Founders' Stories|Insights|

Gaming and the Sneakerworld

Ryan David Mullins is founder and CEO of Aglet, a location-based commerce platform for virtual and physical goods starting with sneakers.

RYAN DAVID MULLINS, FOUNDER & CEO, AGLET

We are not a game studio and we are not even really a game company. Aglet is in a new category: game commerce.

We appeal to Gen Z , the Roblox generation of 13–22-year-olds. The distinction between the real world and the virtual world does not exist for them. In fact, the name of my company isn’t actually Aglet – it’s Onlife. The idea is that you don’t live online, you don’t live offline: you live onlife. Gen Z are already living in this onlife world and for them gaming is not an escape. Life is just game or non-game. These digital natives are growing up learning how to become an adult, learning how to connect with people, learning how to express themselves and now learning how to purchase things, online. Their lives, experiences and the things they use in virtual worlds are real to them.

Because these virtual worlds have become like social networks, we see exactly the same consumer and signalling behaviours in them as we see in the real world. Aglet encompasses those behaviours and is built around items that are desirable. Much of that desirability is down to scarcity and, in this case, it’s all about sneakers.

High foot-traffic

The sneaker industry is a USD50 billion market but there’s a secondary market that is worth about USD10 billion. Brands release limited editions of around 10,000 units of a particular sneaker but because of the scarcity anyone lucky enough to get a pair can sell it on for five to 10 times the retail price. For example, let’s say Jordan is releasing a limited edition – you can easily have around 5 million sneaker fans globally competing at the release time to buy a pair and, of course, most will be unsuccessful. So now, people are using software bots to try to secure these sneakers and the market has escalated and become so crazy that there are now bots to get the sneaker bots.

The sneaker community seems like a niche but in fact it’s massive and stretches across the globe

The sneaker is a representation of values and an expression of who you are. The sneaker community seems like a niche but in fact it’s massive and stretches across the globe. Having said that, the way the community has developed has flatlined a little bit because it has become so transactional. Aglet is designed to be like the CPR that brings that flat line up again and offers a new experience of it using games.

The generation of sneaker fans aged 13 to 22 don’t often have the capital to invest in this real-world market but Aglet has created an in-between world that uses location-based mechanics, a bit like Pokémon GO. When these players walk around in the real world, their physical activity is converted into an in-game currency called Aglet and the more they walk the more Aglet they earn. They can then you can go into the sneaker shop in this virtual world and buy virtual sneakers.

Some sneakers are better than others and lower-level sneakers will, just like in real life, start to get dirty and wear out, earning fewer Aglet. So, using our map in the game, players must walk to certain stations in real life and when they check in their sneakers are cleaned and repaired. They can also go to locations to unlock a treasure that might be special sneakers or even win physical sneakers.