Ready Player One: When gamification enters the fashion world through virtual reality and in-game goods

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In fashion’s arcade, games not only draw you into virtual worlds, but will also drive you into real-world stores. As gamification becomes part of fashion’s playbook, digital prizes can be just as precious, if not more, as physical rewards, observes Jacquie Ang.

When Gucci unveiled its Gift Giving campaign for the holiday season in November 2019, an interactive microsite generating delightful mobile wallpapers accompanied the launch. Another activation introduced virtual stickers on Instagram, iMessage and Giphy.

Upping the ante in the digital experience was a special section on the Gucci app where an Augmented Reality (AR) portal transports the user to a virtual tropical island with fluorescent holographic elements recalling the campaign’s visuals. These psychedelic hues also coloured the lights and shadows of an Instagram face filter.

Those were the kinds of digital engagement fashion would supplement to play up the hype for fresh releases, before Covid-19 imposed lockdowns worldwide in 2020 that effectively put an end to most in-person social contact.

Deprived of the joy of dressing up, people turned to the digital universe where they could style their avatars. With soaring levels of engagement then, it did not take long to recognise the potential in brand- building, as well as the opportunities to engage young consumers and unlock new value streams in the communities within the vast gaming industry, which according to Accenture, is valued at over US$300 billion and attracts 2.7 billion players globally.

“The video game industry is larger than the music and film industry combined,” David Reitman, the global gaming lead at Accenture, pointed out. “When you make that statement, it basically has people take a pause.”

Valentino digitised outfits from its Spring/Summer 2020 and Pre-Fall 2020 collections for Animal Crossing
Valentino digitised outfits from its Spring/Summer 2020 and Pre-Fall 2020 collections for Animal Crossing

Launched just in time in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons quickly racked up popularity points as fashion’s go-to partner. Valentino tapped on the then-viral Nintendo Switch life simulation game to raise awareness of its Spring/Summer 2020 and Pre-Fall 2020 collections in May. The Milanese maison enlisted gamer and visual artist Kara Chung (@animalcrossingfashionarchive) to create outfits from 20 looks encompassing colourful men’s shirts, electric-bright dresses and hats.

Net-A-Porter soon joined in, tapping on Chung as well to produce five outfits released in October. The digital renditions were inspired by the exclusive Isabel Marant’s Autumn/Winter 2020 eveningwear capsule collection to be sold at the multi-brand luxury e-tailer.

Taking this venture a step further, it set up its own Net-A-Porter island in the game for an exceptional shopping experience. Manifesting the real- life Net-A-Porter headquarters in London, the virtual space is complete with white bespoke furnishings in the reception area, photography studio and editorial room featuring some of the most memorable Porter covers. Otherwise, enjoy virtual coffee at the one and only Net-A-Café, try some mindful meditation in the Net-A-Sporter area, or strut down the island’s Runway to show off your new Isabel Marant outfits. You can even take a selfie via your NookPhone (a smartphone used in the game).

That same month saw Gucci partnering iconic life simulation video game series The Sims. In the spirit of supporting young creatives and generating positive change for people and planet, it worked with custom content creators, Grimcookies and HeyHarrie from the Sims community, for the first digital recreation of its sustainable fashion line, Gucci Off the Grid, for The Sims 4.

While Grimcookies produced replicas of hats and shoes that The Sims characters could wear, as well as 11 “build mode” items including purses and handbags that they could place in their rooms, HeyHarrie built a treehouse with sustainability elements ranging from upcycled wood and recycled furniture to wind turbines and green roofing. When players use these Gucci Off the Grid pieces, they receive a green eco-footprint and an environment score of 10. And when they enter rooms with Gucci Off the Grid items, their characters’ moods go up.

Fashion in The Sims is not new, but what’s interesting here is that Gucci worked directly with modders (people who make modifications to video games). This endowed credibility to the collaboration that made it an easier sell to the community.

Burberry designed exclusive skins for Yao, a heroine in Honour of Kings
Burberry designed exclusive skins for Yao, a heroine in Honour of Kings

Burberry looked to the East instead. In March 2021, chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci exclusively designed two skins (outfits for avatars) for Honour of Kings’ popular heroine Yao, establishing it as the first co- creation with a luxury brand for the fantasy role-playing multi-player online battle arena by Chinese internet giant Tencent. The choice of Yao, who embodies the spirit of nature and can morph into a deer, is an ingenious link to Burberry’s animal kingdom house code.

For Yao, who plays the role of a protector, the new Spirit of Nature skin composed of an off-shoulder trench coat in the Thomas Burberry- pioneered gabardine conceived to protect its wearer against the elements, is a perfect fit.

