How 'Digital Merchandise' Can Complement Real-World Branded Items
Video games these days aren’t so much “here’s a goal, beat the boss, get to the end” as much as they are “live this parallel life online.” Without those final boss fights, games can keep players on the hook for, well, ever. And with that digital proxy comes demand for customization. You want your digital alter ego to look like you, or at least a version of you.
That’s why apparel companies and retailers are starting to make “digital merchandise,” i.e. clothes for your video game character online. PacSun just rolled out a whole line of branded “apparel” in Roblox, one of the biggest games on the planet.
— Dan Berthiaume (@DBerthiaumeCSA) June 11, 2021
That digital merchandise is appealing for brands because, for one thing, with no actual manufacturing, shipping or warehousing required, it's cheap to produce. For another thing, there's an enormous base of potential customers.
Here’s Dan Berthiaume for Chain Store Age, explaining the appeal and demographics:
According to a recent report from DFC Intelligence, more than 3 billion of the 8 billion inhabitants of Earth (roughly 40% of the global population) play video games. Nearly half of gamers mostly or exclusive play games on mobile devices, and data from Statista shows roughly three in 10 U.S. gamers are in the desirable 18-to-35-year old bracket, with 72% age 18 or older (i.e., old enough to make purchases without needing parental permission or assistance). And Statista data also reveals 45% of U.S. gamers are women, defying the “male nerd” stereotype.
Even if the product is made for free, it now gets the logo out there, and incentivizes players to buy something from that brand in real life, the same way any physical promotional product works.
Companies like Disney have explored this dynamic through real-life merchandise that’s also available within a video game. For example, you can go to the “Galaxy’s Edge” theme park and buy a lightsaber that matches the one you customized in “Jedi: Fallen Order.” Disney also included some real-world merchandise in "NBA 2K21," and Uniqlo partnered with "Animal Crossing" to create a line of merchandise available both in-game and in stores.
Even things like NFTs, which purely exist in the digital world by their very nature, have some intriguing possibilities for the promotional products industry.
And no, this does not spell the end of real T-shirts as promotional products, the same way that virtual concerts within a video game like Fortnite will not permanently replace live music. It’s complementary. And with social media tie-ins as important as they are for a successful promotion, it’s worth exploring the possibilities of every virtual outlet to complement your physical promotion.