“For some time, the games industry has been largely misunderstood,” says Trent Naylor, academic coordinator for game design and development at Torrens University. “Many people thought it was about creating video games for kids, but it’s bigger than that. The remarkable engagement games offer as a medium is only just being realised. The realm of games now extends further into interactive storytelling, virtual places for authentic self-expression, and visualising raw data.
The global gaming industry has experienced phenomenal growth recently, especially as more people access games directly from their smartphones. It’s estimated that 43 per cent of mobile usage is spent playing games, and the number of active mobile gamers is about 2.2 billion people, with 57.9 per cent of games played being puzzle games. Perhaps the most surprising part is that most people who play games on their mobile phones are women.
“Humans, by nature, engage in play, and games are a structured form of play. As we get older, we stop playing, but we don’t necessarily lose the innate desire to play,” says Naylor. “A recent shift in Western culture has changed our perception of play, piquing interest in digital games, particularly mobile games (known as arcade games) as they provide a quick dopamine boost when you’re filling in time.”
It’s no wonder then that some of the biggest names in fashion are switching gears to include branded games in their marketing mix. The average time spent playing a mobile game is between three and 13 minutes, depending on the game’s popularity. That is in stark contrast to the estimated eight-second attention span people have for advertising (according to a recent study from Microsoft).
When a fashion brand invests time and resources into designing an interactive experience alongside a games studio, they’ll likely see online search results rise in a matter of hours. Lyst, the largest global fashion search platform, saw searches for Balenciaga jump 41 per cent within 48 hours of its digital game Afterworld launching in December 2020.
Storytelling through games may hold the key for fashion brands to portray their stories through new and interactive mediums that are engaging and inspiring.
Zara and Facebook team up
Zara and Facebook recently joined forces to launch Pacific Game, an augmented reality filter to boost traffic and engagement to Zara’s sister brand Pull & Bear. Players activate the AR filter on social media and move their head from side to side to avoid obstacles and collect clothing as they travel from California to Tokyo. Through game interaction, Pull & Bear intends to build a relationship with a younger audience while satisfying the needs of instant gratification and sharing user-generated content. It is certainly not unusual for Zara to explore alternative marketing methods; as one of the biggest clothing brands in the world, Zara hasn’t spent a dime on TV or billboard advertising.
Gucci Garden: Old meets new
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Gucci has added an interactive digital element to its physical exhibition in Italy. The Gucci Garden in Florence is an immersive multimedia exhibition and gallery envisioned by creative director Alessandro Michele. The brand also made a game available on the platform Roblox until the end of May. In it, your avatar — a mannequin — makes its way through different rooms dedicated to past campaigns, absorbing the different elements. By the end, it’s wearing a one-of-a-kind creation.
If you’re about to leave this article to Google “game designers near me”, wait a moment. There’s more to consider than just overlaying your branding on an existing digital game in the hope it will be the next Candy Crush.
“Games aren’t a replacement for existing marketing activities for the sole purpose of increasing impressions,” says Naylor. “Just because it’s a game doesn’t make it fun and engaging; it needs to be designed for a specific audience for it to cut through.”
A lot goes into game design, and the process evolves as you begin weaving a brand’s story throughout the experience.
“Interaction is the key that sets games apart from other creative industries,” Naylor continues. “Interactive storytelling is fast becoming a popular method for designing games as there’s a sense of familiarity from the beginning, compared to other games where the barrier to entry can be greater in terms of explaining rules and boundaries.”
Enigma by Italian fashion house Salvator Ferragamo is an uncomplicated web-enabled game that showcases a refined aesthetic, much like you’d expect from a luxury brand. The interactivity is simple, and a short yet intriguing story transports you to another place. You feel the high-quality leather bag at your side and the lingering scent of a cigar from a mysterious man leaning against a stone wall. This is the sweet spot between aligning brand, story and game for a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience.
Taking the time to develop an authentic and relevant marketing campaign with a tie-in game will ensure true engagement and brand recall. What games have you been playing recently?