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2020 showed us like never before that gaming is no longer just for gamers. From global star infused music festivals to change leadership summits, games are serving as the new cultural hub and the pandemic has only strengthened a metamorphosis that was already happening.
This rapid rise in popularity as a social destination hasn’t escaped the gaze of savvy retailers and they are working hard to harness gaming cultures and aesthetics into new seamless shopping experiences. According to Michael Wolf, cofounder of Activate, the 2020’s will belong to gaming, with it set to emerge as a truly dominant and influential technology platform—much the way search engines, mobile phones and social networks have redefined industries in previous decades (You can read more about this in the original Wall Street Journal article). In this future gazing post we will take a look at some of the ways brands are establishing a presence in these digital worlds and how these online experiences are enabling gamers to play with the concepts of socialising and commerce.
The pandemic has created more incentives for brands, celebs and influencers to interact digitally with their fanbase and games tend to be central to this strategy, as games can quickly and easily form their own hyper active and fiercely loyal communities. Gone are the days of the stereotypical gamer and today all ages and genders are finding joy connecting and competing with others online. Brands have been quick to recognise this cultural shift and 2020 saw a number of big profile music labels taking their star performers to the virtual stage in games such as fortnite and Roblox. In fact the initial fortnite concerts proved so popular, with artists such as Travis Scott and Charli XCX easily attracting record attendances within the millions, that the game developers EPIC have now created an island within the game affectionately called “Party Royale” which is solely dedicated to live entertainment and socialising. This new kind of virtual live experience was one of the big factors in convincing Streetwear culture aficionados Complex, that they may just be able to pull off one of their most ambitious projects so far. When it was clear that their yearly Music and fashion festival ComplexCon could not go ahead in Long beach, as usual, they instead opted to build a massive open-world game that anyone could access through a web browser.
ComplexLand was born, a sprawling, futuristic cityscape filled with interesting characters and limited-edition product drops, this was a new kind of gamified shopping experience. In fact, it was the omission of a proper commerce tie-in on the Fortnite Travis Scott concert, which had originally sparked the imagination of the team at Complex. So they built the whole video game around shopping as a concept. Players could generate a custom avatar, chat with fellow attendees, shop till their heart’s content, catch a fireside chat or even order food from a virtual food truck which would arrive at their real-world door. ComplexLand was overtly commercial and it remains to be seen if consumers will be happy to embrace this experience in the long run, but in the short-term, the original week-long event was a huge success with fans and there are now plans to put on further ComplexLand experiences in 2021.
A big part of the ComplexLand experience was the ability to customize your own avatar and spend a week running around in its fashionable virtual kicks. The role of the personalised avatar in our digital lives is not something new. However, with the pandemic biting hard, big brands have been waking up to the idea that a digital twin might actually be a useful thing to pay some attention to, especially when our physical movement is so restricted. Genies have been dubbed the world’s largest avatar company. Their long-term plan is to be the enabler technology, which allows everyone to fully express themselves in the digital world. If Genies get their way, soon everyone will be creating and maintaining your own 3D “high fidelity” avatar. This computer vision of an individual’s identity is then accessible across all devices and international markets through the blockchain. Seamlessly dropping into Online, Mobile, VR and AR content. And that is where the fun begins.
Again big fashion brands have been leading the way and have been very quick to adapt to the idea of the avatar as an extension of our own personal style. Digital-first clothing is now a thing, with designers already developing and selling fashion that may only ever exist in the digital realm. The ability to purchase extra items and new costume skins for game characters has been in games for years and remains one of the biggest earning opportunities for developers but now we are seeing bona fide fashion designers like Virgil Abloh founder of Off-White and Louis Vuitton’s artistic director going on record and stating he is intrigued by how gaming culture might begin influencing the real-world fashion business. You can read more about Virgil Abloh’s opinion on where gaming and fashion minds meet in this Vogue business article. Recently Gucci has been very active in this area developing capsule wardrobes for celebrity avatars and even joining forces with activewear brand North Face to deliver a collection that has debuted inside the ever-popular game Pokemon Go. They clearly see the advantages to being able to dress your online persona with clothes you also own in the real world. Find out more by visiting this link: https://pokemongohub.net/post/news/gucci-x-the-north-face-collaboration
But what else makes avatars potentially so important? Two words ‘the Metaverse’. There is a lot of buzz currently around this idea but describing it accurately, can be tricky. Although we have already had glimpses of what might be possible, the ability to deliver a recognisable Metaverse is still many years away. This is part of the reason why so many definitions currently exist. A good definition that I saw recently states the Metaverse is a future iteration of the Internet, made up of shared 3D virtual and augmented spaces linked into a virtual universe where people can work, play and socialise. This digital future will allow for unique economies, marketplaces, communities and even cultures to spring up, so you can begin to imagine how important a portable virtual identity will become in these worlds.
It’s hard to say exactly how the Metaverse will turnout but one thing is for sure brands are already beginning to position themselves ready for the dawn of a totally new way to interact and enjoy our time online.
We’ll be back soon with the final instalment of this focus on the trends shaping the future of online shopping. Part 3 will take a look at things happening in Social and Content commerce plus the retailtainment revolution.
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