Anne-Lise is the Founder of Tempo, an in-game ad-network that connects brands and developers around the globe.
Luxury Fashion brand Balenciaga recently released its fall 2021 collection in the form of an immersive online video game titled Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow. A first for the fashion industry, Balenciaga’s game invited players into an interactive, post-apocalyptic world set in the near future of 2031. The move, which ended 2020 and came after a series of crossovers between some of the most prominent fashion, gaming and esports brands, is only the beginning of fashion’s gamification.
The $159.3 billion esports and gaming market, which was expected to have reached 2.7 billion players by the end of 2020, is turning into fashion’s hottest playground. Erin Wayne, head of community and creator marketing at Twitch, told Nylon, “Fashion working with gaming is kind of the next obvious step in the evolution of fashion.”
According to the same Nylon article, “In September, British heritage brand Burberry became the first luxury fashion label to partner with the service and stream its Spring 2021 show.”
Fashion’s desire to cash in on the gaming phenomena is understandable. Throughout the world, gamers and esports fans have revealed themselves to be beauty and fashion consumers eager to spend both in-game and on real-life products. This is, in part, due to an extraordinary demographic shift: As of 2019, 64% of women prefer to play mobile games, and 79% are more likely to make an in-app purchase, buying virtual currency such as lives or diamonds.
In this new landscape, brands are now looking for opportunities to capitalize on the gaming audience through e-commerce. “In the fashion and luxury space it is more of an advertising move,” Amie Song, senior specialist of APAC at Gartner, told Vogue Business. “[But] brands are thinking beyond marketing and social buzz [to find] ways to actually drive traffic to commerce destinations.”
China has already proven the successful collaboration between beauty, e-commerce and gaming: In 2019, MAC’s limited-edition lipstick, commercialized for Tencent-owned game Honor of Kings, sold out in less 24 hours. The beauty brand was attracted by the game’s audience demographics, which is more than half female and less than 24 years old. “There’s a huge crossover, especially given the continued growth of the female gaming community, as well as gamers integrating fashion, style and beauty into their streams,” Mark Jiang, MAC’s vice president of global commercial, told Vogue Business.
In April 2020, Net-a-Porter followed MAC’s lead, this time launching an activation event with Animal Crossing to promote local brands like Staffonly and Shushu/Tong. To access the related QR codes, users were redirected to purchase the related real-life products on the e-commerce’s Tmall store.
Snapchat has also been paving the way for direct retail, starting with Adidas in October 2019. The social media platform tested directly selling baseball cleats to players of Baseball’s Next Level. The event coincided with the start of the MLB postseason. A year later, Snapchat joined forces with Burberry to create Animal Kingdom, “an in-store gamified experience in which Snapcodes transport shoppers to a Burberry world.” Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren launched a collaboration with Snapchat to create virtual clothing for personal Bitmojis.
Despite the appetite for in-game purchases, developers and brands are still learning about players’ consumer preferences. “On our end, it is still to be determined what really is the ceiling for what this consumer is interested in purchasing,” Farzam Kamel, co-founder and president of New York-based esports organization Andbox, mentioned to Vogue Business.
Fnatic, an esports organization based in London, recently successfully tested the fashion appetite of its audience. The esports brand partnered with Gucci to release a collection of limited-edition dive watches priced at $1,427. All of the pieces sold out within 48 hours. For a fashion house like Gucci, the incredible enthusiasm for esports and gaming becoming mainstream doesn’t just mean the opportunity to attach itself to pop culture or to reach new audiences — it also means new opportunities for monetization.
“Audience engagement has changed dramatically since the advent of social media and is evolving at high speed. People are constantly exposed to information, images and videos, everything is accessible, just one swipe away,” Paolo Mascio, president of Yoox, told GQ. “We firmly believe that games and interactive initiatives have a business relevance. They are key to offering an innovative and personalized shopping experience, which is what customers, millennials and gen-Z in particular are increasingly asking for.”
With the global pandemic resulting in increased gaming activity, we can understand that fashion brands (hit hard by store closures and unsold stock) have been open to integrating games. While 2020 has proven the incredible success of these partnerships, it has also opened new arrays of monetization for brands and is changing the traditional forms of e-commerce. Given that gaming giants also massively benefit from the cultural relevance and revenue generated from these lucrative integrations, it’s a win for both worlds — and a trend that looks set to continue in the future.