Gaming and Glamour: The Beginning of an Industry

A pink Xbox One controller
Olivia Alcorn
by: Olivia Alcorn

The interaction between gaming and beauty may not be one that many people saw coming, but in hindsight, all the signs were there. Historically there have been a lot of stereotypes around gamers, especially in how they look, behave, and live. Fast forward to today and the stereotype is dramatically evolving thanks to an ever-increasing popularity in video games; particularly since the pandemic.

With more and more demographics becoming avid gamers, more and more industries are trying to tap into this new potential audience for their marketing. From female characters in video games to brand collaborations, one such audience is women, and one such industry is beauty.

According to Statista the video game market value is worth 5.89bn in the UK, “In 2020, consumers in the United Kingdom spent over 2.4 billion British pounds on digital and online games. In regard to the annual contribution of the video games industry to the UK Gross Domestic Product, it amounted to 2.2 billion British pounds in 2019.”

The accessibility of gaming has only improved with both time and the growth of the industry, which is why we see a spiral effect between the two. Here, we explore the relationship between beauty and the rise of “gamer girls”, looking into what this means for the future of tech.

Global Web Index

Devices

The popularity of gaming is at an all-time high since the pandemic, with a number of devices and consoles proving to be fashionable. Whether this be a console (PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One), PC/Laptop or Smartphone, the number of people gaming day-to-day is on the rise.

A recent study from Global Web Index (GWI) found that internet users aged 16-64 were mostly playing on any console (82% in 2019), although smartphones were clearly dominating, being used by 70% of gamers.

Global Web Index
Global Web Index

Who’s Playing?

Statista’s report in 2021 found that since the pandemic, one audience was becoming more interested in gaming at a rate faster than any other: women.

The number of women playing video games almost doubled from 2019 to 2020/2021, the vast majority of these women being in the main age demographic for gaming (92% 16-24, 82% 25-35). This growingly successful intersection meant a whole new untapped demographic for brands to approach.

Statista

Changing Perceptions

The sudden surge in gaming activity over recent years has shed light on how accessible it really is. Playing games for fun, relaxation, or to pass the time are often attributed to a casual relationship with the activity, whereas any other reasons are seen as markers of a “true gamer”.

This includes things like playing competitively, socially, or to keep the mind sharp, the likes of which have now taken off among audiences not typically associated with gaming.

Though young and male gamers still lead the way when it comes to other gaming motivations, the gap between themselves and their counterparts is not as large as you might think – 6 in 10 older or female gamers say they play games for reasons beyond fun, relaxation or to kill time. 

It’s a promising sign that these growing gamer segments are likely to continue playing games down the line. More broadly, it’s confirmation that gaming has become the norm; cementing itself as more than “just a means of entertainment”.

Global Web Index

These shifts in behaviour are not without a change in attitudes, either. In the past, gaming might have conjured images of a male-dominated activity that was unwelcoming of newcomers. But as the activity has grown more popular, that hostility is subsiding.

Our gaming dataset confirms this; almost half of all gamers in 15 markets say that women should be encouraged to play games, while just 8% say gaming should be male-dominated.

This is something we can attribute to changing attitudes about gender equality in general, but it comes as a side effect of more high profile women showing their interest in gaming, too.

Global Web Index

With this shift in perception and typical demographic, we have seen an increase in brand collaborations with e-sports events, YouTube gamers and consoles themselves. More women are playing games than ever before, meaning the type of collaborations we’re seeing has shifted as well. Here, we take a look at the top gaming and beauty collaborations which have paved the way to these new opportunities.

Global Web Index
Global Web Index

Collaborations

GIRLGAMER x Charlotte Tilbury

GIRLGAMER

GIRLGAMER ESPORTS FESTIVAL is the world’s leading event to celebrate and promote women’s competitiveness in Esports. In 2021, they partnered with Charlotte Tilbury to present an exclusive masterclass via Twitch, titled “Level Up Your Glam”. 

“Charlotte Tilbury’s exciting collaboration with GIRLGAMER brings well-deserved recognition to the female gaming communities’ continued growth, helping gamers integrate their unique style into their streams”, said Andreia Neto, Partnerships Manager of GIRLGAMER. The Puig-owned brand follows NYX, Soap & Glory, e.l.f. and Benefit Cosmetics in exploring the burgeoning video game industry in recent months.

These partnerships signify an effort to recognise and help the female community within gaming through Twitch beauty, and Charlotte Tilbury gets it right. This collaboration is a great way to combine beauty and gaming, providing the awareness needed to this increasingly large intersection. Bravo. 

OPI x XBOX

Launching most recently in 2022, the OPI x XBOX collaboration features a collection of vibrant nail hues you can play with right at your fingertips. 12 new shades in Nail Lacquer, Infinite Shine, GelColor, and a select few in Powder Perfection offer a mix of shimmers and crèmes that will take your nails to the “next level”. 

OPI UK

While the colours themselves are appealing, this collaboration unfortunately lacks depth. It targets girl gamers but there doesn’t seem to be the same purpose of promotion or support for the community as other partnerships we’ve noticed. 

