Last week was fukubukuro week, and it's got me thinking. In Japan, fukubukuro season means that many people were lining up outside of their favorite shops for hours (or in some cases days) for the chance to buy one of a limited number of lucky bags. Malls and departments stores like the famous Shibuya 109 were packed with shoppers crossing their fingers and opening parcels full of entirely random items. A strawberry milk-colored case from Liz Lisa might contain several different dresses, blouses, and accessories, while a highly coveted Apple fukubukuro was guaranteed to contain an iPod at the very least.
In spirit, it's not so far removed from the gacha machines you may find in the same neighbourhoods as those stores year-round -- the same gacha machines that have become a staple of the Second Life shopping experience. It's about as hard to find a shop in SL that's never had a gacha machine as it is to find an avatar who's never played one; meanwhile, fukubukuro are done by only a handful of (mostly Japanese) shops, like Edelweiss' pictured above.
The concept of paying a reduced cost for random items generally worth far more remains the same, so why has one flourished in the virtual world while the other currently flounders?
For one thing, setting up a gacha machine in Second Life is pretty damn easy. Load it up with merchandise, pop in your gacha script of choice, and the randomized delivery is completely taken care of. However, multiple randomized objects in a package (like a proper fukubukuro) currently have to be placed manually. That means that if you plan to sell a few hundred bags you have a lot of highly monotonous work ahead of you.
Another problem is that it's much harder to manage 50 avatars in a virtual store than it is to manage 100 people in a real one. If the sim you're on can even support that many, it will still be utter madness with zero lines/queues to keep things orderly. It's a recipe for a very bad customer experience, even if you're lucky enough not to have to resolve dozens of failed transactions and help overeager shoppers locate purchased bags that they just plain forgot to pick up... And I doubt anyone would be that lucky.
There's one more thing to consider: When you have a favorite shop in SL, there's a good chance that you own most of what you want from there. We're not talking about expensive dresses and iPods and the like. We're talking about things that cost anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars. Most hardcore fashionistas don't even bat an eyelash at picking up exactly what they want, when they want it. Would a fukubukuro have anything to offer them?
I would love to see fukubukuro get a stronger foothold in Second Life fashion, but the truth is that it even though it could, even though it should, it may just never happen for a variety of reasons. Let me know what you think: Would you line up at your favorite virtual shops to buy a random bag of goodies? If you're a store owner, would you ever consider selling them yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below!Tweet
Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Timesand has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan andwith pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.