Luxury X Gaming: All’s Fair in Love & Warcraft
In our most recent episode of What The Luxe, I sat down with the brilliant Perla Bloom - Head of Connections Planning for The Sims at Electronic Arts (EA), to demystify the wonderful world of gaming. Valued at $336 billion dollars, overtaking the long-term entertainment behemoth that is television, gaming is a space leaders at the helm of brands need to better understand.
Because gaming isn’t a niche, socially-isolating pastime devoid of real world relevance – it’s a flourishing, ever-growing entertainment channel that has exponential cultural significance, worthy of the same attention and consideration as social, TV, film and radio.
And frankly, well worth an article exploring the topic and opportunity for brands further…
With the caveat that, whilst I certainly spent many hours of my childhood addicted to my Gameboy, Nintendo DS, Wii and computer games like Runescape, The Sims & Zoo Tycoon, it has been a long time since I last picked up a controller… which leaves me at a good level of understanding the deep and global love for gaming whilst simultaneously at a loss when it comes to the most recent applications.
This article looks to help those in a similar situation; intrigued, but ultimately still a little confused with gaming knowledge in need of levelling up. Especially from a commercial perspective.
Levelling The Playing Field
With over 3 billion players globally, gaming offers unique opportunities for brands to be discovered, and to surprise and delight a seriously engaged audience. An audience that is actually far more diverse than expected.
A far cry from the often depicted lonely, teenage boy playing in his bedroom, 50% of players are female – with cross-generational popularity for Gen-Z, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers of which 30% play daily and 45% play weekly on average.
With emerging economies an integral driver for this surge in popularity, gaming offers an ‘escape’ into otherworldly experiences for individuals with a penchant for progress, futurism and autonomy.
In a world of ad blockers, fast-forwardable TV breaks and endless competition for consumer’s pitiful attention spans, brands need to create interactions and content that seamlessly integrate within the environments consumers want to play in – be they digital or IRL.
A Heightened Storytelling Medium
Stories are everywhere, and as humans, we strive for them. And while the formats change, the fundamentals don’t.
Brands leaders in 2023 are more than comfortable with TV adverts and, more recently, social media posts, as vehicles to deliver brand narratives. Now, those same leaders need to adjust their mindset to apply the same thinking to games.
Gaming platforms offer immersive, multi-faceted worlds with a boundless canvas for creativity and imagination meaning brands can strive to realise the innovations and out-of-this-world inventions once dreamed up by authors, filmmakers and visionaries through virtual reality technology.
Such experiences place the consumer at the heart of the story as active participants, consciously engaging with the narrative autonomously. And if the activation is executed well, creating positive brand association and memorability.
Whilst many may associate gaming with violent warcraft games or aggressive action-adventure simulations – hardly fitting for a slick brand experience or shameless product placement – it’s a huge oversight of the more casual puzzle-solving games, role playing games, eSports, multiplayer online arenas, party games and open environment sandboxes conducive to utmost creativity.
The latter including the likes of Minecraft, The Sims, Animal Crossing – showcasing the breadth of themes and concepts within the gaming sphere suitable to all ages and interests. Users can design their own worlds, set their own agendas and characters without a linear, goal-oriented game-play to follow.
From a creativity standpoint, Roblox reigns supreme in the gaming world as THE organic user generated platform for virtual worlds. Anyone has the ability to make a game or ‘virtual space’ in Roblox, with over 2 million creators developing experiences for fellow fans to enjoy, learn from, socialise within and partake in activities.
“We don’t make Roblox. You Do… We’re committed to providing tools and resources to ensure our community remains a safe, civil, and inclusive place. We believe everybody deserves an environment that supports their ability to explore their creativity, express themselves and share experiences with others.”
Individuals are increasingly crafting their own stories and narratives through games online. And whilst this makes for a busy landscape, it also makes for a very exciting, high performing one, with audiences actively on the hunt for their next experiences.
