Last week, Xbox announced a partnership with OPI, one of the most popular nail polish brands. The deal, announced last week, brings new nail polish colors named after gaming references to cosmetics stores. OPI decided the seasonal colors, and Xbox worked with the company to come up with shade names like “Achievement Unlocked” and “Heart and Con-soul” to reference gaming culture. For their purchases, gamers can unlock in-game content in “Forza Horizon 5” and “Halo Infinite.” The unusual collaboration has raised eyebrows on social media, with some Internet users praising the creative design, and others expressing confusion or dismay over the idea.
While gamers have been accustomed to commercials for snacks such as Doritos and beverages such as Mountain Dew, some corporations are forging new marketing arrangements these days. Companies like Xbox and Nintendo are now marketing cosmetic products for gamers, such as nail paint and eyeshadow, in addition to generating action-packed trailers in which the “Call of Duty” character Adler sips Mountain Dew Game Fuel amid a backdrop of explosions.
While many of the most famous and recurring gaming partnerships, including fast food and energy drink brands, are aimed at men ages 18 to 30, the billion-dollar gaming and beauty industries have increasingly teamed up in recent years. Colorpop, a California-based cosmetics brand, worked with Nintendo’s Animal Crossing franchise last January to release eyeshadow palettes and glittery gold gel reminiscent of the island’s in-game currency, Bells. Xbox previously worked with Mac Cosmetics last October to create three Halloween looks, recreating characters from “Sea of Thieves,” “Psychonauts” and “Halo.”
“We’re in this moment of really overcoming that idea of the gamer being just that one demographic, that preconceived notion of the gamer being in the basement, and usually a man, 18 to 30-something,” said Marcos Waltenberg, global partnerships director at Xbox. “It’s much more than that now. … We’re now tasked with talking to a lot more people than we used to as a company, a few years ago.”
“The Tetris activation was inspired by the Y2K trend… We created the collaboration to give Gen Z and millennial consumers the feeling of nostalgia for the addictive, iconic game,” said Nathalie Gerschtein, president of consumer products division at L’Oréal USA, referring to a trend that brings back early 2000′s fashion and beauty. “Historically, women and underrepresented groups haven’t been addressed in the gaming space and we want to be the catalyst for change. We see an opportunity to move beyond the traditional male gamer stereotype and further expand these communities, ensuring they’re safe, diverse, and inclusive.”
Not all product initiatives have launched without a hitch. Last October, Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, a YouTube Gaming streamer, started a blue-light skincare line, RFLCT, which was canceled after internet users questioned the science behind the claims: that the products could protect skin from the blue light emitted from screens. Joanna Coles, co-founder of Ideavation Labs which worked with RFLCT, when reached to share an update in January, declined to comment. At the time, in October, Coles said in a statement to the Post, “It’s hard enough for young women to start a business in a male dominated economy. I am confident that if a male gamer had come up with RFLCT he would have been roundly applauded.
In January of 2020, Benefit Cosmetics, which makes brow and mascara products, partnered with the esports company Gen.G to produce online shows about women esports players and streamers. Sephora and other make-up companies have invested in augmented reality to allow people to try on products like lipstick and eyeshadow remotely more easily. Too Faced, a make-up brand owned by Estée Lauder, released an eyeshadow palette in the shape of a gamepad on December of 2020 with shade names like “Easter Egg” and “Cheat Code.”
“Too Faced is tapped into Gen Z and Millennials from multiple angles, and we always aim to meet the customer where she is and where her interests lie. Gaming, and on a broader level, technology in general, is always inspiring and interesting to us and influences how we market our products,” said Tara Simon, global general manager at Too Faced. For OPI, collaborating with Xbox was a chance to reach a younger audience — Gen Z gamers. Over half of young women ages 14 to 21 are gamers, according to a 2018 survey conducted by The Post and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Among teen and young adult competitive gamers, 39 percent are female.
“[This deal] allows us to reach a younger audience and appeal to the male demographic,” said Emi Moreno, senior marketing director at OPI North America. “While the gaming industry has become more inclusive, it is still predominantly male, an audience that has recently sparked interest in the nail industry. We’ve seen lots more men getting into nail care, whether it be simple, groomed nails or nail art.” Mountain Dew, which has historically been a partner of gaming companies, said that it has targeted gamers for over a decade and that its ads have paid off. Seeing the beauty industry become interested in making new deals made sense, it said. “The gaming community is growing every day, expanding to audiences well beyond what was once considered core gamers. Gaming really is a part of pop culture—the audiences for watching livestream gaming content and esports have exploded in recent years,” said Pat O’Toole, vice president of marketing at Mountain Dew. League x Louis Vuitton. 100 Thieves x Gucci. Video game fashion is becoming a big business. Most of the Xbox and OPI nail polish shades have already sold out online. Analysts said these collaborations are aimed at attracting a broader audience to games, and to reinforce to gamers that companies know what they like.
“A major game platform is looking to catch up for lost time by expanding beyond the traditional stereotypes of Mountain Dew and Pringles crossovers,” said Laine Nooney, assistant professor and historian of video games at New York University. “There’s a question about whether female gamers will respond to these kinds of brand partnerships in the reliable way men have. Do female gamers experience the same brand loyalty and construction of identity around gaming that men do? And if so, is this the right product?” Ardina Bacovic, 32, a chiropractor, runs a small business selling controller-shaped soaps and other video game-related beauty products. She currently earns about $15,000 a year selling soaps on Etsy and from her office, and plans to eventually open up a soap store.
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