The individual colours aren’t named with much inspiration, and it does seem that the pastel tones are the kind of colours they would be releasing anyway heading into summer. The only bonus for gamers is that U.S. fans can unlock hue-matched, in-game content for Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite. 

This collaboration gives the impression that XBOX users have been brought in as an extra demographic, rather than a target, which can admittedly be a difficult line to tread.

Mac x Sims 4

Moving on to in-game collaborations, MAC launched a virtual makeup palette for use in The Sims, as well as a matching one for sim-lovers to use in real life in January 2021. 

“Finally, your Sims can wear M·A·C too! We’ve joined forces with The Sims to become the first-ever makeup brand available in the game. Head over to Create-A-Sim mode on Sims 4 and give your Sims a free MAC-over using some of these iconic products and shades. In-game glam designed by Director of Makeup Artistry, Romero Jennings.”

MAC Cosmetics

Despite being a very interesting collaboration and the first of its kind, it still received a large amount of backlash online.

Unfortunately, the backlash was justified. This idea held so much potential; when you think of The Sims you expect bold and bright colours, but what Mac delivered was nude and neutral. 

Yes, the neutral colours make it a palette for everyone, but collabs such as this aren’t always bought to be used. The selling point here was the gimmick, rather than being a day-to-day palette. Where were the options for Plumbob Green, or Bella Goth Red? With an audience as intimate as The Sims’ fanbase, there were plenty of opportunities for inside jokes in this product that simply weren’t used. 

This palette could have been far more experimental in its crossover, but instead, the only thing representing The Sims is the logo on the packaging. For collaborations like this, both sides of the demographic should be targeted in earnest, rather than what we see here: the beauty element far outweighing the gamers’ interest.

Colourpop x Animal Crossing New Horizons

In the very same month, Animal Crossing and Colourpop did exactly what The Sims and Mac did not. This collaboration saw the release of 11 products including eyeshadow palettes, lip sets, powder blushes and more. 

Each colour was clearly packaged with love and named after something relevant to the game; Colourpop leaned into the gaming gimmick in a way that made this collaboration much more appealing to its audience. Colours with names like ‘Water Landing’, ‘Island Tune’ and ‘WHO!’ make reference to much-loved elements of the game, and the packaging itself has a heavy focus on the Animal Crossing franchise.

The makeup itself was bright, colourful, and high quality, resulting in two restocks despite being a limited release. This collaboration focused on what’s currently popular in the beauty industry such as full lip kits and intense glitters, and tailored this to their crossover demographic with fans of Animal Crossing. This meant that the range proved equally popular between makeup fans and gamers alike; the perfect storm for a brand collaboration.

Colourpop

Givenchy x Animal Crossing New Horizons

Animal Crossing players were able to beautify their avatars with virtual Givenchy-inspired designs as part of this collaboration in July 2020. 

The ‘real-world’ products behind the idea included Le Rouge Lipstick and Prisme Libre Loose, but the main feature came in the form of a tattoo of the Givenchy logo that can be worn on the face of an Animal Crossing avatar.

Givency

This collaboration takes a different angle to those previously mentioned, as it is more focused on brand awareness than selling a partnership between the two. 

Animal crossing was huge during the pandemic and still remains so now; Givenchy have done a very nice job of showing awareness of that fact. Considering that the majority of New Horizons players are between 20-40, Givenchy have hit their key demographic by using this game as a vessel for their advertising.

Tatcha x Animal Crossing New Horizons

The Summer of 2020 had previously seen the launch of ‘Tatchaland’, a virtual island in the realm of Animal Crossing where players can relax and meditate in virtual spas, bamboo forests and more. Created with wellness brand Alo and Nook Street Market, Tatcha have married their brand perfectly with the relaxing atmosphere that so many people already seek within Animal Crossing.

Tatcha

With this island, Tatcha have really tapped into the “self care” element of gaming. It’s a much-needed oasis for escaping reality. They have combined Animal Crossing with skincare and created an in-game Tatchaland. 

Again, this is far more about brand awareness than it is a product push, and the combination of skincare with the self care relaxation of Animal Crossing work together perfectly in this context. There’s no pressure attached to this collaboration; players are simply invited to relax in a world that’s purpose-designed for exactly that.

The Take Away

All in all, some of these collaborations clearly work better than others. Things tend to go wrong when one influence of the demographic is prioritised over the other, such as in the MAC x The Sims palette or the OPI x XBOX collaboration. In the end, it all boils down to understanding and targeting the new demographic formed at the intersection of the two; it should be treated as an audience in its own right.

When done right, these types of collaborations between games and beauty brands can be a fun way to entice members of one audience into the other, as well as providing for and supporting those who already sit in the overlap. If well executed, this is a winning combination for everyone involved.

The Gamification of Advertising

The most effective way of advertising on streamed content is to make the viewer enjoy the experience. Rather than having 30 second unskippable ads or some starkly obvious product placement, gamifying the experience will naturally make content consumers want to become involved.

