Over the last year, online fashion games have been taking both desktop and mobile apps by storm. This is a reflection of how the fashion industry has been quick to adapt to shifting demographics; the most important being Generation Z and Millennials, who spend the most time online compared to other age groups. Fashion brands have begun to incorporate gaming into their commercial plans in order to fulfil the demands of such dominating markets.
Female consumers who enjoy styling and buying have also been a clear target for companies who are using gaming as part of their profitable advertising strategies. Luxury fashion and high-end designers, such as Burberry and Gucci, have not been shy to venture into this upcoming market. Whether you are at Heathrow Airport waiting to board a flight or commuting on the London transport system, the chances of spotting a traveller consumed by a game on a mobile device is very high. The fashion world has swiftly recognised this and has merged with the gaming world in order to cater to the demands of dominant consumer markets.
Traditionally the target audience of the gaming world has predominantly been males, but recently the gaming community has expanded as females have increasingly been filling this demographic. A survey carried out by Google Play in 2017 showed that sixty five percent of women in the US played mobile games. In China, there is also a rapidly growing female gaming culture, with top mobile games such as Honour of Kings having over half of its 200 million registered users as females, according to consultancy firm Jiguang.
The shift in different types of gamers is a result of the transition from desktop to mobile, making gaming more accessible and broadening its appeal. Fashion’s participation in gaming has clearly resulted from the rapid growth of digitisation. As well as the social media revolution, combined with the increase of online editorial brands, has resulted in fashion brands needing to fulfil the growing consumer demand for ‘newness’ in wanting to experience fashion through various platforms.
In addition, with fashion having a larger digital presence, using games has become an alternative avenue for brands to enhance online engagement. For luxury brands taking a step into the gaming world, it is also a means for driving sales of physical products in tandem with giving shoppers an opportunity to create virtual clothing collections.
Lucy Yeomans, former Editor-in-Chief at Harpers Bazaar UK and also the founding Editor-in-Chief at Porter magazine by Net-a-Porter, recognised the scope for combining gaming and fashion. In October 2019, Lucy launched Drest, the world’s first interactive luxury styling game. The game allows users to style and create their own content, share it across their social channels or with other users in the DREST app, and shop through it. Players are provided with a diverse line-up of avatars and the latest styles from its partner brands, along with hair, make-up, locations and backdrops.
Yeomans said “I wanted to create a democratic and highly inventive new fashion experience that engages the Millennial and Gen Z audiences – who place such high value on individuality and self-expression – as well as delighting and surprising existing fashion lovers and consumers”.
Many high-end and luxury fashion brands were quick to partner with the new style game including Burberry, Gucci, Prada, Stella McCartney and Valentino. Most of the fashion assortments are provided by global luxury fashion platform Farfetch, for which DREST also acts as an affiliate partner. Users can style from a bespoke edit of Farfetch’s inventory and then shop directly on the Farfetch platform to buy those looks available.
Yeomans launched the styling game at a crucial time, after which the fashion gaming industry has been taking off since. Intelligence company Newzoo released a Global Games Market Report in 2019 which priced the international gaming market at $152 billion, $68.5bn (45 per cent) of which is spent on mobile games. Goldman Sachs also valued virtual and augmented reality technology at more than £65 billion by 2025.
Other fashion contestants in the gaming world include Ada, founded by Alexia Niedzielski and Elizabeth von Guttman; this game allows players to utilise luxury collections to dress avatars and explore the much-loved fashion styling concept of mix and match digitally.
High profile celebrities have also contributed with their own versions of online fashion games, such as Kim Kardashian’s ‘Hollywood’, launched by Glu Mobile in 2014 which allows players to feel relevant and on trend by updating their virtual wardrobe to climb the show business ladder. Similar to Drest, Glu Mobile also purchased Covet Fashion, a game which presents players with fashion challenges. In 2018, Lovelooks launched a simple yet effective fashion game which allows individuals to style papers dolls and gain points in which they purchase real products such as Glossier items.
The collision of fashion and gaming culture has helped brands reach mass audiences through digital clothes. Most importantly, brands are now able to expand towards wider and dominant consumer markets who may not necessarily be able to afford luxury fashion. Games such as Drest put consumers in powerful positions by allowing them to personally dress and style avatars and digital models with high-end apparel, which they may not be able to afford, but are able to fulfil this desire virtually. Giving this opportunity to consumer via games has proven to be a successful way for fashion brands to commercially strategise.