“Burberry has always had a spirit of adventure. Partnering with Honour of Kings feels like a natural step up for our move into gaming, going beyond our in-house games by bringing the Burberry universe into an established environment,” explained Josie Zhang, president of Burberry China. “By allowing our Chinese customers to explore virtual products through the medium of online games, we can connect with our communities in a way that really resonates with them.”

In a virtual reality twist, brands flip the idea of adapting digital merchandise from physical products. Furla, whose Bellaria island in Animal Crossing has a bag workshop, teamed up with Nintendo to create a real-life Animal Crossing-inspired capsule that immortalised the game’s animations on its accessories.

For Balenciaga, setting up its virtual store on Fortnite offering skins and accessories, including its Triple S Sneakers, as well as tools such as the Hourglass Bag Glider, made it the first luxury brand to work with the award-winning online e-sports giant. At the same time, its physical stores and e-commerce site offer a limited-edition series of products bearing both Fortnite and Balenciaga logos that commemorate this partnership.

MAKE YOUR MOVE

As branded islands and physical merchandise elevate the in-game experience beyond virtual ensembles for avatars, fashion houses began to dip their toes into producing their own micro-games within established games.

One of Prada Linea Rossa’s ensembles for Riders Republic
One of Prada Linea Rossa’s ensembles for Riders Republic

Recently in February, Prada joined forces with Ubisoft on a one-of-a- kind project that incorporates Prada Linea Rossa into Riders Republic, a massive multi-player outdoor sports playground where you can experience the thrill of outdoor sports in the magnificent American National Parks. It is quite the perfect platform for the high-performance-meets-modern- luxury sportswear line, allowing players to equip their game characters with outfits – named The Flame, Wild Stripes and Camouflage Rock – and sports gear designed for Riders Republic.

A campaign image for the Riders Republic and Prada collab
A campaign image for the Riders Republic and Prada collab

One way to obtain exclusive outfits is by challenging friends to Prada Beyond the Line. The new and permanent in-game event lets you use the Faction X Prada Linea Rossa skis, Riders Republic jumbo bike, or the new freestyle snowmobile for free in one of the game’s biggest snow parks.

Gucci took its chance earlier during 2020’s global lockdowns when people retreated to gaming. That May, it announced its partnership with Tennis Clash, said to be the world’s favourite mobile tennis game by Wildlife Studios. Besides outfitting players in exclusive Gucci ensembles or shopping the pieces for themselves from the Gucci website, they could participate in the special in-game Gucci Open tournament, where a new Gucci- labelled tennis string was available.

The pandemic may be the catalyst but it’s not always the cause, as in the case of Burberry. No stranger to digital innovations, it released its first game on Burberry.com back in October 2019. Burberry B Bounce was conceived to hype up the new puffer jacket collection with its deer-shaped character racing to the moon in a super-charged Thomas Burberry monogram puffer jacket. Among the awards of custom-made GIFs and virtual puffer jackets edited onto digital pictures was the first prize of a real-life puffer jacket.

Said Mark Morris, senior vice president of digital commerce at Burberry: “We have experimented with gaming in China, but B Bounce is our first playful extension into this format to entertain and connect with our new, younger consumers around the world. We know that they are living in an increasingly gamified environment both online and offline, and we are excited that they can join the Burberry community – and explore our new puffer collection – in this way.”

Burberry has in-house digital teams to develop its games. This demonstrates its committed investment in this format. Despite this capability, it went on to team up with Mythical Games in August 2021 to venture into the trendy world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), after offering prizes both digital and physical.

Burberry’s Sharky B NFT decked out in accessories players can apply to any Blanko they own
Burberry’s Sharky B NFT decked out in accessories players can apply to any Blanko they own

The partnership ushered in a new era for digital ownership in gaming. The multi-player party game featured digital vinyl toys known as Blankos that live on a blockchain, which inherently give players proof of verified ownership and authenticity. Sharky B was Burberry’s limited- edition Blanko decked out in the then-new TB Summer Monogram. The NFT could be purchased, upgraded, and sold within the Blankos Block Party marketplace. And as part of this collection, there were Burberry- branded in-game NFT accessories that players could apply to any Blanko they own. Recently in June, Burberry teased audiences with a sequel to this collaboration.

ucci’s team- up with Tennis Clash went beyond outfits to hold Gucci Open, a special in-game tournament
ucci’s team- up with Tennis Clash went beyond outfits to hold Gucci Open, a special in-game tournament

PLAY THE FIELD

Gucci also developed its own games that were released in Gucci Arcade (a section in the Gucci app) before its forays into Tennis Clash and The Sims. Even so, the brand continues to make deep in-roads into the gaming industry with its finger in many platforms. Its savviness in the art of collaborations has led to external partnerships and multiple global games, keeping the brand buzzy.

Gucci hosted its collaboration with The North Face on Pokémon Go
Gucci hosted its collaboration with The North Face on Pokémon Go

It was particularly active in 2021, kicking off the year with Niantic’s Pokémon Go app where it hosted its collaboration with The North Face.

