Tucked in a far corner of the vast Los Angeles Convention Center, past the crowded bar, past the babes dressed like Star Trek crewmembers, past the massive HD sets blasting trailers of the upcoming versions of Assassins Creed and Call of Duty stood a small unassuming booth. There stood a pair of well-dressed execs from one of the most prominent media companies in the world—and surely the most unexpected attendee at E3, the video gaming world’s mecca.
But there were the Condé Nast suits alongside several back-end gaming tech companies, looking to attract some foot traffic among the throngs of reporters and industry insiders checking out the latest in first-person shooters.
The company was there to promote Fashion Hazard, a mobile game debuting next month on the iPhone and iPad, with Android devices to follow. Hazard is a product of Condé Nast’s Interactive Product Group (IPG), which incubates smaller digital products not tied to individual magazine titles. (It’s not Vogue, the game, in other words). Aimed at teens and young women (think under 25), Fashion Hazard allows players to live out a runway model fantasy, then triumph over the hazards of the high-flying life on the catwalk.
You start by choosing one of four different model names and identities, (like say Estee), then embark on a career that takes you through New York, Milan, Paris and London—if you can survive.
Advancing through your model career means walking hazardous runways while dodging objects thrown by hostile crowds and playing touch-screen wackamole during “photo ops” as the paparazzi attack.
In each city, your model avatar (three female models and one male are available) faces unique challenges, all aimed at capturing those escapist model fantasies. “It’s fun and sassy,” said Juliana Stock, senior director marketing and product development at Condé Nast, who stood out among the throngs at E3 for being a) female and b) dressed like a grown up.
“We know narrative is really important to this demo.”
According to Stock, Condé is planning to charge a “nominal download fee” for Fashion Hazard. But as the game builds an audience, the plan is to further monetize by incorporating virtual items which can be sold via microtransactions, as well as advertisers. “You can easily seen lots of sponsors fitting in this game,” said Stock.
Like, say, Jimmy Choos? Actually, a brand selling virtual flats would probably be better. After all, as a demo proved, it's tough to navigate a runway (even with an iPad) when you're wearing digital heels.