Issue #
I’m a Barbie girl, in a gamer’s world.

A monthly look at the best examples of IP licensing in video games, as well as the latest news on collaborations, brand partnerships and in-game events. 

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been blessed with a new Barbie film. The purveyor of all things pink is back and Mattel’s been making some major moves in the gaming world to drum up excitement for the film. From activations in Candy Crush and Stumble Guys to a Barbie-themed Xbox, we take a look at whether Barbie’s move from Barbie World to the gaming world paid off, and how players have received these collaborations. 

Speaking of player reception, Nike’s latest collaboration with Fortnite has ended. Now seems like the perfect time to explore how Nike and Epic carefully navigated the messaging around its Airphoria experience, allowing Nike’s Web3 platform Swoosh to benefit from a massive uptick in new users without having to integrate a single NFT into Fortnite – something that would have risked causing major repetitional damage to Fortnite amongst its core players. 

You’ll also find our top picks for video game licensing deals, collaborations and partnerships from the last month.

Barbie doesn’t need a new game to reach new audiences.

It’s been a busy month for Barbie, with her big battle for the box office leading to numerous collaborations across a variety of sectors, not least gaming. Of course, Barbie is no stranger to the world of video games. There are more than 60 Barbie video games dating back to 1984, with titles such as Barbie Fashion Designer on the PC generating more than $14m in revenue for license holder Mattel. Some of these games, such as Tilting Point’s Barbie Dreamhouse, are still going strong today, with an update on July 11 causing daily downloads for the game to double in just over a week to 98,000, according to SensorTower data.  

While some of these games have been incredibly successful, there are plenty that flopped, too, as different video game developers have tried putting their own spin on the Barbie formula. Of course, the video game market has changed a lot in the last decade. Games are more expensive to make, and as far as IP integrations into video games are concerned, it can sometimes be more effective to work with an existing video game or franchise rather than develop a new IP-based game. 

In this case, the difficulty is knowing which video games make for the right partners, both from a creative and commercial point of view. Interestingly, Mattel has chosen to focus primarily on mobile games for its Barbie integrations, with limited-time Barbie events taking place in Stumble Guys and Candy Crush. That said, it also partnered with Rec Room to bring a variety of Barbie and Ken outfits into the Gen Z VR social game. 

With 17.9 million daily active users in the last 30 days (SensorTower), the Candy Crush partnership won’t come as a surprise, especially as its development studio, King, is known for its branded in-game partnerships. The Barbie takeover in Candy Crush introduced exclusive Barbie content into the game, accessible only to Candy Crush players, including promotional interviews for the film and Barbie-themed items.

The collaboration, which launched on July 13, caused daily downloads for the game to double on iOS in the US between July 13–14, according to data from GameRefinery, while daily revenue increased by $500k during the same period according to SensorTower data. 

Mobile players could also take part in another Barbie takeover in Stumble Guys, Scopely’s popular ‘party royale’ game with over 3.9 million daily active players. As Pocket Gamer points out, Mattel’s choice of mobile game is on the money as there was a period last year when Stumble Guys was making more than half a million dollars every day. 

The collaboration introduced a new Barbie-themed level into the game, complete with new emotes, animations, footsteps, and character skins. Stumble Guys’ pink makeover is a natural fit with the aesthetic of the game, and the partnership has been warmly received by fans. 

While Mattel’s clearly got its eyes on the mobile market, that’s not to say it’s been ignoring the wider world of console gaming. Barbie also found its way into Xbox’s flagship racing series, Forza, courtesy of Barbie’s pink 1956 Chevrolet Corvette EV being made available in the game. If that wasn’t enough, Microsoft even created a Barbie-themed Xbox Series S console and themed controllers, winnable through its Microsoft rewards scheme. 

We can’t imagine the hype around Barbie will melt away any time soon. We’ll be looking out to see if we spot any more Barbie-themed collaborations in the gaming world. For now, the lady in pink has proven she’s got enough going for her that she can venture into any gaming world she wants to be a part of.

Nike’s Fortnite integration is a slam dunk for navigating Web3 PR challenges.

When Nike released a teaser video for its Airphoria collaboration with Fortnite back in June, the appearance of the logo for its Web3 platform, ‘.SWOOSH’, caused a lot of speculation amongst Web3 enthusiasts and gamers. Could NFTs be making their way into Fortnite? What if Nike was on its own video game on a blockchain-based platform in collaboration with Epic? Or, maybe this collaboration would make Fortnite items interoperable with .SWOOSH? 

None of these rumors came to fruition. The activation itself was nothing more than a virtual sneaker hunt in a Nike-themed experience in Fortnite’s Creative Mode (albeit a very impressive one!). Epic was quick to shoot down any suggestions that NFTs might appear in Fortnite, and even issued statements to publications such as CryptoDaily that reported on these rumours, asking them to provide clarification with an additional edit. As a statement from Epic reads:

“Epic's partnership with Nike and the launch of 'Airphoria' is one of many future collaborations enabling players to opt in to connecting their online presence across ecosystems. This is all part of a larger effort to bring Nike's Air Max brand into the world of Fortnite with cosmetics, Fortnite islands, and account linking between Nike and Epic, introducing Nike .SWOOSH achievement badges for players who link accounts.

The connection between Fortnite and Nike doesn't integrate any NFTs or digital item trading marketplaces into the Fortnite world or its economy. Items recognized across these two ecosystems are purely for the enjoyment of the purchaser, and aren't tradeable, transferrable, or sellable, as has always been the case in the Fortnite economy.”

As the statement highlights, Fortnite players could link their Epic accounts with their Nike accounts to unlock a Swoosh achievement badge, which is where things get complicated. .SWOOSH is a Web3 platform built on blockchain technology. That means, technically, any sort of achievement or ‘digital collectible’ as Nike prefers to call them, is an NFT.

Of course, it makes perfect sense why Nike and Epic would want to stay as far away as possible from the NFT wording. Historically, NFT integrations into video games have been met with significant player backlash, with the backlash to Stalker 2 and Team 17’s Worms NFT projects being so severe that they were eventually canceled. 

Nike even went as far to avoid using the word ‘NFT’ when it was selling NFTs, as this article in Business of Fashion points out, after selling more than 93,000 tokens that were marketed as ‘digital collectibles’. 

This backlash and player animosity toward all things blockchain hasn’t put the breaks on Web3 plans for all gaming companies, though. Instead, some studios are pressing forward albeit with a completely different choice of language. EA’s partnership with Nike .SWOOSH introduces ‘digital collectibles’ into EA games, allowing players to move items between platforms.

The Web3 rush isn’t over just yet. Game publishers such as SEGA still have web3 plans for major IP to announce, but there plenty of lessons to be learned from the handling of Airphoria in the meantime. 

Video game studios should err on the side of caution if they’re integrating blockchain technology with existing video game franchises to avoid backlash from traditional gamers. An easy way around this, as Nike, EA and Epic (to some extent) have proven, is to think carefully about the language you’re using – and definitely don’t use the dreaded three-letter word.

In Brief

Here are some of our other favourite brand collaborations, licensing deals and partnerships from the last month.

And in other news…