The rise of the digitally native consumer and the product-specific brand opportunity within gaming.
According to consultancy Bain & Company, Gen Z will make up 40 per cent of the luxury market by 2035. With this in mind, it is important for jewellery brands to understand the engagement and sales opportunities within the gaming metaverse.
One of the interesting outcomes of engaging with gaming culture is how the virtual world might inform product design in the physical world. This is a space in which brands can equip gamers with assets that they then use to design their own product whilst immersed in the game. Whilst facilitating consumer curation, brands are able to leverage the data that this engagement reveals – for example learn what ‘assets’ are most popular. This level of engagement supports authentic player involvement and enhances gamer experience. Whilst we are in no doubt of the opportunity this presents, understanding the value system of these digital items is still in its infancy.
Nintendo’s revolutionary avatar-style game, Animal Crossing, allows users to create fashion items from scratch. Unsurprisingly, the game was quick to gain traction amongst the fashion community, firstly for its ability to facilitate user-generated content inspired by globally recognised brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Dior and secondly for the opportunity it afforded these brands to supply custom garments for the game.
Animal Crossing encourages gamers to be creators by including templates and a suite of change options similar to a Photoshop-lite but which are extremely intuitive and user-friendly. Gamers can then share the download codes of their unique creations. The gamification of these brand assets also informs AR virtual try-on opportunities.
Another profile-boosting opportunity for brands to be seen within this metaverse is the rise of ‘fandom’ and sharing on other platforms such as Instagram. @nookstreetmarket (32.7k followers) was created by three friends who ‘make high-end outfits’ in Animal Crossing using designer assets. The @animalcrossingfashionarchive Instagram account of gamer @kara_chung is dedicated to showing Animal Crossing outfits online. Such is her influence, Chung was asked by Berlin-based Reference festival to curate a virtual fashion show using Animal Crossing avatars dressed in looks inspired by Prada, Chanel and Loewe amongst others.
An important strategy is to create hype and exclusivity around items through limiting their quantity and formulating challenges as part of the games strategy. This replicates limited drops and exclusivity in the physical domain. Burberry created two in-game skins for the brand’s collaboration with Honor of Kings. One was a digital-only outfit designed by Ricardo Tisci, the other a digital replica of a Burberry catwalk look. Gamers had to pay to enter a draw to access these items.
Commoditising these in-game assets is not isolated to individual brands. Luxury online marketplaces are creating their own unique opportunities. Net-a-Porter launched its own island on Animal Crossing complete with avatar outfits by Isabel Marant. The brand also worked with Chinese designers to link avatar clothing to items for sale on Tmall. Fashion game Drest, whose avatar fashion is sold in real life via Farfetch among others, was named by Fast Company as one of the top 10 gaming companies of 2021. Uniqlo has just launched an Animal Crossing collection complete with ‘DAL’ bag and towel. (If you know, you know).
The jewellery sector cannot afford to be left behind in this scenario. It is no longer enough to think that hosting an online platform will suffice. Engaging with the consumer in the virtual world opens up a plethora of possibility. Aligning product creation and marketing within games in a way that is authentic in terms of integration and engagement is the key to new opportunities in this space.
To quote The Retail Prophet Doug Stephens in his latest book ‘Resurrecting Retail’ “What is perhaps more surprising is that it has taken this long for brands to awaken to gaming platforms as a viable platform for commerce.”
Words: Juliet Hutton-Squire