call it Charades. Why not turn this into an iPhone game?

That's the idea the producers of the Ellen show came up with in October. They hired an iPhone app development studio, Impending, to design and code the game, and released it Thursday in Apple's App Store.

“Big news!” Ms. DeGeneres said on her Twitter account. “I've got a brand new game! Its called ‘Heads Up!' and you're appsolutely gonna love it.” Within several hours, Heads Up! had soared to the No. 1 spot on Apple's list of best-selling apps.

In Heads Up!, you can pick a category like blockbuster movies, animals or music. Then you hold the iPhone up to your forehead with the screen showing the word, and your friends shout clues at you. After you guess it correctly, you put the phone face down and hand it to the next player, who gets a new word. The players pass the phone around, guessing as many words as they can until time runs out.

“We have 700 videos uploaded already,” said Daniel Leary, digital producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a creator of the app. “We're getting a video a minute, it's pretty crazy.”

The game costs $1 in the App Store. Mr. Leary declined to comment on how the revenue would be divided between Warner Brothers, the Ellen show and the app developers. But Bob Mohler, a senior vice president of Telepictures Productions, which produced the game, said its purpose was to expand Ms. DeGeneres' brand in digital media. The show already has accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, he said.

“We expand Ellen's digital footprint pretty broadly,” Mr. Mohler said. “We're just constantly trying to find the next idea to continue to grow.”