Before Barbenheimer, There Was Doom Eternal And Animal Crossing

Before Barbenheimer, There Was Doom Eternal And Animal Crossing

Friday marks the theatrical release of both Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, two diametrically dissimilar films that have together drummed up an ungodly amount of what might be called organic online cross-promotion, with the mutually beneficial counter-programming clash between the blockbusters becoming known simply as Barbenheimer. Barbenheimer has quickly become its own pseudo-national holiday in that moviegoers are wearing their Sunday best—stately suits for Nolan’s historical period piece and bubblegum-pink rompers and dixie jeans for Gerwig’s existential comedy—to watch both films on the same day. Even the movies’ stars got in on the meme and weighed in with their preferred watch order for the “perfect double-bill.”

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While Barbenheimer has the makings of a once-in-a-lifetime experience in bringing together two audiences that might otherwise have nothing to do with each other, we’ve actually lived through a similar phenomenon before in the realm of video games, with the 2020 releases of Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

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In late 2019, developer id Software announced the delay of its gory first-person shooter, Doom Eternal—a game where you play as a nigh-unkillable murder man shooting the shit out of demons to a sick-ass metal track—to March 20. That fateful date just so happened to be when Nintendo’s whimsical social sim, Animal Crossing: New Horizons—a game about a human managing and landscaping anthropomorphic animals’ island home—was also slated to release.

Much like how Barbie and Oppenheimer’s bizarre-yet-oh-so right dual release date led to an influx of inventive fan posters and hilarious internet memes mashing the historical drama’s heavy tone with the fashion doll’s cutesy packaging, Doom Eternal and AC:NH’s joint release took the gaming world by storm with its own treasure trove of fan edits of Doom’s grim marine and New Horizons’ adorable Isabelle being the best of friends.

Speaking with GameSpot, Doom Eternal director Hugo Martin echoed fans’ view of Doom Eternal and AC:NH’s shared release date as a net positive for everyone, saying “I think it’s awesome and it speaks to the amazing diversity that we see in games today.”

“I honestly root for other games and other studios,” Martin told GameSpot. “I’m so proud to work in the game industry and the fact that two games that are so completely different, getting a ton of press, come out on the same day. It’s an incredible time to be in development and I’m excited to play Animal Crossing.”

id Software would later get in on the meme on its official Twitter account and share an image of Nendoroids of their titular characters holding hands to ring in the new year. The official Doom Twitter account would later retweet the same post with the caption “Finally” when it was announced that The Doom Slayer would be joining Isabelle in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (as a Mii fighter) in the popular battler’s Round 11 DLC pack the following year.

AC:NH and Doom Eternal’s unorthodox alliance deserves recognition as pop culture’s first Barbenheimer, and since both games went on to be widely beloved by their many fans, it seems to have worked out well for all involved. Let’s just hope that when award season hits, the Barbenheimer faithful can maintain the Kenergy that Doom Eternal and AC:NH started in 2020.

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