The Next Frontier of Luxury: Live Role Playing

Key points to remember:

  • According to the Meituan Research Institute, the market value of China’s live role-playing game or LARP industry was over $1.5 billion in 2019, twice as much as in 2018. craze was sown following the popular reality TV show, Who is the murderer, where celebrities played live roles.

  • The growth of LARP-focused apps such as BaiBianDaZhenTan 百变大侦探 and Woshimi 我是谜 means the trend can also be easily transferred online. This provides an easier and more accessible entry point for luxury brands.

  • From Hermès to Ferragamo to Penhaligon, iterations of the trend have popped up in China’s luxury sphere, attracting Gen Zers who favor secret identities associated with gambling.

It’s official. LARPing, which means live role-playing, Where Jubensha (translated as “Script Murder” in Chinese), is now officially a huge hit with Chinese younger generations. And, in true Chinese fashion, the trend seems to have exploded overnight, seemingly out of nowhere.

The principle is quite simple : players assume character roles and interact to solve a crime, often in studio settings. The activity relies on a well-written storyline that gives players or “characters” stories and the ability to dress up.

FFashion, which is already based on passion, desire and fascination, has a lot of crossover with the infamous. Society’s appetite for real crime shows, books and podcasts has also snowballed; the film Gucci House watch Lady Gaga is based on the actual murder of Maurizio Gucci and scheduled for release in October. And now Chinese youth are just taking the next step: acting out real-life scenarios.

The seeds of this new craze were sown in China following the popular reality TV show, Who is the murderer. This saw groups of celebrities take on live role-playing and over the seasons slowly became a hit with younger fans. According to Meituan Research Institute, the market value of sector exceeded $1.5 billion in 2019, twice as much as in 2018.

At Who is the murderer, famous cast members can choose to play a suspect or a detective. Photo: Weibo

With growing demand for immersive experiences from Gen Z consumers, the growth market for LARPing and LARPers – on the back of games like King Avatar Where Love O2O explodes – only increases, because the marks continue to define new digital connections with consumers.

The Murder Mystery Script concept is a new approach to gameplay and immersion. The umbrella concept is also rooted in real-life interactivity and it can be played on any level, from around a table to the most glamorous and totally immersive weekend getaways. Studios where these live-action games can be played have been popping up in every major city in China, and their founders are also young – sometimes in their twenties.

So what can the jumping industry learn from China in LARP? The hunt is on as Daily Jing examines how luxury can benefit from this growing trend.

Community and immersiveness create the foundation for a luxury experience

Since the advent of COVID-19, the trend has accelerated: local media reports that in November 2020, the total number of LARP studios nationwide numbered 30,000, representing a 150% growth from 2019. For luxury brands ever eager to leverage community experiences, LARPing presents a new opportunity.

Gu Xiaolei, chief innovation officer at Fabernovel, a global innovation agency, says LARPing is gaining fans precisely because it offers younger generations (even the latest millennials love it too, she says) a new activity. offline group, which is often lacking in China: my observation, there are a lot of social elements in these trending activities.

Gu continues, “Kids in a single town can do this with friends or people they don’t know, so also with this role-playing game, it kind of simulates the idea of ​​the social network.” Plus, it’s also immersive, she explains, in that you can take on an identity and a personality and a role, just like you would online, and it’s that idea of ​​taking on an identity that matches perfectly to the preferences of young people.

“You can live this life in two hours, but that’s not necessarily what you’re offline. You’re experiencing something that’s not you, picking a character and creating a character and that’s a typical Gen Z trend. It’s really a trend that’s coming and it can be interpreted in different ways,” she adds.

How luxury can get involved

Indeed, there are many viable avenues for luxury in this sector. Siyuan Meng, a staff writer who explored the LARP for online publication RAYS, says there are multiple opportunities for brands to test the waters by entering the space. “We could see this taking place via fancy LARP studios located in high-end hotels that have deep set design, sound and visual effects, or can be linked to fancy LARP costumes,” he suggests. she.

Additionally, Meng recommends tapping into the custom costume and prop market or even creating a branded space at LARP’s immersive studios (especially those that offer overnight stays). “They could partner with high-end LARP studios for events or design LARP-themed giveaways. I think luxury brands such as Dior, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari and Swarovski could all be interested, given their focus on Gen Z customers.”

Additionally, companies looking to explore the sector should be careful given the movement’s association with the burgeoning Hanfu movement, as some studios offer vintage or historic settings. IiMedia Consulting’s report in January this year showed that the number of fans of Hanfu – or traditional clothing – in China and the market are growing rapidly. He predicts Hanfu’s fan base will reach 6.894 million in 2021 and market sales will reach $1.6 billion.

Meng agrees that this will be a trend for luxury “given the current Hanfu craze and the made-in-China movement”, but says that in itself carries “dangers for brands without in-depth knowledge of Hanfu” and the location. Therefore, marquee events, glamorous weekends, and overnight stays can provide luxury opportunities, meanwhile, it’s wiser to avoid scripts rooted in historical storylines.

Luxury’s efforts so far

As Gu points out, some iterations of the trend, such as treasure hunts and escape rooms, have already taken place, which shows the appeal of the craze. “Similar concepts are appealing – defining personas to interpret your product but also playing on the text. British perfume house Penhaligon’s has a storyline with a collection of animal heads called Portraits which features different animals as characters. As well, At Boucheron, the cat also went on a treasure hunt,notes Gu.

Penhaligon’s personifies its perfumes as characters of the British aristocracy. Photo: Courtesy of Penhaligon’s

Harness the halo effect of Who is the murderer Pin up, Hermes organized an immersive experimental exhibition, “Wanderland” in Shanghai. The company has transformed the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art into an elaborate treasure hunt. Buses transported Hermès customers flagship store at the museum, at specific time slots, hidden rooms with clues for an immersive drama that evokes the feeling of a character – this time, that of a 19th century detective.

The growth of LARP-focused applications such as BaiBianDaZhenTan and Woshimi 我是 means that the trend can also be easily transferred online. This provides an easier and more accessible entry point for luxury brands. This season, Salvatore Ferragamo launched an online game called Enigma, which reveals the brand’s Spring 2021 collection as players explore Italy as a detective. The digital game engages players by having them solve four puzzles while exploring multiple locations (and landmarks) in Milan.

Ferragamo challenges players to solve four puzzles while exploring multiple locations in Milan. Photo: Courtesy of Salvatore Ferragamo

Finally, as Gu points out, the murder script movement relies heavily on text, scriptwriting, and storytelling. Valentino recently overturned traditional marketing strategies and launched the first text ad in the fashion industry; this emphasis on writing confirms that brands must have strong narratives to retain consumers. As Meng suggests, companies could support LARP authors as an entry route into the industry.

With the rise of “Guochao”, some international players are losing their shine, as they can no longer simply rely on celebrities and KOLs to tell their stories. Immersive events with smart, intricate storytelling at their core can help luxury hone their fashion narratives and potentially capture Gen Z roleplay in the process.