For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most difficult times of our lives. Between stay-at-home orders, 150,000-plus deaths, and an economic downturn, real life is, shall I say… shitty. One of the few things that have kept me and lots of other people sane through this trying ordeal? Animal Crossing.
If you've been on the internet at all these past few months, you've probably heard people talking about the Nintendo Switch video game, which puts you, the player, on a deserted island that you build up by borrowing money (or "bells") from Tom Nook, a raccoon dog/construction manager. You can pay off your debts generating income through fishing, catching bugs, digging up fossils, and, as of recently, diving for sea treasures. (Alternatively, you can choose to enjoy the game without giving Nook a cent, living your virtual life breeding hybrid flowers, talking to your neighbors, and chopping wood to build tools and furniture.)
Since real life is pretty much on pause for now, it's natural that brands would be eager to get in on this much-more-ideal virtual world. One of those brands is Tatcha, who is partnering with activewear brand Alo Yoga and Nook Street Market (a trio of players who create custom clothes and accessories for the game) to celebrate the launch of Tatcha's new Rice Wash cleanser. "In light of COVID-19, having a digital-first marketing approach is no longer a 'nice to have' — it’s a must-have," says Sarah Curtis Henry, the brand's chief marketing officer.
Starting August 14, Animal Crossing players will be able to take a trip to Tatchaland Island, the brand's virtual pop-up. The island was created as a way to educate customers about the brand's newest launch, but it also provides an opportunity for folks to escape an uncertain world. See, in Animal Crossing, you don't have to worry about gathering in crowds or obsessively washing your hands. You can just be. Playing the game has been a coping mechanism for many people, and Vicky Tsai, the founder and chief product officer of Tatcha, gets that.
"We’ve always believed that skin care is self-care, but in today's world, we often find ourselves missing the joy of play," she tells Allure. "When the opportunities to create Tatchaland and partner with Alo came about, we were so excited by the possibilities — we loved the idea of giving our community a moment to be a kid again and discover The Rice Wash in a new, fun way."
At a time when influencer press trips and promotional tours can't feasibly be a thing, brands are looking for new ways to promote their products while social distancing. Animal Crossing provides the perfect opportunity. The game has been having a moment during the pandemic, and the option to customize characters and landscapes offers a way for brands to get creative in promoting their wares. It's a reminder that even though we're languishing in the throes of a once-a-century event, brands are still here, and they still have things to sell you. Givenchy, for example, is offering virtual makeup looks in partnership with Nook Street Market.
As a fan of Animal Crossing and a lover of beauty, I had to check out the island for myself. So I hopped a ride on Dodo Airlines and trekked over to Tatchaland Island for an exclusive first tour of the island before it opens up for influencer previews and, eventually, the public. As the Dodo seaplane came in for a landing, I saw the beautiful computer-generated landscape, all gussied up to look like you're actually in Kyoto, the city that inspired the creation of the Tatcha brand.
The island is beautiful, of course — there are hybrid purple and indigo chrysanthemums and hyacinths lining the walkways, and even lovely little patches of flowers on the beaches. When you cross the bridge to enter the island, you're greeted by a lookout point (and yes, there are binoculars) stamped with a giant Tatcha logo.
The bamboo-laden island's (not so) natural landscape is pretty to look at, indeed. You'll love the waterfall action, but you'll love the architecture even more. As I mentioned, it was built to look like Kyoto, and to give you the vibe that you're on your way to experience an elaborate, relaxing beauty ritual there.
Of course, there is a Japanese onsen spa. This one is designed with a hinoki wood interior, complete with tubs, Tatcha beauty stations, and branded merch. In the basement of the building, there is a small lab built to mimic the brand's own where they create their products. The island also has a tea house and "green tea" maze you can get your avatar lost in as well as a highly-screenshottable rice paddy area. It's idyllic, it's relaxing, it's the next best thing to traveling to Kyoto at a time when U.S. citizens aren't allowed to enter most countries.
As I toured the island on a video call with the Tatcha team, they noted the close attention to detail they paid in making sure the island was true to Kyoto. The landscaping, the decor — even the little tea sets you find in the spa — were designed to be as authentic as possible. The Tatcha crew spent the past two months actually playing the game, chopping wood, spending bells, selling fruit, and attracting villagers to the island just like the rest of us have to. When I visited, I even saw Tsai's avatar planting and moving some trees around.
Of course, I couldn't leave Tatchaland without merch, so I headed to the Able Sisters shop (the clothing store on each of the Animal Crossing islands) to pick up an Alo-branded sweatshirt in the Lavender Smoke hue as well as a robe with a Tatcha logo on the back, both of which will be available to consumers when they visit.
Once Tatchaland opens up to the public, players will have the chance to complete a scavenger hunt to win a real-life bottle of the Rice Wash Cleanser, as well as pieces from Alo's Lavender Smoke collection. So at least one thing you enjoy in Animal Crossing can become a reality.
The island's big reveal will happen on August 3, from 12 to 1 p.m. PT on Instagram live and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. PT on Twitch. The Design ID codes for the Tatcha and Alo gear will be available on Nook Street Market that same day if you want to access them from your own islands.
Wanna visit Tatchaland? Be sure you sign up for a time slot starting August 7 at tatcha.com. If you don't have a Nintendo Switch, you're still in luck. You may not be able to visit the island, but you can nab the Rice Wash Cleanser ($35) starting August 3, and Alo's Bae Hoodie ($88) and High-Waist Airbrush Legging ($82) in Lavender Smoke on August 18.
Check out more stories:
Now, watch these makeup artists turn themselves into sunsets:
Originally Appeared on Allure