Remember when The Sims meant dropping your little pixelated guy into the pool and then watching it slowly drown having deleted the ladders in a bout of nihilistic sadism? Simpler times, when Michael Bachelor was the undisputed MVP. In the last 15 years or so, the game has moved on somewhat, to the point where a Jane Fonda avatar and hyped Gucci gear now exists.
Gucci recently announced the in-game recreation of its Off The Grid collection (Fonda starred alongside the likes of Lil Nas X in the Harmony Korine-shot campaign), designed by custom creators Grimcookies and Harrie. Fashion in The Sims is not a first — last year, you may recall, Jeremy Scott and Moschino collaborated with the game, but that was done through official channels, rather than players. It almost feels like Gucci has pulled a fast one, bypassing prohibitive advertising structures that would have been considered the norm before.
On Gucci’s part, it’s no doubt saved a ton of money by enlisting modders. But that’s academic. Just being in The Sims is a no-brainer and an easy way to connect with the collection’s target demographic of environmentally-conscious Gen Z and Millennial consumers. Partnering with the game officially wouldn’t have felt as authentic, or even edgy. Partnering with the community is an easier sell to, well, the community.
The fact a global fashion powerhouse has decided to work directly with Grimcookies and Harrie sets an interesting precedent going forward. As per a verified tweet, the collaboration between Gucci and the modders was actually done with the permission of EA (how that works is unclear), which could blow the door wide open for brands paying customizers to make them unofficial ad content in life simulation games (think Animal Crossing). The likes of Grand Theft Auto Online are awash with mods that violate dozens of copyrights, but they mostly go unnoticed because they’re too small-fry. How long will that goodwill last? And how would they even begin to regulate it?
Coming back to The Sims – you have to admire the chutzpah on Gucci’s part, but at the same time, the thought of companies tapping third parties — and that’s the big difference here — to have their product featured is further proof that nowhere is off-limits, virtual or real life, when it comes to brand marketing. Gucci today, Prada or, um, Walmart next?