The first of Burberry- developed games, Burberry B Bounce
The first of Burberry- developed games, Burberry B Bounce

The pandemic may be the catalyst but it’s not always the cause, as in the case of Burberry. No stranger to digital innovations, it released its first game on Burberry.com back in October 2019. Burberry B Bounce was conceived to hype up the new puffer jacket collection with its deer-shaped character racing to the moon in a super-charged Thomas Burberry monogram puffer jacket. Among the awards of custom-made GIFs and virtual puffer jackets edited onto digital pictures was the first prize of a real-life puffer jacket.

Said Mark Morris, senior vice president of digital commerce at Burberry: “We have experimented with gaming in China, but B Bounce is our first playful extension into this format to entertain and connect with our new, younger consumers around the world. We know that they are living in an increasingly gamified environment both online and offline, and we are excited that they can join the Burberry community – and explore our new puffer collection – in this way.”

Burberry has in-house digital teams to develop its games. This demonstrates its committed investment in this format. Despite this capability, it went on to team up with Mythical Games in August 2021 to venture into the trendy world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), after offering prizes both digital and physical.

The partnership ushered in a new era for digital ownership in gaming. The multi-player party game featured digital vinyl toys known as Blankos that live on a blockchain, which inherently give players proof of verified ownership and authenticity. Sharky B was Burberry’s limited- edition Blanko decked out in the then-new TB Summer Monogram. The NFT could be purchased, upgraded, and sold within the Blankos Block Party marketplace. And as part of this collection, there were Burberry- branded in-game NFT accessories that players could apply to any Blanko they own. Recently in June, Burberry teased audiences with a sequel to this collaboration.

PLAY THE FIELD

Gucci also developed its own games that were released in Gucci Arcade (a section in the Gucci app) before its forays into Tennis Clash and The Sims. Even so, the brand continues to make deep in-roads into the gaming industry with its finger in many platforms. Its savviness in the art of collaborations has led to external partnerships and multiple global games, keeping the brand buzzy.

It was particularly active in 2021, kicking off the year with Niantic’s Pokémon Go app where it hosted its collaboration with The North Face.

In addition to the in-store release of the collection, in-game versions of the line’s T-shirts, hats and backpacks were available for a limited time at over 100 PokéStops around the world, located at ephemeral stores known as Gucci Pins.

Next, it put digital ready-to-wear replicas up for sale in Gucci Villa on Zepeto, a South Korean social media app that lets users create and interact as 3D characters in game-based or chat-based worlds. This drop on Zepeto, which reportedly has more than 200 million global Gen Z users with 70 per cent of them being female and 79 per cent more likely to make an in-app purchase, paved another revenue stream for Gucci.

Gucci Town on Roblox
Gucci Town on Roblox

This May, it renewed its alliance with Roblox by building Gucci Town. Vault Plaza showcases the latest drops and collaborations from the brand’s real-life experimental concept store Gucci Vault, whereas Gucci Shop is where players can purchase virtual merchandise, like the archive-inspired Blondie bag from the Love Parade collection, for their Roblox avatars.

The brand’s initial collaboration with Roblox during the same time in 2021 won a Webby award for Gucci Garden, its virtual counterpart to its Gucci Garden Archetypes immersive multimedia exhibition in Florence. It attracted 19 million visitors during the two weeks that it ran. But it made news for the high demand one of its in-game goods garnered. Only available for purchase during a single hour on May 17, the Roblox version of the Gucci Dionysus Bag with Bee was sold for 475 Robux (nearly US$6). It isn’t an NFT but players flipped this limited-edition collectible in the second-hand market and resold it for about US$4,115, nearly US$800 more than the retail price of the real-life bag, according to Hypebeast.com

THE GAME CHANGERS

Louis Vuitton may have only worked with Riot Games but it has been a long and fruitful relationship that started from September 2019.

It began with the unprecedented bespoke Trophy Travel Case by Louis Vuitton to hold the League of Legends Summoner’s Cup, which is the trophy accorded to the world champions of the popular online multi- player battle-strategy game, and the most prestigious award in e-sports. It was the first of its kind for an e-sports championship.

Louis Vuitton’s capsule collection extended from its partnership with League of Legends
Louis Vuitton’s capsule collection extended from its partnership with League of Legends

Nicolas Ghesquière, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of women’s collections, had also designed special versions of Prestige skins for Qiyana and Senna, two members of the in-game virtual band. The exclusive skins later spawned a capsule collection showcasing an extraordinary Monogram Louis Vuitton X League of Legends canvas that spanned from leather goods to ready-to-wear and accessories in December 2019.

When the maison decided to celebrate its founder’s bicentennial birthday with a video game last year, it enlisted Riot Games. Louis: The Game – A Journey for All tells the tale of Louis Vuitton as an adventurer, entrepreneur, designer, innovator through the journey of its brand mascot Vivienne, who sets out to reach a festive birthday destination.

