The celebrity-infused women’s portal PopSugar is looking to blend social gaming, virtual worlds and e-commerce in a new fashion-centric online game. And it’s lined up a slew of big brand names from the world of couture to help.
The site has launched PopSugar’s Retail Therapy, a social online game via which players endeavor to stock a virtual boutique store with real world brands. The new game is available both on Facebook and at Playretailtherapy.com.
When logging on to play Retail Therapy, users start with an empty virtual boutique. Though the game can be played for free, users can opt to fill those empty stores by purchasing virtual clothing items from participating retailers, including Banana Republic, Barneys New York, Diane von Furstenberg, Gap, Juicy Couture, Topshop and Tory Burch. Virtual goods will run users as little as a dollar to $100.
Players can also make decisions on store layout, add customized furniture, and even look to expand down the road into department stores as they compete to earn virtual currency.
Users can always click on specific products and visit retailers sites to make a purchase. Several sponsors, including Diane von Furstenberg and Topshop, have also elected to open virtual stores within the game.
Retail Therapy also includes multiple social elements; friends can visit each others stores to shop, and players can create and share original looks with their friends across social networks.
The idea behind the game, according to Sugar Inc. CEO Brian Sugar, was to find alternative ways to monetize PopSugar’s audience. virtual goods.
“We’re a pretty decent sized Web site, and we are constantly asking ourselves, ‘how can make more money from our audience?’” he said. “The primarily way we do so is through display advertising, but what we’ve learned is that you need other revenue streams.”
Sugar believes that Retail Therapy can entice users to open up their wallets in smaller increments by borrowing elements of hugely popular social games like Zynga’s Farmville, which have successfully enticed millions of users to purchase virtual goods by promising competitive advantages and overall better game play.
Plus, the fact that the game will feature reality based goods should make it more compelling (he compared that dynamic to sports games that feature real world athletes). “This is really the first time that brands of this caliber have been available in a game like this.”