Getting in the Game - Benjamin Bellwether Fashion Trends

Getting in the Game

A Bellwether Insight

Photo: Alexander Kovalev
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With further lockdowns looming, brands will be looking for ways to feature their products to an even more ‘at-home’ audience. The renewed interest in out-of-home advertising, like printed billboards and digital signage, in recent seasons will prove it’s not worth the investment. Given the even bigger investment needed to target customers through social ads, brands may be looking to a stalwart of in-home entertainment: video games.

The 4th quarter of 2020 marks the release of two major gaming consoles: the Sony PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. Both have leapfrogged into the future of gaming, with better graphics, sounds, push game updates, interactive gameplay and more that put the user in a truly immersive experience. Reuters reported on the sales of Sony’s new device, online-only to maintain social distancing guidelines, and what happened? It sold out at most major retailers. Some retailers even had lotteries to sell limited stock, and resale websites were selling the consoles for almost double MSRP.

The overall gaming industry is valued at over $159 billion in 2020, a year-on-year growth of 9.3%. It’s expected to reach over $256 billion by 2025. (By comparison, the luxury fashion segment of our industry is expected to generate about $94 billion in 2020, down 11% YoY.) The growth of the gaming industry is mostly fueled by smartphones, about 48% of the global market revenue.

Even the pandemonium that is the novel coronavirus and its effect on the markets hasn’t slowed down the industry. Gaming ETFs (exchange traded funds, or a sort-of grocery cart of shares in several companies that are bought and sold like a single stock) remain strong. Even with the Dow and S&P 500 posting double digit loses, many gaming ETFs are up, while others have only fallen by single digits.

We’ve also highlighted, in our Animation Nation trend, that consumers are primed for the digital world of fashion. So with a trifecta like a captive audience, a growing market and a consumer with money to burn on at-home entertainment…how can fashion brands play in this space? Press R1+A+Z and let’s dive in.

Who’s the audience?

The ‘video games are for kids’ stereotype is just that…a stereotype. Nasdaq reports that the gaming culture reaches 2.7 billion people globally, and expected to rise to over 3 billion in the next three years. We anticipate an even further acceleration from lockdowns and presale figures of recent device releases. An Entertainment Software Association (ESA) report found that 64% of U.S. adults play video games regularly, the average age of the player is 35-44 years old, and they play games for over 7 hours a week.

This is all not to say that gaming doesn’t heavily rely on the support of the coveted Gen Z demographic. Gen Z owns more video game consoles than millennials, about 73% compared to 66% of millennials; and, fuels a community-based approach to gaming as they can connect with there friends over video and audio during gameplay. The use of YouTube and Twitch has increased monumentally in the gaming space, to stream gameplay with host commentary.

It’s also important to note that while female gamers are on the rise, the industry is heavily saturated with men. In fact, it’s part of what makes them…them. According to a survey conducted by Whistle, 68% of Gen Z males agreed that gaming is an important part of their identity. One respondent stated: “I’m part of a community…”

Is anyone playing here now?

Yes…that is a pun. We highlighted, in our Animation Nation trend alert, about early adopters Louis Vuitton, Vetements and Travis Scott getting in the game. The latter, Scott, who held a concert in the popular Fortnite game, had over 27 million players watching the live event. Since then, a range of brands and influencers have entered the gaming space. Lil Nas X held a concert this month on Roblox, an online gaming platform that allows users to program games and play games created by other users. The concert experience had scavenger hunt-style gaming pre-show, and has been viewed over 33 million times.

Animal Crossing— a social simulation game, created by Nintendo, where players can interact with others, pick different outfits and design the world around them— has signed a number of deals with fashion brands. Most recently, Net-A-Porter has it’s own ‘island,’ in which players visit and dress themselves in Isabel Murant outfits. MCM Worldwide, Nike, MM6, Kirin Hats and others have all lended their creativity to dress the player’s avatars. Several Instagram accounts have also popped up to highlight the fashions, with codes in the comments to access teh lewks.

While those brands quite literally got in the game with skins (the clothes the video game characters wear), many brands are focusing on supporting the world around gameplay. Streetwear and athletic brands, for example, continue to be proponents of gaming culture. Puma recently released a Mario sneaker and, earlier this year, struck another deal with an esports league (a group of real people who get together and play games in front of crowds numbered in the thousands) to outfit them during events. They are now in the three largest esports markets: North America, Europe and Asia.

What’s your game plan?

Getting involved with skin development inside the game could prove expensive, if you want to get in with the bigger platforms and games. One place to start would be the merchandise surrounding the gaming world, similar to Puma’s approach. Other esports brands like Andbox and games like Honor of Kings have either developed their own product or collaborated with brands on limited-edition collections. Honor of Kings collaborated with MAC to release a line of lipsticks and eye shadows in China that sold out in less than an hour last year.

Also look to advertise in gaming spaces and events IRL, like MAC did last year at TwitchCon, an annual event hosted by Amazon-owned game-streaming platform, Twitch. They set up a 20×30-foot space to highlight their involvement with The Sims 4. We know, this may not be a thing until the ‘rona is over, but planning for big events like this will need to start well in advance of any actual in-person interactions.

Where would we not go? Into creating your own game. Many brands have tried this in the past with short-lived success. It’s better to collaborate and engage where the audiences already are. As with anything, creating an audience out of nothing is one of the most difficult things a brand could ever do. When starting out, look for areas to leverage other audiences.

A look at the data

Esports searches have been on the rise steadily for the past 5 years, specifically around League of Legends (a top ‘related’ search query) owner Riot Games streaming platform, LoL Esports. Looking at the games that are most popular, we started with some of the most talked about: Minecraft, Fortnite, League of Legends and Animal Crossing. While Minecraft has had the largest interest over time, its search interest has waned; and, it’s being overtaken by Fortnite and Animal Crossing. In comparison to these games, League of Legends’ search volume is far below all three games. Looking at the trend line of League of Legends searches, it is actually losing interest compared to its peak in 2013. That being said, there is still a large audience for the game, and it’s one of the most watched games on Twitch.

Games on the rise include: Rocket League, FIFA 21, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, Among Us and Valorant. Look to sites like Newzoo and Google Trends for what’s on the rise.

A look at our intuition

With so many brands getting involved with gaming and esports, this trend is not going anywhere. The gaming industry is only being fueled by coronavirus and worldwide lockdowns. The big box retailers have optimized their ordering, shipping and delivery arms to meet increased demand for online shopping. Consumers will respond in lockstep by ordering the newest gaming devices on the market this year, along with their webcam, mic set-up, gaming chair, and a case of Spindrift— both of which will be delivered to their door in just 2 days.

The introduction of more widespread 5G will open up a world of creativity for gaming developers, with not only faster speeds but better graphics. Fashion and beauty brands looking to get involved with the gaming industry will benefit from higher levels of detail being able to be delivered over these upgraded broadband cellular networks. Remember, smartphone gaming is what is driving this industry, so 5G will prove to be an accelerant.

With many high fashion brands and mass market players alike getting involved with gaming, we are putting this trend right before “Pre-Peak” on the trend curve. Due to the ever-evolving nature of gaming, we will continue to see brands iterate and reinvent. But, make sure you get in this game now, before you get left on pause.