Pressing the right buttons – Why beauty is looking to the gaming industry

11-Mar-2022

It doesn’t initially sound like a match made in heaven, does it? The image of the gamer that most of us tend to visualise isn’t usually that of a typical beauty industry customer. However, as is often the case, the stereotype doesn’t reflect the reality. The gaming industry has a lot of synergy with beauty and cosmetics.

Gamers are not what you expect

Firstly, let’s look at the statistics surrounding the gaming industry. There are around 2.5 billion gamers worldwide, and the industry overall is worth an eye-watering $256 billion. In the UK, according to OFCOM, 62% of UK adults spend time playing games and those respondents identifying as female made up roughly half of these. The statistics that will probably overturn the stereotype most, though, is that the average UK gamer is likely to be in their 30s with a well-paid job, a homeowner and married with children. While the media image of the teenage, male, snack guzzling game player may prevail, the truth is that the base demographic of the gamer is actually something very different. Rather than the reclusive figure with no interest in their self-image, a gamer is highly likely to be culturally aware and have an interest across a range of social activities such as theatre and live music. In short, gamers are very much a target market for the beauty industry. Not only that, but the fact also that they are gamers creates a common link through which the industry can reach out to them.

Games and beauty

Probably the best-known example of cross-pollination between the two industries came in July 2020 when Tactha, known for their skincare range, made a significant contribution to the popular Animal Crossing game on Nintendo Switch. Taking inspiration from the city of Kyoto, they gave their name to Tatchaland, a pop-up destination, as part of the campaign to launch a new cleanser. Givenchy Beauty has also taken a step into gaming by giving players the option to alter their Sims avatars to match their own make-up look. Since then, several other brands have adopted game or gaming related approaches to their marketing. This ranges from product placement, through to creating specific video content around steamers and influencer in the gaming space.

The problem of stereotyping

While there is clearly a lot of synergy in the two industry sectors, there is also an elephant in the room, and it is one with a rather negative aura. It would be naïve of an industry that has struggled for many years to shed problems around representation to not recognise the same issue in the gaming world. The bottom line is that there are a number of high-profile games that carry a lot of baggage around issues of misogyny and representation of minorities. The entertainment industries with traditionally closer ties to the beauty industry – film, for example, have been seen to acknowledge their potential and actual bias and sought to correct them in a very public arena. The cosmetics space and related industries such as fashion have taken huge strides towards a more inclusive definition of beauty with great success. Gaming, however, seems to still be fighting this battle at an earlier stage. The gaming industry is often accused of underrepresentation or stereotypical treatment of racial groups. Probably the most disturbing, though, is the concern over the treatment of female characters in games developed by some of the major publishing houses. While many of them are addressing this problem and looking to actively change things from the white male bias in the development process upwards, the problem persists. While it does, the beauty industry will need to be careful of damaging associations as it tries to coexist with it.

The gaming world is an opportunity

With such high numbers of the target avatars being immersed in the gaming world, the opportunities are clearly there to be developed. Cosmetic companies are already exploring gamification in the form of interactive online services such as virtual makeovers with great success. The next step, particularly as the metaverse of artificial reality seems on the horizon, is surely to embrace the gaming world more fully to inform their customer base.

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With the gaming space offering such an opportunity, it seems unlikely that the synergy between the two industries will not continue to grow. With such potential for benefit to both markets, it’s an exciting prospect.

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