Games Inbox: The best Barbie video game

The Monday letters page insists people are still playing Halo on Xbox, as one reader rediscovers the peculiar joys of Shenmue.

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Barbenheimer Horse Adventures
OK, so how long until there’s a massive glut of Barbie games, thanks to the success of the movie? I’m sure there’ll be some tie-ins that completely miss the fact that the movie is a satire but, to be honest, if I was a publisher I wouldn’t risk any serious amount of money on a Telltale Game style Barbie game, which I guess is what you’d need to make it at least somewhat like the movie.

Or maybe I just lack imagination. I couldn’t have imagined enjoying a Barbie movie before now, but I was perfectly happy for my girlfriend to drag me along at the weekend and I secretly enjoyed it more than Oppenheimer. It was a genuinely funny and clever movie, and it got me thinking that there’s really nothing like that in video games. Portal and The Stanley Parable are the only things that come even close, that I can think of.

I’ve heard of Barbie Horse Adventures, as a meme, but I’ve obviously never played it and have no real idea what it is or if it or any other Barbie games are any good. And then I remembered that story about a Barbie game being entered into the Video Game Hall Of Fame. It was Barbie Fashion Designer and apparently it was the first game primarily aimed at girls that was a major hit.

I do wonder whether we’ve moved on much beyond that though, as no matter how much money things like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley make, no big publisher other than Nintendo ever puts any effort into them. And I doubt Barbenheimer will change that.

Venomous criticism
Am I the only one that’s still not really feeling Spider-Man 2? It looks fine, and I’m sure it’ll be quality, but I just cannot get excited about the Venom stuff and not-Bully Maguire. I’m not a superfan and even I’ve seen that story a dozen times at this point and changing the identify of Venom is not moving the dial for me.

I think the other part of the problem is that the whole thing (as far as we know) is just set in New York City again. I know that’s where Spidey leaves but even in the movies he goes to plenty of other places and I’m sure that’s even more true in the comics.

The whole thing is just feeling a little overfamiliar and uninspired, unless there’s some major twist coming. I hope so, because until I saw it I was looking forward to the game.

One per year
140 hours into Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom and I’ve just found my first diamond… I did plan on buying Baldur’s Gate 3 for the PlayStation 5, having liked the Divinity: Original Sin games, but that will probably have to wait until late 2024 at this rate.

I can’t have two games of such magnitude on the go at the same time. Recipe for madness that is.
Chevy Malibu (PSN ID and will be in Hyrule for a considerable while – what a game!)

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Printing money
EA are going to be so rich once EA Sports FC is a hit. It’s clearly going to sell just as much money as FIFA and yet now they don’t have to pay for that name. Here’s hoping they funnel some of that cash into normal games as well. They’ve been on a good roll recently with Dead Space and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor but they haven’t announced anything new since and I’m not clear whether those games actually did all that well or not.

I’m not sure about this Immortals Of Aveum either, they’re obviously trying to give it a big push but the whole thing looks like something they thought was going to be a lot cooler than it turned out. I’ll definitely be waiting for the reviews on that but I hope, if it is a failure, that doesn’t put them off funding more non-sports games.

Secret results
On the subject of Nintendo’s best abandoned franchise, I notice F-Zero GX sold more copies than Pikmin 2, Metroid Prime 2, Mario Golf, and Mario Tennis, yet Nintendo continued to support those franchises and not F-Zero. And I’m sure F-Zero games are not as costly to make as Metroid Prime. No, a simple business rationale doesn’t explain Nintendo disowning Captain Falcon. I think Nintendo just loves trolling us.
PS: Do you think the Advance Wars reboot is a test to see how well a new Advance Wars game would sell? Or is Nintendo too busy pumping out weekly Fire Emblem sequels to care?

GC: It probably was a test, but whether it passed or not is difficult to tell.

Licensing issues
RE: @McSherlocks. I’m glad to say that physical sales, I don’t think, will ever stop. The benefits are so much better; if you buy a game and don’t like it you can trade it in. If a mate wants to borrow it, rather than him logging in you just give him a little round disc and soon as he’s home he puts it in. And as for digital sales going down that will never happen and it’s all because of the stores, whether it’s PlayStation or Xbox store.

Yes, they don’t have to pay for the disc to be made, but publishers have to pay to have their games on the store. Apple, Google, and all the rest of them take a cut from 10-30%, depending on what they have agreed. So on a £100 game one of them companies could take as much as £30, that’s just from one game. it sounds silly but it doesn’t cost that much to burn the game on disc, make the box, and print the front and ship to a shop.

You’re probably talking £5, if that. Companies won’t drop their commission, as far as they’re concerned they’re doing all the work; they collect the money, they supply the download. Don’t get me wrong, downloads should be cheaper but the commissions will keep the prices high. That’s you you can get physical games cheaper faster then digital.

GC: Third party publishers have to pay a licensing fee to Sony, etc. for physical editions too. Sony obviously don’t and yet there is no difference between their physical and digital prices. Physical games go on sale quicker because the price is up to the shop, not Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony.

Draw-opening simulator
I have been playing lots of Diablo 4, as it is such a good game, but I always like to have a few games on the go and I recently picked up Shenmue 3 cheap, so I started the original again.

Nostalgia trip aside this game is an obsessive’s dream! I go through every draw and look at literally everything and you can pick most things up! I loved this game 20+ years ago and still do now.

Still shooting
Just to give the recent articles relating to the fall in Halo Infinite and increase in older Call Of Duty games’ player numbers some more context, the True Achievements Xbox gameplay chart – based on 2.4 million active accounts – for the week ending 16th July 2023 makes for some interesting reading.

Halo Infinite dropped a place to 16, but still had more active players during the week than Fall Guys and Red Dead Redemption 2. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (the recent version) was the second most played, whereas the other Call Of Duty games entered the chart at 17, with Black Ops 2, 2 Modern Warfare 2 (2009 version) at 32, and number 35 for Black Ops 1. This is in addition to Black Ops 3 gaining five places to 24 and Black Ops Cold War remaining at 30.

It is worth noting that Halo: The Master Chief Collection gained six places to 18, but the fact that there are six Call of Duty games in the top 40, harks back to the days of the ShooterBox.

The chart is generally pretty settled, with the live service multiplayer games filling most of the top 20, but there is always a jump with new releases or when bigger games become available on Game Pass.

Going back to Halo Infinite, it might be dead on Steam, but there are still a lot of active players on the respective Xbox consoles.

Inbox also-rans
Why has there never been a decent Power Rangers game? I got nostalgic for the series the other day but can’t think of any good games. I bet it gets a reboot thanks to Barbie so maybe we’ll have a chance then?

Personally speaking, Game Pass on Elden Ring is far more likely to make me buy an Xbox than Call Of Duty. I’d be very impressed if the new ‘cheap after a year’ became ‘on Game Pass after year’. If you could more or less bet on that it’d be a massive incentive.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Gannet, who asks what is the most excited you’ve ever been over an upcoming new release?

Although it’s the summer games drought at the moment, it won’t be long until this year’s big autumn games are upon us. But what’s the most you’ve ever anticipated a new video game and how did the dream compare to the reality?

Generally speaking, how invested do you get in pre-release hype and how do you feel about the suggestion that it can sometimes be more entertaining than the games themselves?

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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