Balenciaga entered the gaming world with the Unreal Engine’s game Afterworld: the age of tomorrow. However, its collaboration with Fortnite has been more admired for the popularity and reach of the latter. With the growing developments in the activities, storyline, and characters; Fortnite is slowly converting into a metaverse. In this article, we will focus on the Fortnite x Balenciaga metaverse collaboration.
Released in 2017, Fortnite is an online video game developed by Epic games. The game is available in three game modes: Save the world, Battle Royale, and Creative mode for gamers to play and create battle arenas. Attracting more than 4 million players through various devices and 11 million subscribers on YouTube, Fortnite is one of the most popular games out there. Here is the latest gameplay trailer to give you an idea of the game.
This is an intelligent collaboration of bringing the best of both brands together. Balenciaga brought its clothing line to the metaverse with Fortnite. It designed clothing for the Fortnite characters which can be bought, unlocked by the winner of a certain level, or by completing certain tasks.
Balenciaga promoted the Fortnite characters and their outfits through 3D billboards across London, New York, Tokyo, and Seoul.
The same billboards can be seen replicated in the game as well.
Epic games sent popular YouTubers and live streamers game skins to try before the release on the platform. These influencers made videos and hosted game challenges on their channels. Collectively, the influencers were able to get around 3.8 million views on their videos.
The fashion house partnership avails high-fashion fabric skins in the Fortnite game. Each of the Balenciaga pieces is seamless and as detailed as you would want a luxury brand product to be. The fabric detail, graphics, and texture seem made-to-fit for the characters. The characters are unique too but the one that stands out is a doggo in a Balenciaga hoodie, Justin Bieber-style oversized cargo pants, and sneakers. Another one is a Balenciaga knight in armor boots from the Balenciaga Fall 2021 collection.
In the game, players can buy visit the virtual Balenciaga store in the Fortnite creator hub, a part of the Fortnite world where players can build their own games. The game has three bundles of Balenciaga. Players can choose skins from Balenciaga Knights and Balenciaga Unleashed. There is a third category that lists Balenciaga accessories and gears. These can be bought at 5000 V-bucks (Fortnite in-game currency). The brand does not aim to just offer a collectible through this initiative but also experience in the metaverse. For example, its Speed 3.0 sneaker turns into a pickaxe, and the Hourglass bag is a glider that players can ride into battle. However, I felt the brand did a little too much with putting itself out on the items.
Customers who purchase a Balenciaga outfit/accessory from the real stores can unlock the same piece from Fortnite too. Quite notably, the clothing is much more expensive in real stores than in digital, for example, the hoodies cost around $750 in real stores. For me, the collaboration seemed like a good tactic for brand awareness but not if Balenciaga is aiming for achieving sales.
The concept is impressive and unique. After the brand created a series of virtual looks for Fortnite, Balenciaga search volumes increased by 49%. Also, the news and YouTube channel received an overwhelming viewership of more than 600k views and a positive response with exclusive features and magazine covers.
However, the response to the game additions from players is mixed. It is to be noted that though the first collaboration with Unreal Engine is promoted as a success, there are some subtle revelations missed out from the equation. Ironically, when the brand put out its runway show T-shirt from the PS5 video game Afterworld for sale, the cost of the t-shirt was higher than an entire PS5 itself.
Overall, though a seamless collaboration and utility are there, the additions to the game by Balenciaga do not seem value-adding. It is unlikely that players will purchase any of the high-priced Balenciaga products just by playing the game.
In a report, Morgan Stanley predicts that the demand for the fashion sector in the 3D virtual world will accelerate to generate additional revenue of $50 billion by 2030. Balenciaga seems to be eyeing it. Although, we are in an early stage of witnessing the collaboration between brands in the virtual world. Having the issue of engagement and utility been addressed by Balenciaga and Fortnite, this can be called a good start to a progressive future for marketing in the metaverse.