Cloak

Cloak are a great example of how effective this can be. The creative directors of cloak are three very well known Gaming Youtubers and streamers (Markiplier, Jacksepticeye, and now Pokimane). Each of these three directors creates collaborations throughout the year, often based around a game that they favour. For example, the first collaboration that went viral for Cloak was Minecraft-themes merchandise, as both Markipler and Jacksepticeye were well known at the time for playing the game.

When a new release comes from the company, the streamers all begin to wear the products during their Youtube and Twitch content. The audience then spots this, and naturally begins a conversation on comments and subreddits speculating what the new merchandise theme will be, which in itself gamifies the marketing for their audiences. The CEO of Cloak claims that after they started their collaborations, sales for the company grew 750%, with sales increasing by a staggering 3900% between May 2019 and May 2020. 

Streamlabs

Twitch as a platform also has other exciting integrations for merchandising like Streamlabs, one of the largest streaming software providers in the business, has recently come out with a store integration that can become a feature of streams. When used, the Merch store links directly to Twitch’s tipping feature (a feature that allows viewers to tip the streamer they are viewing) and allows viewers to purchase products directly from the stream. It then broadcasts an alert on the stream with the purchaser’s username so that the streamer can comment and “thank” the purchaser for buying the product. This plays on one of the largest strengths of Twitch’s tipping feature by gamifying the support of their favourite creators and building in direct interaction.

Using a tool such as this in conjunction with a creator collaboration could be a very powerful strategy for beauty streaming, as you could have the creator show the product live, and then have it purchasable directly through the stream. This would shorten the buyer journey dramatically as there would be no relying on links or promo codes which naturally lend to customers dropping off the buying journey as they go off platform. 

Gaming Influencers

Alongside brand collaborations, we have recently seen an increase in gaming influencers and sponsorship across various platforms, particularly when it comes to streaming.

Each platform has its pros and cons, both for creators’ audiences and collaborators. While in some a sense of transparency between creator and consumer can be prioritised, in others, advertising is less obvious, but this raises the potential to be more effective.

Twitch

Twitch is a video game live streaming platform that has recently begun to explode in popularity, largely in part due to the pandemic. Due to the inability to edit footage, there is a “realness” to Twitch that other platforms, streaming or otherwise, can’t provide. As a live experience, Twitch’s unique selling point is the immediacy and realism of the moment presented.

The overall experience of Twitch is more collaborative between streamer and viewer due to functions such as its live chat, as well as the aforementioned realism. This in turn creates a stronger relationship, so things like product placement or collaborations with brands are likely to form over time, rather than as a one-off advertisement.

Although Twitch is currently a male-dominated platform, women are becoming more and more involved as the service grows. This all becomes particularly interesting when connected to the beauty industry, as it is one often associated with filters and editing. Twitch’s beauty and body art categories grew by 208% between 2019 and 2020, proving that there is a growing want for such content. 

YouTube

YouTube gamers have been seen to have the most collaborations and partnerships, likely due to the ease at which content creators can embrace product placement and ads. 

For smaller brands looking for a quicker way to enter the beauty x gaming space, the prominence of ads on YouTube and the level of targeting available when creating them makes YouTube a good option to explore. 

Contrary to Twitch, YouTube allows a more content-focused, streamlined experience due to the ability to edit before uploading. In terms of sponsorship and collaborations, YouTube makes this easy; many gaming influencers will opt for a short ad-style clip at the beginning or end of a video to state their love of a product. This is a more distanced style of partnership than Twitch, as the ad can be kept relatively separate from the content creator’s own video.

TikTok & Instagram

Often acting hand-in-hand as a content promoter alongside another main platform, TikTok is usually used to post short clips of gameplay that will entice consumers to view a full video on the creator’s main platform.

Due to this short-form content, TikTok also works as a good platform for posting the ad-style clips previously noted in YouTube sponsorships. This works in a similar way to sponsorship posts on Instagram. 

These platforms are better for when a creator wants to keep their sponsorships entirely separate from their content, as opposed to the interaction that needs to be performed to an extent on YouTube, and in full on Twitch.

@clarecallery – Instagram
@yammy_xox – Instagram

The Future of Gaming and Beauty

The increasing popularity of video games among women means a growing opportunity for brands to tap into this new market. Both the gaming and beauty industries have a lot to gain from this crossover, so we can surely expect more in the future. 

In industries as competitive as these, a partnership like this one can go a long way. Whilst the beauty world is helping gaming to become more mainstream among women, gaming platforms equally help beauty brands reach new audiences, allowing them to stand out against their many competitors. 

It’s a combination that makes sense, with both beauty and gaming being focused around creative, experimental mindsets. But this is where the focus needs to remain. 

It’s easy for collaborations to become too revenue focused, which can then become obvious to the consumer. Regardless of platform or content, the ads involved and collaboration itself must remain relatable and relevant to the chosen demographic above all else.

Want to Know More?

Have a look at our white paper for more stats and detail on the future of this intersection, where we discuss the use and effects of gamification, AR, and more.

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