Unpacking how Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon skyrocketed in popularity on Roblox.
Last July, in the middle of the summer right as the Barbie movie was hitting theaters, Mattel and Gamefam quietly released Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon on Roblox. This custom-built experience followed earlier steps Mattel had taken with Barbie on the platform, including releasing branded UGC items and integrating the Barbie DreamHouse into the popular game Livetopia.
When Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon came out, it was listed as being in BETA. In addition, it was not free to play. People had to pay 50 Robux ($0.63 USD) in order to play the game.
Months later near the end of October, I was surprised to see this post on LinkedIn from Gamefam CEO Joe Ferencz, touting Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon as the top branded experience on Roblox with 25 million visits in a week:
Barbie Has a Huge Spike in Roblox Visits
After reading this post, I went to Roblox and was stunned to see that Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon had over 25K concurrent users and surpassed around 29 million lifetime visits.
This was shocking because in the month of September, the experience only had about 670K visits during that period.
For the experience to jump from 670K monthly visits to over 27 million visits in a matter of days, something major must have happened.
Barbie had taken off.
But how did this happen?
That's what I set out to uncover by researching the experience across Roblox and social media.
Halo Effect from Blockbuster Movie
The Barbie IP is well established, and there appears to be a strong overlap between Barbie fans and the Roblox audience. This points to there being a solid IP + platform fit.
And of course the incredible box office and marketing success related to the Barbie movie only helped raise interest in the IP around the world across many different age groups.
So it's no surprise that Barbie's Roblox group comments specifically shout out love for Barbie and interest in the movie, which has made all things Barbie much more relevant and attractive than before the movie came out.
Paywall Creates Pent Up Demand
When the Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon first came out in Beta last July, you had to pay to access it. Based on comments from the Barbie Roblox group, there were lots of Barbie fans on Roblox who were upset by this move. They wanted the experience to be free, and they voiced their dissatisfaction in the comments.
So it's interesting to look at more recent comments that were posted after the experience switched from being paywalled to being free. Lots of players wrote message of thanks for the game being made free to all.
By charging players while the experience was in Beta, the creators not only bought themselves time to make adjustments to the gameplay and fix bugs, but they also created a strong desire from players that wanted to get in, but couldn't afford to.
Roleplaying as Barbie with Friends in Roblox
Roleplaying is very popular on Roblox. On the branded experience front, perennial top performers Warrior Cats and Miraculous RP employ roleplaying mechanics effectively. On the non-branded side, RP games such as Brookhaven and Livetopia are extremely popular.
Although this Barbie experience is a Tycoon, where players are "building" their dream houses, the beauty is that players can then roleplay in these luxurious Barbie themed spaces.
In user comments, players call out hosting parties at their house and roleplaying with their friends. It's interesting that the experience is able to serve as both tycoon and roleplaying experience all at once.
You can see a lot of these roleplaying features in the Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon trailer here...
Major Barbie Beach House Update
As was mentioned earlier, the game originally released in Beta. A few days after the game came out of Beta (and removed the paywall), the experience also launched a major update.
A new Barbie Beach house was released. This gave existing players a new way to enjoy the experience. It also gave new players even more ways to enjoy being in Barbie's world.
Live ops updates are a key tactic that keeps experiences fresh, thereby attracting more engagement from new and existing players.
This major update clearly made a positive impression on the Roblox community (and the Roblox algorithm) and was part of its meteoric climb up the Roblox charts.
The Game is Good, and People Enjoy Playing It
When it comes down to it, the game is just solid. The Tycoon genre is well established on the platform and appeals to lots of players. It can also lead to long session times.
In the user comment above, a player calls out spending 4 hours to complete the game. Long session time sends a positive signal to the Roblox algorithm that the experience is worth recommending. That leads to organic promotion on the homepage. I'd guess that the home page has been a huge driver for the experience and has led to the most traffic overall.
It's rare that a brand game hits these heights, reaching millions of visits in a short amount of time. But the more brands and their development partners build out extremely fun, satisfying, robust, user tested experiences like Barbie DreamHouse Tycoon, we will hopefully see many more similar brand breakthroughs in the months and years to come.
Stephen Dypiangco is the CEO of Metaverse Marcom, a strategy and consulting firm helping entertainment and sports brands enter Roblox.
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