Is gaming the new lipstick?

Wiktoria Wójcik
2 min readFeb 6

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💄The lipstick effect is a theory that in times of crisis or recession, sales of small luxury goods esp. lipstick, rise.

I think in 2023 we will change lipstick for games. 👇 Here is why

In the 2023 recession, the small luxury for many people will be games, not perfumes or lipstick.
Below are 2 theories on why the lipstick effect works and my POV on why games fit.

▶Theory 1:

In bad times we want to treat ourselves with something small, yet luxurious that will last us a while.

🎮How games fit:
Games are not cheap. They last a long time. Playing the newest games not waiting for a sale means being on top of the current trends and just feels good.
The popular reasons to play are that video games bring joy (93%), provide mental stimulation (91%) and stress relief (89%) — that’s the feel-good luxury.

▶Theory 2:

According to prof. Juliet Shore lipstick effect is about:
“The thrill of buying in an expensive store, indulging in a fantasy of beauty and sexiness, buying ‘hope in a bottle.”
By some even expanded to preparing yourself to find a more well-off economic partner.

🎮How games fit:
In this case, it’s mostly about in-game items and DLCs.

>Fantasy of beauty? ✔
Just ask my cat-girl FFIV character.

>Expensive department store?
🦑You can buy a squid cap for $80 on Roblox.

>”Hope in a bottle?”
🦸‍♂️You are the hero here, that’s the premise of games.

>Showing off to other people and making new relationships?
✨That’s the reason 50% of players play MMO.

Gaming just fits.

📈 And bonus case in point: the games market already boomed 26% up during the last crisis (COVID in 2020–2021).

Of course, games won’t “be the lipstick” for everyone.
But with remote work and travel prices raising I think that at-home gaming entertainment will become a more popular small luxury in 2023, especially for those who already play.

I definitely lowered my spontaneous spending but bought a game (Cult of The Lamb) as a “treat myself” thing recently.

💄And what is your lipstick?

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PS. This post was inspired by Georgia Stevenson’s 2023 prediction made in the excellent Rex Woodbury’s newsletter. Definitely give both of them a follow!


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Wiktoria Wójcik

co-founder of inStreamly, Genki.me & Streamcoi. Writing about GenZ, metaverse and gaming — especially from the angle of marketing.