Louis: The Game expands to Chapter 2
Louis: The Game expands to Chapter 2

During her quest, she has to collect 200 Monogram candles that will uncover a postcard revealing an anecdote or trivia such as special orders or family history, in addition to the keys that access each level. Launched last year, on August 4 – the founder’s birthday, the still-available mobile video game integrating the latest blockchain technology includes 30 embedded NFTs by the house’s artistic directors and American digital artist Beeple, who holds the highest-NFT record for the sale of his artwork Everydays: The First 5000 Days for $69.3 million on Christie’s.

The clever and sophisticated fusion of advanced animation with centuries of heritage resulted in a compelling and fun form of storytelling. More than two million downloads later, this action-packed adventure that started with six imaginary worlds has just introduced two more: Radiant City and High in the Sky, on April 15, 2022. Players who reach the end of the initial game can unlock the two expansion levels where Vivienne has to retrieve 16 pages from a manuscript of Louis Vuitton, L’Audacieux, which is a real-life novel written by Caroline Bongrand. Assisting her is Gaston, the friendly porter who’s cheekily named after Vuitton’s grandson. Players also get the chance to qualify for 10 new NFTs that will be portable across other platforms and can function as an avatar on social networks.

Plans are in the pipeline to bring the game to life in an experiential form, beginning at the Louis Vuitton family home in Asnières, France, before making its way to Los Angeles.

Balenciaga adopted the video game format for its Fall 2021 campaign
Balenciaga adopted the video game format for its Fall 2021 campaign

While Louis Vuitton tapped on the immersive powers of a game as a storytelling tool, Balenciaga reinvented the medium as a campaign to launch its creative director Demna Gvasalia’s Fall 2021 collection in stores. Directed and produced by video game developer Quantic Dream, Afterworld: Age of Tomorrow welcomed players into the virtual game- like world set in the year 2031, where they discovered Gvasalia’s concept of clothing that transforms over many years.

VICTORY LAP

In Singapore, mini games have boosted buzz for Coach and Kate Spade New York’s launches, making Tapestry Inc. a frontrunner in fashion gamification. General manager of Tapestry Southeast Asia and Oceania, Campbell O’Shea, tells us that while many of these games were local efforts created for specific activation regionally, it is part of a global endeavour. “We believe in bringing a unique, experiential retail concept, inspired by the dynamic spirit of New York City, to Singapore. Our aim is to continuously connect with people through the lens of now.”

The pandemic provided the push into the new digital experiences. “In the absence of in-person activations and events, we sought other ways to continue to connect and engage with our customers. Gamification was another way to reach our consumers in an exciting and authentic way. Also, it’s the perfect way for us to connect with a whole new group of Gen-Z audiences who love all things gaming!” she says.

First to launch between the two brands was Kate Spade New York with a memory game in March 2021. Players had to flip open images to match items from the Spring collection – an ingenious way to ingrain new products into consumers’ minds. Those who could match the same items within a minute got to receive a gift in-store.

One of the eight Coach Holiday Animals in the brand’s first collection of 80 one-of-a-kind NFTs
One of the eight Coach Holiday Animals in the brand’s first collection of 80 one-of-a-kind NFTs

In December that year, Coach introduced the Snow City Game for the holiday season. Players had their pick of eight Coach Holiday animals to race through snowy New York City and collect as much “love” as they could to earn points, which unlocked more Coach Holiday animal avatars. The top scorer in Singapore took home an exclusive Coach bag.

Those eight Coach Holiday Animals would later be featured in the brand’s first collection of 80 one-of-a-kind NFTs, as a way of marking the finale of its 80th anniversary in 2021. Ten unique NFTs of each animal were released on its Twitter account over a period of eight days (one animal per day, no purchase required). In addition, the initial holder of each NFT got to bring home a complimentary made-to-order Rogue bag.

In April this year, Coach released what would be its most popular game. Accompanying its second pop-up was a complementary Coach’s Bagel Shop mobile game. Players got to pick their favourite Bagel-sonas specially designed by Two Men Bagel House and score points by running and jumping to collect as many Coach coins. Those who completed the run could redeem a set of exclusive stickers at the pop-up, while the top scorer won an exclusive Coach bag.

O’Shea was surprised by the amount of engagement these mini games – each takes about two months to produce – achieved. “We are constantly seeking new ways to give back to our customers via omni-retail experience, and will continue pushing the boundaries to do unexpected things,” she adds. “The platform also allows people at home a glimpse into how fun our brands and collections can be. The results have proven to drive excitement and connection among the younger audience.”

This story first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.

The post Ready Player One: When gamification enters the fashion world through virtual reality and in-game goods appeared first on Prestige Online - Singapore.

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