In a world in which brands are constantly reinventing themselves and striving to remain relevant and authentic to consumers, it comes as little surprise that the gaming world, with an estimated 2.5 billion enthusiasts, has become a go-to sector to engage with. Gaming originated as a niche activity but has since become a fast-growing part of the global economy. In the UK, it accounts for over half of the entertainment market and is described as bigger than film and music combined. In Europe, Newzoo estimates that it will be worth $43 billion by 2022.
A sector that leads rather than follows, it is often the originator of technologies that filter down to consumer markets and, consequently, interfaces with other parts of the creative and technology eco-system. This is also a world characterized by its community. Young, digital, and global, they comfortably inhabit the interface of the physical and online worlds, defining how we consume entertainment and increasingly much more.
For those less familiar with the gaming culture or the industry, the rise of esports has raised awareness. Defined as multi-player video gaming, played competitively for online and offline spectators, esports has a growing structure, which includes players, teams, broadcasters, and sponsors. While it has similarities to traditional sports models, it has many distinguishing characteristics, not least how the fan community engages and interacts.
While gaming is the newest kid on the creative block, it is at the forefront of innovation for other sectors. In-game concerts by artists such as Marshmello and Travis Scott have demonstrated the capacity for creative collaboration with the music industry. The fashion industry entered the gaming scene early on: Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Riot Games around League of Legends shows the capacity for brands to align. The arrival of new fashion apps like Drest and Ada is pushing the relationship between fashion and gaming closer. There is also much to be said about and the recent popularity of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons has demonstrated that being imaginative and coupling family-friendly gaming with a playful approach to fashion is highly appealing. One key question remains: To what extent will the digital world become the place where we go to consume? From The Fabricant’s digital clothing to Aglet’s limited-edition virtual sneakers: Is this a new sustainable future for fashion? With brands large and small set to explore this space, a key focus will be understanding the relative social and environmental impacts of these business models.
What is the effect on the built environment of this creativity and disruption? It is likely that physical spaces will increasingly create seamless experiences for consumers, thereby allowing them to align the physical world with their digital engagement. These spaces may mirror the fun, escapist nature of the digital realm. Large scale venues are likely to be designed to enable a broad range of immersive experience and entertainment for new fan communities. On high streets, we might expect light, bright, and welcoming spaces designed for casual gamers, which reflect the synergies between gaming and other creative industries. Lastly, we may see the emergence of mixed-use ecosystems in which how we live, work, learn, and play are influenced by gaming and this creative lens. Beyond COVID-19, clearly much of the future is unknown. Our engagement with the physical and digital worlds, our awareness of environmental and social impact, as well as how we consume and do business are all changing. There is much left to understand, but given the significance of gaming, it is likely to be central to the conversation.