Complex Networks may put its annual music and fashion extravaganza online this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s giving up the food trucks and festival vibe.
Instead, the culture-focused media company has turned its virtual event into a sprawling video game-like venue, where attendees can customize avatars and switch between stages of the event, Shopify-powered ecommerce stores, and even food trucks with actual restaurant deliveries for users in certain major cities .
The ComplexLand Festival takes place from Monday to Friday this week. The event offers panel discussions with a focus on entertainment, fashion and culture. ComplexLand is hosted by celebrities such as comedians Desus & Mero, rappers Lil Yachty and Fat Joe, and former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. Around 70 brands have signed sponsorship deals to support the event.
“It’s kind of a one-stop-shop for commerce and digital content – all under the Complex umbrella,” said Neil Wright, director of collaboration and experience at Complex. “[This year] really taken [the festival] to another level and has evolved it in a way that really delivers, whether you’re a gamer or just immersed in street culture – you can customize the experience to suit what you want to do. “
Much like an RPG, the experience begins with a customization station where users can choose the dress and appearance of their avatar with the help of an automated stylist. Some of the clothing options are of course branded. For example, Gucci sponsored a pair of virtual sneakers.
The mechanics of virtual space also draws on other elements common to video games, such as non-playable characters who support avatars and “travel fast” between the four boroughs of the map. A ticker on the top keeps attendees informed of the time and location of the video link for upcoming events, and a chat feature allows people to communicate with each other at any time.
Steffen Christiansen, Creative Director at Jam3, said the technical challenge is to create an experience that incorporates Complex’s “three main pillars” – game mechanics, focus on street culture and festival feel – in a way that “feels” “Makes sense.”
The team was inspired in the concept phase by a Travis Scott virtual concert that took place at the start of the pandemic as part of the Fortnite game. As the team developed the concept, Wright said he wanted to take the futuristic aesthetic even further.
Wright tried to translate this virtual space by having real-world experiences and developing those elementary touchpoints into something that felt “a little more whimsical or other – a little more futuristic”.
ComplexLand will ultimately not fill the revenue stream created by the cancellation of the physical ComplexCon festival in the fifth year of the event, Wright said. On the one hand, entry to the online experience is free in order to cast the widest possible network. And the list of 70 brands sponsoring the event is less than half of the 175-180 sponsors the media company typically puts together for its physical festival.