Fashion Gamification: Why high-end brands like Balenciaga are turning to virtual gaming
2020 has brought many surprises, but perhaps the biggest of all is that 2020 has become the year of fashion gamification. The worldwide pandemic has hit the global fashion industry hard with profits expected to fall by 93% this year. Simultaneously however, the value of gamification is on an upward trajectory that’s set to reach $32 billion by 2025. Brands like Balenciaga & Burberry have been exploring how digital content could offset this dip in the fashion industry through the use of virtual online games to interact with their customers.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is a marketing technique taking inspiration from the methods of classic video gaming. It’s aim is to use elements like point scoring and competition to encourage user engagement of a product or service.
Balenciaga – “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow”
Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga have unveiled their new Autumn/Winter 2021 collection through an interactive online video game. Launched on December 6th, Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow allows users to play for free via their web browser.
With the theme of the collection being Human Destiny, Balenciaga takes the user on a gaming journey set in 2031, allowing players to navigate a virtual reality with characters dressed head-to-toe in the new collection. Although Balenciaga kept most of the details underwraps prior to launch, they teased that the game would be the ‘largest volumetric video project ever undertaken’.
Under the creative direction of Demna Gvasalia since 2015, the Georgian designer has previously expressed a desire to use different formats to showcase his collections, hinting at a digital approach for the future.
Speaking to WWD in September, Gvasalia explained, “Every season I would like to create a new experience with every output…Fashion has become such a checklist. And I feel like I personally want to try to do it differently.”
“The fashion show in itself has been in the rule book of fashion for decades: you do a fashion show during fashion week when everybody’s in Paris… I felt like I need to do it in a different way so it’s actually available for a bigger audience.”
And now Gvasalia has taken his audience through an immersive experience with Afterworld.
Burberry exploring the multiplayer online battle arena
Balenciaga aren’t the only fashion brands using gaming tools to entice customers.
In September, Burberry partnered with Twitch to stream it’s Spring 2021 show, becoming the first luxury fashion brand to partner with the live-streaming platform in the process. Twitch is an Amazon owned entertainment service, which boasts 26.5 million average daily and in excess of 2 million average viewership at any given moment.
Although Covid-19 has contributed to brands looking to unique digital marketing methods, Burberry and Twitch had been discussing ways of working together pre-pandemic, since 2019.
Erin Wayne, head of community and creator marketing at Twitch believes, “Fashion working with gaming is kind of the next obvious step in the evolution of fashion.”
In July 2020, Burberry launched B Surf, a virtual online game that saw players able to select characters dressed in their latest TB Summer Monogram collection. This was Burberry’s third time using an online game to showcase collections, having first launched B Bounce in October 2019, followed by Ratberry in January 2020 for Lunar New Year.
Online gaming as a marketing platform is something Burberry will be exploring further moving into 2021, as in November they announced their partnership with Tencent Games and it’s online game Honour of Kings.
Although Burberry are still keeping the nature of the partnership underwraps, their aim is clear – for the brand to reach a greater audience. Honour of Kings is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game with 100 million daily active users worldwide. It’s one of the world’s highest grossing games with 54% female player base.
Announcing the partnership, Burberry explained: “As interactive digital content is increasingly becoming a source of inspiration in luxury fashion, games offer another opportunity for consumers to connect with Burberry’s products online. Younger consumers are redefining community spaces, choosing to connect with each other and with brands in digital environments, such as sharing experiences through online games.”
Life simulation games: Animal Crossing
Video games are allowing users to acquire digital clothing for their avatars, giving them access to luxury fashion items they might not normally be able to afford in the real world. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a perfect example of that.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a life simulation game available exclusively via Nintendo Switch. Launched in March 2020, the fifth installment of Animal Horizons series allows players to build a life on a deserted island. Players are able to style their avatars and as a result, there have been a host of fashion brands collaborating with the game since it’s launch.
Within 11 days of it’s launch, Animal Crossing: New Horizons had sold over 11 million copies, making it Nintendo’s third most successful game of all time. The demographic of it’s users are mainly aged between 20 – 30 years old, with over 40% being female.
Marc Jacobs, Valentino and Sandy Liang have all recreated some of their looks to be used as digital clothing in the game. Following suit, in November luxury retailer NET-A-PORTER announced it was launching an in-game island, which would also showcase 5 outfits from the Isabel Marant Fall/Winter 2020 collection, with users able to dress their avatars in the digital clothing.
The future of fashion gamification
As is often the trend with fashion, the major luxury labels lead the way, with mainstream fashion brands following the pack in time. Michael Branney, managing director of Oh Polly predicts that clothing retailers will be looking to digital innovation moving forward, suggesting “a video game, or interactive content, is the next logical step for brands.”
While brands have been steadily increasing their digital outreach prior to this year, the impact of Covid-19 has accelerated the need for the fashion industry to explore more innovative digital content in order to bring their collections to a bigger audience. With the rise of augmented and virtual reality experiences becoming the norm, the fashion industry in 2021 could flourish once again.