As the physical and digital worlds continue to blur, brands have an opportunity to innovate within the video games sector
With customisation becoming increasingly sophisticated in the real world, a space is opening up for brands to inspire within the digital one.
For both gaming brands and the gaming community alike, 2018 has been the year for photo mode. Initially introduced as a casual tool with which gamers could capture screenshots in-game, a vast improvement in graphics and environment design, not to mention the addition of filters and effects like shutter speed and aperture, has seen photo mode become a standalone selling point for a number of mainstream titles.
In recent months, photo mode has reached such a peak that certain publishers have launched dedicated microsites highlighting player photos, while projects like Shoes For Virtual Feet have launched, collating images of simulated footwear captured through photo mode. ‘The photo modes seem to be getting more sophisticated every year, to the point where they’re now as useful a tool for professional photographers as they are for casual players,’ says Leo Sang, photographer and founder of the Shoes for Virtual Feet project.
While the pull of photo mode is clear for players, it also offers an untapped opportunity for brands. LS:N Global’s Avatar Influence microtrend outlines the way in which digital avatars are changing consumers’ interactions online, particularly within the fashion sector. As witnessed with digital influencers like Blawko and Lil Miquela, the barriers separating the digital and physical worlds are increasingly blurred. Just last month, online multiplayer game PUBG collaborated with clothing and lifestyle brand A Bathing Ape to offer a number of purchasable branded items in-game.
What if players could share a high-quality screenshot of their gaming character holding a branded drink, wearing a recent streetwear drop in an virtual apartment that aligns with their design tastes?
Paired with a tool that allows players to take, edit and publicly share images of these products within realistic environments, the opportunity for brands begins to materialise. What if players could share a high-quality screenshot of their character holding a branded drink, wearing a recent streetwear drop in an in-game apartment that aligns with their design tastes? With customisation and co-creation becoming increasingly sophisticated in the real world, a space is opening up for furniture, fashion, technology, and food and drink brands to innovate and inspire within the digital one.
Stepping back to consider the wider gaming sector, it’s a market with vast potential. By 2021, the global video games market is estimated to surpass a total value of $138bn (£105bn, €121bn), while some 64% of the US population describe themselves as gamers (sources: Statista, Nielsen).
It also comes at a time when downloadable content (DLC), which typically includes new in-game skins, character outfits and aesthetic materials, is on the rise. According to game distributor Capcom’s 2017 annual report, the DLC market value increased a staggering 121% in the seven years preceding 2017, and took 54% of the market share in the same year – a 34% increase from 2011.
As the realism of video games continues to improve, so too will the sophistication of marketing opportunities within the games themselves. Paired with a shifting consumer mindset that aligns the value of their digital assets with what they own in real life, as well as the social kudos that can be built from purchasing, customising and sharing these assets online, and the future potential for brands is hard to ignore.
Josh Walker is a freelance writer specialising in fashion.