On mobile apps, in WeChat or online, retro-inspired and graphic games offer a way for players to engage with brands and gain rare product access.

What’s the game?

Although luxury has historically tried to fly above the dealings of everyday life, they are increasingly having to come down to earth in order to demonstrate their relevance to Millennials and Gen Z. How? In China, Japan, Korea, the US and Europe, where gaming is part of everyday life, luxury brands have recently taken to new fields to equate the excitement and achievement of playing video games with the thrill of owning one of their products.

Chinese millennials and Gen Z are avid gamers, having grown up with arcades in every city and home consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox and the Sony Playstation. Asia-Pacific has been one of the fastest-growing regions for the gaming industry, with China’s market worth over $36.5 billion in 2019. Growth in gaming is outpacing luxury’s projected 4-6% growth rate, according to Bain and Altagamma’s latest Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study. The key area of growth is mobile gaming, providing a useful foothold for luxury brands keen to engage with younger consumers.

Winners’ circle

Luxury has been drawing on gaming culture in branding and product design over the last few years. Louis Vuitton featured a character from the blockbuster game Final Fantasy XIII in its spring/summer advertising campaign, while clothing from Karl Lagerfeld, Balmain, Judith Leiber and Roberto Cavalli has been featured in hit mobile game Kim Kardashian Hollywood. In 2019, Moschino launched a collaboration with long-running game The Sims 4 to introduce catwalk-inspired pieces for avatars to wear. Now, major brands across the luxury market are introducing their own games.

Playing with make-up

Attention-grabbing pop-ups from Chanel, Lancôme, Guerlain and YSL have been creating a buzz around their beauty products. The Coco Chanel Game Center featured arcade-style games like Pong. Winners gained exclusive gifts, while the retro-inspired space became a magnet for selfie-takers. YSL took a similar tack with its Beauty Hotel pop-up, where players competed for points that could be converted into exclusive gifts.

Guerlain collaborated with Sunrise Duty Free to create an addictive Tetris-style game that attracted over 10,000 players within 10 days of its launch, while Lancôme worked with Alibaba to launch an augmented reality scavenger hunt, where players had to scan products from their Génifique range to win limited-edition gifts.

As well as becoming a fun way to promote new products, luxury brands are using games to boost global engagement and even to gamify product drops

Luxury levels up

As well as becoming a fun way to promote new products, luxury brands are using games to boost global engagement and even to gamify product drops.

Hermes has created H-pitchhh, a bright and fun game app based on the traditional game of throwing horseshoes, cleverly referencing the brand’s equestrian heritage while encouraging younger consumers to engage with the storied brand.

To build on the streetwear direction of Louis Vuitton’s menswear line under Virgil Abloh, the brand has launched an 8-bit-style scrolling game called Endless Runner, where players must make their way through 1980s New York. Gucci is also taking a retro approach to luxury gaming, with the addition of arcade-style games to is app, with Gucci-fied versions of iconic games like Pac-Man.

In 2018, Kenzo introduced Shopping League, a contest to win access to buy one of 100 pairs of exclusive sneakers. With 20,000 competing in the first round, Kenzo continued the league in 2019 as a way to access a limited-edition capsule collection of T-shirts and sweatshirts.

By creating a gaming experience for customers and fans, luxury brands are able to build a buzz around their brand, as well as making their heritage seem more relevant to young people. And with the global gaming market growing fast, it’s a savvy move to invite new customers in the luxury fold.