Starting this week, couture-minded fans among The Sims‘ 80 million-plus players can wear the exact Moschino sweatshirt as their avatar while playing the life-simulation video game, the result of a partnership between Electronic Arts and the Italian designer. But while a Sim—or virtual human—can don the luxury pullover free of charge as they run errands or stop by the office, breathing video game fashionistas will have to shell out $595 to buy the real, rather than virtual, hoodie.
Moschino premiered its Sims-inspired capsule collection last weekend during a Coachella desert party, which featured a roller rink, famous DJs, and celebrity appearances, in addition to the catwalk showcasing the designer’s pixelated clothing and accessories. Collection prices range from an $85 phone case to a $1,295 backpack. (And that’s in USD, not Simoleons—Sims currency. The game’s monetary cheat codes cannot be applied in the real world either.)
This is the latest version of high-fashion product placements in video games. Moschino has created an entire collection paying homage to a game, instead of just featuring game characters in marketing campaigns.
“Moschino is an iconic brand and fashion is an essential form of expression within games; this felt to us like a great fit,” The Sims General Manager Lyndsay Pearson tells Fortune.
The partnership further validates the sales potential from virtual reality. “We are seeing the trend accelerate,” says Marie Driscoll, Coresight Research’s managing director of luxury and fashion, in a Fortune interview.
High Fashion and Video Game Collaborations
In 2012, gamers were surprised to see Final Fantasy characters appear in a 12-page Prada fashion spread. Five years later, Louis Vuitton decided to welcome Final Fantasy’s Lighting as the face of its own 2017 ad campaign—even tasking the character with press interviews at the behest of the luxury brand.
“Prada and Louis Vuitton’s collaborations were simply early iterations of what is likely to be a growing trend of luxury using collaborations to reach new target audiences and adapt to shifting market conditions,” Driscoll said.
Other luxury brands are creating games of their own to gain brand recognition with younger demographics. Hermes released a mobile game in China last April in which each new level was branded in a different Hermes style. This could be significant for the French luxury house since mobile games play a role in developing the identities of Chinese millennials, Goldman Sachs’ research indicates.
“The fashion and luxury industry has the unenviable task of pleasing two masters,” Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and principal analyst for Forrester, tells Fortune via email. “While an aging Boomer and Gen X make up the bulk of value today, Gen Y and Z represent the future lifeblood of this category,” Chatterjee said. He cited a UBS Group AG survey that shows 85% of the growth stems from 18-to-35-year-old consumers, accounting for 45% of the business in about five years.
“The Sims-Moschino-Coachella triumvirate is evidence of a luxury label contorting to stay relevant to the burgeoning consumer base of younger consumers, especially in markets like the United States and China that account for a large share of luxury sales,” Chatterjee said.
From In-Game To IRL Purchases
While these collaborations seek to attract new customers, Sims enthusiasts on social media express mixed reaction to the designer’s virtual duds.
“My first reaction was excitement,” Deli, a 28-year-old Australian Sims 4 player, who asked to go by her first name, shares with Fortune. Deli’s better known as Deligracy to her 886k YouTube subscribers, who watch her play the game on the video platform. “It’s an exciting avenue for The Sims and gaming in general to enter another sphere of pop culture in high fashion…It’s a marketing opportunity not a merch opportunity. Moschino does a lot of collaborations to saturate their name in the market, perhaps gaming was an area they wanted to dabble in.”
However according to Deli, “I have noticed some of my audience’s reaction was that they were disappointed they couldn’t afford to buy the items, as fans of The Sims.”
I LOVE designer fashion even though I can’t afford it, it’s the aesthetic and creativity I indulge in not literally buying and wearing it.— Deligracy (@Deligracy) April 10, 2019
“The discussion around Sims fans, on Twitter, seems to be disappointed,” costume designer Abby Mudd relates to Fortune via Twitter DM. “A lot of the fans of this game right now, are teenagers, and obviously it’s out of their price reach. A lot of them wish it was done by Forever 21. I totally see their perspective…Though for me, this designer collab is a dream, I do purchase lots of designer pieces, throughout the year.”
Mudd, 30, didn’t hesitate to buy Moschino’s $220 earrings shaped like the game’s iconic Plumbob, a symbol levitating over Sims heads to denote who players are controlling.
Forgot the Moschino x Sims collection was dropping. But was able to get what I wanted the most. pic.twitter.com/IUY9Rcj6dc— (((abby q))) (@itsabbyyyyy) April 13, 2019
“I also wanted the Plumbob swimsuit but it was sold out in my size pretty quickly,” Mudd said. “When I wear the earrings”—which are no longer on Moschino’s site, perhaps due to high demand—”I hope to bring back the nostalgic feelings of this game, to myself but also other people who played this game growing up, and those who do still play.”