Gaming is a significant and booming business; specialized intelligence firm Newzoo valued the global gaming market at $159.3 billion by the end of 2020. Boosted by lockdowns and social distancing, the gaming industry saw the emergence of a new generation of gamers who also hold immense spending power.

The best news is that female gamers are on an all-time high in numbers and increase gamers’ overall spending capabilities. In turn, the shift is creating opportunities for brands to see this cohort as a marketable audience of potential customers.

Gamers and esports fans are increasingly revealing themselves as beauty and fashion enthusiasts and consumers. They are eager to spend on both in-game and real-life products, thus catching brands’ attention. Moreover, with the millennials and Gen Z seeing little distinction between their online and offline lives, brands and businesses are rushing to gamify their commercial strategies.

Louis Vuitton's fashion design for Final Fantasy
Source: Bloomberg

After all, what better platform than the virtual world to influence and encourage thousands of players and potential customers, who already find themselves currently unable to shop, to revamp their avatar with clothing and accessories by various brands? Not to mention the incredible springboard that video games offer to brands, allowing them to speak to a very young audience, which is sometimes a problematic target group for them to reach.

Fashion and Gaming- The coming together of the most unlikely duo

Lockdown gave rise to and accelerated numerous trends, and amongst all, the establishment of relations between luxury and fashion brands and the world of online gaming is the most striking. The fashion industry is chasing the best opportunity and turning gaming into its new playground to connect with younger and female customers.

Hence it comes as no surprise that the fashion world wants a big slice of the gaming pie and is seizing the opportunity to target consumers. From gaming-inspired fashion designs to brands coming up with their games, and even a new emerging category of virtual and shoppable styling games targeted at fashion enthusiasts – we can see a lot of activity in this space of late.

Fashion giant Louis Vuitton designed an outfit for one of League of Legends' characters for the finale event
Source: Instagram

In today’s gaming world, players are given the freedom to choose the characters they play and style. Many games now include the choice of recognizable designer brands, too. Gaming and fashion are undoubtedly a match made in marketing heaven, and this relationship offers brands subtle advertising and promoting opportunity.

Fashion houses weave items into games naturally and authentically and this, in turn, allows gaming companies to position themselves as more culturally relevant and part of the mainstream. Moreover, just like consumers buy designer fashion in real life, gamers are also turning to in-game merchandise to compete with others or differentiate themselves online.

How did it all begin?

Gaming and fashion have a connection for a very long time, but it’s only in recent times that their relationship blossomed. If you’re wondering how the two polar opposite industries have become so closely intertwined, fashion made the first move.

In a decisive move prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Louis Vuitton entered into a partnership with the US-based publisher and developer Riot Games, the business behind the famous ‘League of Legends.’ The fashion and luxury house’s director Nicolas Ghesquière designed an outfit for one of the game’s characters for the finale event along with a luxury carry case for the winner’s trophy, thus bringing in 100 million global e-spectators.

Louis Vuitton designs winner’s trophy of League of Legends finale
Source: Twitter

Another popular game has further fuelled this trend. On March 20, amid the pandemic, Japan’s Nintendo launched ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons,’ the latest version of the game it first created back in 2001. The game’s reassuring and bucolic universe invites players to go and live on paradise islands and indulge in all kinds of peaceful activities, including gardening, fishing, and even picnics with neighbours.

The game immediately became the star game of lockdown, selling over 10 million units in just a few weeks.

This buzz prompted fashion brands, including Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, and Italian street-wear brand GCDS, to offer their designs to Animal Crossing players. These brands provide gamers the choice to access their virtual clothing and accessories for free via special codes, thus making the brands’ presence felt stronger amongst their target group more than ever.

GCDS partnered with Crossing the Runway to offer designs to Animal Crossing players
Source: WWD

It is trivial that the outfits brands offered in the games are visually simplified to account for the characters’ small size and that their low definition does not allow designers to create detailed garments. What matters most is the power of these brands and their desirability.

