By Bethanie Ryder 1 December 2022
Luxury houses across the globe are leveling up their efforts in gaming collabs — working with titles from Zepeto to Fortnite. It’s proof that the sector is still at the top of its game when it comes to winning over fans.
With the video game market estimated to exceed $200 billion (1.4 trillion RMB) in 2023, appetites for attractive avatar wardrobes have soared. “Fashion is supposed to be worn,” Charli Cohen, founder and CEO of metaverse platform RSTLSS and her eponymous fashion label, explains. “By collaborating with the gaming industry you already have the existing audience, but also the utility to use fashion in the way it’s really designed for.”
In 2021, Balenciaga teamed up with Fornite to release a series of branded skins, marking one of the first collaborations of its scale in the gaming world and Fornite’s first-ever luxury partnership. It was an instant success thanks to accessible price tags, (from $2 to $12, or 14 RMB to 85 RMB, for cosmetics) and introduced the Spanish house to approximately 350 million global players — over 60 percent of whom fall within the younger demographic.
Fast forward to 2022, and the likes of Gucci, Burberry, and Ralph Lauren have all jumped upon this most competitive of bandwagons, putting their own stamp on the rising status of high-end wearables. Luxury has found its match. And so to mark a year of these groundbreaking tie-ins, Jing Daily rounds up some of the best gaming collabs to hit screens over the past year.
Dior x Gran Turismo 7
The Dior x Gran Turismo 7 collaboration brought a new genre of gaming to the attention of luxury fashion. Photo: Dior
The French luxury giant announced it would join forces with racing title Gran Turismo 7 in July. Bringing the hallmarks of Dior to the virtual racetrack, canary yellow uniforms and a customized vintage car were polished with the brand’s iconic logo alongside reinterpreted “Diorizon” shoes (the latest footwear silhouette from the house, which combines its couture spirit with sportswear).
The drop was well-received, thanks to the collaboration’s key focus on realism, customization efforts, and the preservation of traditional cues from the racing aesthetic. In fact, Alexis Arragon, founder and CEO of next-gen skins company Skinvaders, describes the collab as one of his favorites of the year. “It really caught my attention as it’s the first time a luxury brand has entered a different genre of games,” he says. “It’s amazing to watch the manufacturing process of the whole outfit made in the Dior ateliers, and then the digital version come to life in Gran Turismo 7.” But beyond the impressive designs, the longevity of the collection leaves a lot to be desired. Little information is available on whether the partnership will become long-term — if the garments aren’t interoperable with other versions of Gran Turismo, the value of investing in short-lived commodities is questionable.
Ralph Lauren x Fortnite
For the first time ever, Ralph Lauren redesigned its signature polo after joining forces with gaming giant Fortnite. Photo: Ralph Lauren
American giant Ralph Lauren joined the Fornite hype earlier this year to release a “phygital” fashion collection. The drop featured a redesigned in-game signature polo — the first the brand has ever done — set to also be available in stores as a physical counterpart in December.
The collaboration cleverly merges the in-game community with the IRL luxury audience by opting for a cross-boundary experience, allowing netizens to bring their online identity to the physical one. It will be interesting to see whether the virtual designs will end up falling into the gimmick merchandise bracket in reality. Something Web3 has been trying to navigate since the rise in phygital product lines. Nevertheless, the offline garments will likely be invested as “collectibles,” as well as functioning as the “badge of honor” of an exclusive online cohort.
Gucci x Roblox
Gucci dived deeper into its longstanding relationship with Roblox by launching permanent residency “Gucci Town.” Photo: Gucci
From branded digital spaces to a virtual Dionysus bag selling for over $4000 (28,300 RMB) in-game, Gucci is an impressive example of this trend. This year, the line stepped up its Roblox residency with the permanent space “Gucci Town,” a development on the heels of its previous Gucci Garden initiative, which generated over 20 million visitors over the two weeks it was available.
Arragon thinks the ongoing partnership will pay off in the future. “This huge audience might be too young right now to invest, but if those players enjoy an experience made by Gucci now, in five years when they can purchase something from a luxury brand, they might choose them over a competitor, because they remember that they had fun playing the Gucci experience in Roblox,” he told Jing Daily exclusively.
Bulgari x Zepeto
Luxury accessories label Bulgari tapped Asia’s gaming community by partnering with Zepeto on an exclusive in-game experience. Photo: Bulgari
Navigating Asia’s landscape may be a challenge in itself, but with China’s gaming industry alone worth $41.3 billion (296 billion RMB) in 2021, luxury brands should look to follow in Bulgari’s footsteps. Tapping South Korean Zepeto’s 150 million registered users, the accessories powerhouse launched a virtual world on the metaverse platform complete with both online and offline experiences. The digitally-rendered landscape included a pop-up store and a café designed to replicate the Italian label’s physical retail outlet on Korea’s Jeju Island.
The opening of the space was hosted by Blackpink member Lisa, Bulgari’s global ambassador and Korean idol. This was well done: incentivizing virtual experiences with benefits like celebrity interaction is a surefire way of generating a large audience. As Web3 gains mass appeal, companies have begun to recognize the possibilities these personalities can bring to the metaverse.
Burberry x Minecraft
Following its collaborations with Blankos Block Party and Honor of Kings, Burberry moved into the mainstream gaming landscape and joined forces with Minecraft. Photo: Burberry
Arguably one of the hotspots for luxury companies, Minecraft is back on the industry’s radar after its highly-anticipated release with Burberry. November’s collaboration is the next phase of the British group’s deep dive into the virtual terrain. “Burberry: Freedom To Go Beyond” comprised a series of immersive in-game experiences with a physical capsule launch available in seven exclusive stores across the globe. Players could explore a “Minecraft-ed” version of the label’s London birthplace, as well as access the Minecraft Marketplace to purchase the IRL garments.
The launch was the virtual revival the trenchmaker needed, following its disappointing run with Chinese video game Honor of Kings in 2021. Although the house has since worked alongside Blankos Block Party, moving into the world of Minecraft will undoubtedly accelerate its in-game presence and introduce Burberry to an entirely new community.
Balmain x Need For Speed
Racing simulation channels proved a popular point of call across the luxury industry this year, an example being Balmain partnering with Need For Speed Unbound. Photo: Balmain
In collaboration with EA’s Need For Speed Unbound, French name Balmain dropped a series of limited in-game wearables to the channel. Inspired by the couturier’s most iconic designs, it also dressed a number of in-game characters in its Fall 22 collection. Taking a leaf out of Dior’s book, the collaboration featured a specially-wrapped Lotus Evora in exclusive Balmain designs.
The campaign did well at evoking a lifestyle that, to most, isn’t accessible in the offline world. But the drop was met with mixed reviews across socials. “I like where the game is going, but don’t you guys think it would be better to focus on the cars rather than the clothing?” Instagram user @fcalle52 commented, while @llen_215 wrote, “I’m low key hyped to see how you can customize your character.” Despite conflict, it was refreshing to see a brand move away from a more heavily populated route (i.e. the likes of Roblox and Fortnite) and opt to cultivate its presence elsewhere.