Surfing on the Animal Crossing Hype: The Convergence of Luxury Brands and Video Games

Valentino x Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Source: Valentino Twitter account

The new Nintendo social simulation game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, has become a hit around the world since its launch in March this year. The popular game allows players to control their own avatars and live in a deserted island. Notably, players are able to design avatars based on their own fashion tastes. From drawing their own outfit to downloading designs of others with a simple code, players enjoy the freedom to express their style identities, which creates a potential marketing opportunity for fashion and luxury industry.

Luxury fashion in the virtual world

Luxury house Valentino seized the hype by partnering with Kara Chung, artist and the founder of Instagram page @AnimalCrossingFashionArchive, to re-create the brand’s pre-fall 2020 collection in Animal Crossing. Faced with challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and store closures, Valentino aimed to re-engage with the brand’s community digitally through showcasing their collection in the buzzy video game. The move received positive reaction from its Chinese audience – the post that reveals design codes gained more than 30,000 views on WeChat, far exceeding the brand’s usual traffic on the platform.

Valentino Pre-Fall 2020 collection re-created in Animal Crossing
Source: GQ Middle East

In the same vein, Net-a-Porter China collaborated with multiple Chinese designer brands including Calvin Luo and MÄRCHEN to create looks in Animal Crossing. In China, in order to download the looks, players need to access Net-a-Porter’s official e-shop on Tmall and make requests of customer service. The partnership not only resonates with the young Chinese clientele by promoting local designers through video games, but also encourages consumers to visit Net-a-Porter e-shop.

An opportunity in difficult times

Apart from Valentino and Net-a-Porter, luxury big names such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs have also tapped into the gaming sector and showcased their collections in video games. While the convergence of luxury brands and video games is not something completely new, showcasing creations in games seems ever more relevant under today’s circumstances, as the strategy acts as a way to make up for the lack of physical customer experience due to store closures. Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, Animal Crossing has been integrated into many users’ daily routine as they have a surplus of time due to the lockdown, and creating in-game fashion fantasies – whether if it’s designing original patterns or re-producing luxury brand looks – is an integral part of it. On Xiaohongshu, China’s leading UGC social platform, the flooding posts sharing fashion inspirations and clothing designs in Animal Crossing underline players’ passion for virtual fashion and the potential for digital fashion in video games to thrive.

Animal Crossing outfit design post on Xiaohongshu
Source: Xiaohongshu

China and its tech-savvy consumers

The trend of in-game fashion is particularly seen in countries where consumers are tech-savvy and are willing to embrace digital innovations. With 900 million internet users and 600 million video game players, China appears to be one of the top choices for brands to surf on the video gaming hype.

According to Net-a-Porter in an interview with Business of Fashion, the company believes in the positive feedbacks of its collaboration with Animal Crossing in China, as Chinese luxury consumers are often “tech-savvy”, “younger” and “more open-minded towards new ways of communications”.

Source: Net-a-Porter Weibo

As recent years witness more and more digital innovations, luxury world has gradually abandoned its old way of seeing video games: geeky, boring and associated with nerds. As in the case of the collaboration between Animal Crossing and luxury brands such as Valentino and Net-a-Porter, gamification unleashes an innovative approach for the industry to communicate and connect with consumers, especially in the Chinese market.