Thus, the world of gaming offers a unique, innovative way for brands to engage with a new type of clientele and strengthen relationships with pre-existing fans.

While Valentino, Marc Jacobs, and Anna Sui released signature in-game looks, Parfums Givenchy and Gillette Venus catered to the players’ in-game beauty needs, thus allowing users to apply characteristics like freckles, acne, body hair, cellulite, and stretch marks to their in-game avatars.

This outpouring of creativity has spilled over onto various social media networks as players wanted to share their outfits, and dedicated pages were even created, which amplified the gamers’ popularity.

If you look beyond online gaming, the relationship between the two goes long back in time. Look at the casino industry; there’s no doubt that James Bond has heavily influenced the casino fashion industry. If there’s one thing you’ll see in common in all casinos, it is their complementary relationship with fashion- suits, tuxedos, and classic attires and so on.

Casinos are parallel to classical vintage fashion trends and this influence can be seen till today.

Playgrounds are the new fashion ramps.

In recent years, some fashion houses, including Burberry, Gucci, and Coperni, took their relationship with gaming a notch higher as they dared to create their games. With the launch of B Bounce in October 2019, Burberry marked its first global foray into the world of online gaming. Played on the brand’s website or a large screen installed at Burberry’s global flagship store in Regent Street, London, the game is based on a deer.

The hoofed ruminant that has long been a favorite of Burberry Group’s Chief creative officer, Riccardo Tisci, can be dressed by players in a choice of Burberry monogram puffer jackets and gilets. Gamers then guide the mascot’s descent to the moon, jumping between platforms and dodging rain clouds or lightning.

With B Bounce, Burberry marked its first global foray into the world of online gaming
Source: Twitter

Again earlier in July 2019, the Gucci Arcade, a new section dedicated to games inspired by arcades of the 1980s, was added to the fashion house’s app. Hermes, Uniqlo, and Fendi have also experimented with games. The latter created a Mini-Game on China’s WeChat network, where players can cruise around Rome, collecting FF logo coins and mini Baguette bags.

Another increasingly attractive option is to work a fashion brand into the game itself, as the collaboration between the luxury Italian fashion designer Moschino and the life-simulation video game The Sims. The special deal includes a range of Sim-like clothing offered by the fashion brand that will finally let you dress as your Sim and not the other way around.

More and more games have their focus fixed on fashion, including mobile games, Covet Fashion, and Stardoll Stylista and the list only grows.

The collaboration between fashion house Moschino and The Sims includes a range of Sim-like clothing
Source: Instagram

Gaming and Fashion complement each other.

Gaming is no longer child’s play; instead, it is a growing business with a tremendous capacity for creativity and fantasy – two of fashion’s most vital traits. And the appetite for it is only booming with each passing day. With the world of fashion shifting its focus to games, it was only a matter of time before gaming’s most prominent online stars started making moves on the fashion scene.

Gaming influencers are already making waves for their out-there style; PewDiePie, one of the most followed gamers, has created his unisex clothing and homeware line, Tsuki, with his wife. Besides, the ultra-famous gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has taken a slightly different route and partnered with Adidas to create his very own sneaker.

PewDiePie has created his unisex fashion and homeware line, Tsuki, with his wife
Source: Instagram

It’s inevitable that fashion and gaming industries will increasingly collaborate in the coming years because it benefits both the industries at large. It won’t be far-fetched to claim that fashion could make gaming popular by introducing the gaming concepts to consumers who have never played before or aren’t familiar with the gaming industry.

On the other hand, gaming too influences the popularity of fashion and brands as it directly adds pop-cultural references to the gaming industry. Through the efforts of the gaming industry, fashion stands the chance to get a bigger market considering the fact that there are 2.3 billion people who play games regularly.

As fashion brands and gamers continue to find partnership opportunities in each other’s industries, this is an experimenting and exciting time for gamers; especially those with a passion for style and fashionistas alongside the undying love for gaming.

It’s time we stop stereotyping and accept that although the relationship between gaming and fashion is unusual, it is definitely a beautiful correlation. And the future looks promising.