How brands used video games as a “catwalk” this past year?

Eva Engines
7 min readMar 30, 2021


For a year we have been living an unprecedented period. For those that dared to think outside of the boxe, the extraordinary circumstances afford an unparalleled stage where many things are reinvented. The fashion world is obviously not an exception, and on the contrary, the year 2020 is a big turning point in the digitalization of the industry. If you are a gamer, you probably noticed the gamification of the highest fashion brands. If not, let’s see what this is all about.

What is gamification?

In marketing, gamification is a technique inspired, as its name suggests, by video games. Brands can use some specific video games’ elements that are popular amongst their potential customers, who almost fell as if they are playing a game while they are interacting with a brand. The elements include certain popular characters, scoring points, competition with others, etc… They not only make the experience more playful, but they adapt bringing together tradition and novelty.

In the fashion sphere, this kind of technique is mostly employed in the desire to build loyalty but also to propose a different shopping experience.

New customer loyalty x Pop culture

The typology of luxury customers has changed in recent years and will continue to evolve, According to the 2019 rapport of The True Global Consumer Insight (Boston Consulting Group), in 2025, 50% of luxury customers will be millennials.

Millennials and the GenZ represented 55% of video gamers in 2020 according to Statistica. Because of the lockdown last year, the video game market grew significantly compared to the pre-Covid 19 period,from 126,312 million US dollars to 135,799 million US dollars (+8%). Fashion brands have understood that millennials and Gen Z are very engaged on video games platforms and have seized the opportunity through their communication strategies.

New communication areas

The pandemic obliged social distancing and brands had to think how to reach their already loyal consumers that wanted to be involved in everything their favorite brands were doing, but also newer clients such as millennials and Gen Z who have a great potential as future customers. In addition to a more classic Instagram post or a commercial, using video games features was then a great way to influence both audiences.

The sanitary crisis forced the entire world online, leaving typical fashion followers with a hunger for excitement to replace the theatrics of physical shows. Seeing collections through the eyes of a virtual character in a uniquely curated world is a brand new concept, but it also simulates the physical experience of going to a show.

Gamification allows brands to create new communication platforms for their image. Some brands even dared to create their own video games as B-Surf by Burberry to promote its TB Summer Monogram campaign.

B-Surf is a racing game where the users, dressed in Burberry new monograms which are also used to decorate surfboards, try to compete in a virtual course. During the first two weeks after the launch of the game, players could try their chance to win real surfboards and accessories from the British Fashion House. This kind of communication campaign encouraged the growth of the brand community and enforced loyalty.

Outside of the official Fashion Week calendar, it was the turn of Balenciaga to release its own video game, Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, as their Fall/Winter 2021 show’s collection. The game is taking the player through an allegorical game played in 2031 in which he or she is invited to go through several areas, starting with a Balenciaga store where all characters appear wearing pieces of the collection. Five levels need to be reached to be awarded the title of “Master of Two Worlds”.

These two examples illustrate how creative a brand can be with the gamification process. While some years ago Luxury Fashion Houses would prefer to remain very exclusive and out of reach for most, the new vision is to have a far broader influence which is one of the benefits that gamification offers.

It is a bit obvious that brands do not improvise themselves as video games designers simply for the pure entertainment of millennials, so apart from a strong communication campaign what is the strategy behind this effort? The objective behind gamification is to lead the player into a real e-commerce site and to get them familiar with the brand.

Another way to consume fashion

Who said gamers were not stylish and did not like fashion? No more clichés!

By embracing the visual codes of gaming, the fashion industry is able to create a cognitive and artistic link with new technologies for the benefit of gamers.

The gamification of the fashion industry also involved dressing up characters in existing games.

For example, this year, Gucci launched its Off the Grid campaign with the Sims 4 version of the game by offering a digital wardrobe for the players. This campaign for the Italian label’s circular fashion line echoed the collaboration Moccino x Sims 4 through a (paid) clothing pack. These collaborations allow you to download each garment or accessory to style your avatars. Like that, even in video games you can be stylish!

Burberry is developing social retail initiatives in China through the world of gaming by investing in the Chinese blockbuster Honor of Kings, developed by Tencent. The game’s multiplayer arena brings together more than 100 million gamers every day, on its mobile interface and half of them are women. The Chinese president of the brand explained their will to establish a seamless relationship between fashion and game wolds by telling authentic brand stories and allowing players to share common experiences.

The life simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizon is another example and has been in the news for the past year. It has made it possible to virtually escape from the different lockdowns globally for many. In fact, we absolutely needed it: a virtual world where all the concerns are minor reminding the carefree hours of childhood. Once again, fashion brands have managed to pull out all the obstacles and seize an invaluable opportunity. For example Marc Jacob and Valentino created free downloadable virtual outfits in the game. This initiative also allowed Valentino to communicate its inclusive character by allowing a large public to discover and wear (digitally) its creations.

Video games as catwalks… Who would have dared to imagine this a few years ago?
Fashion brands never cease surprising us. In 2020 they allowed us to escape mentally and very scary period. The virtual world helped us travel within these platforms at a time during which lockdown prevented us from free circulation. But do not think they only act for our small personal pleasure! It is not only a great and innovative way to communicate about the feeling that luxury sparks but also to earn money while stores can close at any time. And yes, if you don’t have (yet!) the money to buy a designer item, it doesn’t matter anymore: you can get it in a video game for your personal avatar! Exiting right? Especially for the brand, let’s not lie to us. As we said before, gamers are more and more numerous. So don’t neglect the advantages of those campaigns.


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