Sugar Inc., the media network behind the popular blogs PopSugar, BellaSugar, and FabSugar, has launched its first online game, Retail Therapy, this week.
Aspiring to become the FarmVille of shopping, this "insanely addictive" Facebook app is designed to help you build your own virtual fashion store and shop at your friends' boutiques.
But while this has already been done before (think Mall World or Fashion World, which boast between two and four million users), Retail Therapy's asset - in addition to its blogs' huge fan base (they attract a collective 16 million unique visits per month) - will be its 'real-life partnerships' with brands including Diane Von Furstenberg, Gap, Banana Republic, Barneys New York, Juicy Couture, Tory Burch or TopShop.
Gamers start by setting up their shop with an initial $2,500 worth of 'coins,' which they use to build up stock for the store. These items are virtual replicas of current real-life designer items that will also be changed according to season - "the ultimate product placement," as technology blog, TechCrunch rightly put it.
Purchasing items this way and collaborating with other stores, you gain 'experience points' that gradually allow you to unlock further levels (of which there are more than 40) and more exclusive products to establish yourself as a reputed fashion buyer.
With opportunities for designer labels to host sample sales or offer special discounts for gamers online, Retail Therapy could develop into a major player, connecting the virtual and the real shopping worlds. The only fly in the ointment? Male fashion fans will initially have to deal with gender confusion: there are only female avatars to choose from.