Luxury: Is it all Fun & Games?
The ultra high net worth individual/customer is not one person. The luxury industry as a whole is very guilty of conflating the U/HNWI into a two-dimensional segment with a homogenous set of needs, wants, behaviours and aspirations.
It would be totally amiss to not recognise that high-net-worth individuals are participating in and seriously enjoying major media formats such as gaming.
In recent years, the luxury sector has started to make waves in the space. Namely Balenciaga with Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow and Louis Vuitton’s partnership with League of Legends.
This has mirrored a recent ‘lightening up’ of the sector post COVID – traditional luxury brands letting their hair down a little, partnering with the weird and wacky, and celebrating new heroes. Once celebrating exclusivity and far-fetched aspiration, luxury has started to reflect a far wider, diverse & nuanced audience – demonstrating more millennial social values and meeting customers where they are.
“According to Bain, the luxury market’s consumer base is 400 million strong this year and is expected to grow to 500 million over the next decade. Younger generations (Y, Z, and Alpha) will become the biggest luxury buyers by far, representing 80 percent of global purchases by 2030.”
In 2022, players around the world spent more than $190 billion on computer, video and mobile games, far exceeding other entertainment categories such as books, filmed entertainment or recorded music as estimated by Statista, the Motion Picture Association and IFPI, respectively.
With such a loyal and engaged audience with buying power, the gaming world offers a huge opportunity for luxury brands to tap into younger generations' trusted entertainment channels.
Play to Win: Our 5 Key Steps for Luxury Brands for Entering the Gaming Space
- LEVEL ONE: IMMERSION
Get involved. Like, really involved. Play. Properly. Understand the worlds and narratives that already exist, and find one that resonates the most with your brand values and audience. The worst examples of brands getting it wrong simply come down to a core lack in understanding of the game and how consumers engage with it. Dive into the motivations, what are fans looking to achieve? Is it goal-oriented or social connection? What are the challenges and pinnacle moments?
- LEVEL TWO: STORYTELL
You’ve identified the right game. You’ve identified the fans’ wants and needs – how can your brand narrative come into play and enhance or deliver against one of these? Will you arm them with the latest avatar fashions to represent their individual style? Or will you create a challenge for players to unlock a limited edition phygital reward? If you’re a hospitality brand, might you develop a virtual space for the community to hang out in?
- LEVEL THREE: INNOVATE WITHOUT GIMMICK
Avoid gimmick at all costs. There’s an inherent tension between tradition and innovation that should be tread upon lightly. Luxury brands represent the epitome of craftsmanship, and their virtual experiences should uphold this – not be glitchy, inelegant products or experiences. This will only deter, and frustrate a highly discerning audience who are seriously passionate about seamless graphics and technology.
- LEVEL FOUR: LIGHTEN UP
By entering the gaming space, brands need to be prepared to have fun. Who doesn’t like a bit of organised fun after all? It’s important you understand how your brand engages with fans in the virtual spaces when commerce/conversion isn’t the final frontier. How does your brand communicate linguistically? How does this create a golden thread with your IRL experience? Or does it just feel really off brand? If yes to the latter, reset.
- LEVEL FIVE: LET IT TAKE ON A WORLD OF ITS OWN
Create opportunities for fans to uniquely build on your experience with user generated content. The gaming sector has a fantastically rich feedback loop between game creators and the players – with games often developing beyond the original idea to be fully fledged worlds. Enable players to shape their own experiences, whilst contributing to yours.
Engaging with The New Luxurian
Timeless luxury brands – those who sit comfortably at the forefront of culture and innovation, who connect to the diverse and discerning customer – must be realistic about the way the world is moving. A new luxurian emerges and new market opportunities come with them. And there's a fair chance that opportunity comes in console form and controller in hand.
Let us help you level up. Our proprietary Brand Interactions framework maps a brand's end-to-end CX to identify points of meaningful innovation and added value. To find out more, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.