Barbie is one of those cornerstones of popular culture. Virtually everyone knows the name and yet, it doesn’t quite have the lofty air of major multimedia franchises such as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.
The long-running franchise of dolls started in 1959 and quickly became a worldwide sensation with toys, animated movies, merch and video games. Now with the release of the Margot Robbie/Ryan Gosling movie this year, the franchise has been catapulted into the spotlight once more. And this time - as part of Mattel’s multimedia assault - the crucial world of mobile plays a part.
Starring a special guest…
If we went about listing all the mobile games starring the titular Barbie, we'd probably take up a 1000 words or so right there. Mattel has previously partnered with Animoca Brands as well as NetEase - one of our Top 50 Game Makers - with their Mattel163 initiative to bring many of their existing physical games such as Uno to mobile. Naturally, Barbie has her own portfolio of mobile titles such as Budge Studios’ Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures and Barbie Colour Creations by StoryToys.
However, while these are both centred around Barbie herself, this time around the blitz is all about crossovers and collaborations. After the viral phenomenon of “Barbenheimer” - where cinemagoers must either choose between or - brilliantly - enjoy a double-bill of both Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s biopic of the titular atomic bomb programme scientist Robert Oppenheimer - is just part of this brand's movie magic. And it seems that with adults holding the purse strings Mattel has finally realised the value of pushing their brand beyond their usual young girl demographic.
While filters for dating apps and photo editors are par for the course, Barbie’s appearance in games such as Rec Room and most notably Scopely’s smash-hit Stumble Guys points to a far broader attempt to appeal to a wide audience across age and gender groups. We're actively seeing a shunning of fashion themes and dreamhouse building in favour of catch-all competitive multiplayer games instead. And that's a move that's smart and brave in equal measure.
It's Barbie's world. We just live in it
This speaks not only to Mattel’s new approach but also to the potential of mobile itself. Mobile, much in the same way that social fuelled the Barbenheimer phenomenon, allows them to cut through obvious (read: lame) barriers to push their shiny newly-cool Greta Gerwig-revamped brand to a huge audience. Remember, the hybridcasual genre as a whole boasts over five billion downloads as of last year. And despite her popularity, it's safe to say not all of them have previously signed on as Barbie fans.
By cutting into the mobile market and utilising this latest blockbuster release to fuel their aggressive multimedia campaign, Mattel has hit the nail on the head when it comes to finding an active audience looking for something new. AKA exactly the kind of people that search for, use and love new mobile titles every day.
Whether Barbie's stellar opening will continue (with oodles of sequels to follow) is, at the time of writing, uncertain, but you can bet that their striding out with brave partnerships on mobile to spread the net as wide as possible will be a strategy that many brand new movies, soft drinks, clothing lines, record albums and more will be copying.