Both artists and brands are still very much finding their feet in the rapidly evolving world of virtual reality, with the variations of use and quality ranging from next-level to nauseating. Just about the only thing we can count on is plenty of experimentation to test the limits of the technology and audience tastes.
But if there are two general areas most can agree are conducive to epic VR experiences, it’s gaming and concerts. Both offer a definitive point of view, and both benefit from a truly immersive environment. This week, Absolut and Deadmau5 have launched a new effort that aims to capitalize on both in a pretty unique way. The brand and artist have created an interactive VR game that invites fans to join Deadmau5 inside his world for a night out on the town, while listening to an exclusive new track.
Created with agency Forever Beta, and Unit9–who have done VR work for Lexus, Samsung, Stella Artois, among others–the game starts off with Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman) inside his home studio, then morphs into a ’90s Nintendo-like VR game where players become the artist trying to get to a secret show. If you can make it into the club, it becomes a VR concert film with you in the booth with Deadmau5.
Starting on June 30, fans can pre-order a limited edition Absolut Deadmau5 cardboard VR headset, that the brand is actually selling for $18. The app will be available for download on all major platforms, including iOS and Android starting July 27, and Deadmau5 will also perform a live set live in NYC on the same day.
Absolut Labs director Afdhel Aziz says VR allows the brand to go on a deeper, more immersive journey around the idea of having an unforgettable night out.
“Absolut Labs was created so we could experiment with new forms of content and technology: VR, AR, Internet of Things, wearable tech,” says Aziz. “I think these are all channels that brands are going to have to learn to be fluent in faster than everyone thinks.”
When looking at potential artists to work with, Aziz says Deadmau5 stood out not only for his own interest in gaming and tech, but that of his legions of fans as well. Zimmerman has long broadcast streams of his music-making sessions online for fans to enjoy, and joined Twitch last year.
“Joel (Deadmau5) is the perfect partner for this because he is so progressive and forward thinking when he comes to technology,” says Aziz. “He is a dedicated gamer and he gave so much great creative input into this experience, based on his knowledge and passions. And his fans are not only devoted, but also very technologically savvy themselves, as evidenced by their adoption of platforms like Joel’s Twitch channel for experience. So we felt that they would be very open to trying out something brand new.”
For Zimmerman, the Absolut project is a fun reflection of his life in music and gaming. Aside from the giant Space Invaders tattoo on his neck, he’s done music for Playstation games, appeared in DJ Hero, and Diablo 3 features his electro-mouse head as a secret item. “It’s no secret I’m a huge gamer,” Zimmerman says. “Video games have always played a major role in my life. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create my own VR gaming experience, especially when it meant I could bring a broad set of fans on an interactive journey alongside me, and share my music with them in a whole new way.”
So much talk around marketing and advertising right now is around the idea of creating content people will actually want to watch. Not be interrupted to watch, not be tricked into watching, but actually want to. Here, Absolut has gone a step further and is betting people will not only want to watch and play Absolut Deadmau5, actually pay for the limited edition VR viewers.
Aziz says that monetizing an aspect of the project is part of the overall experimentation process. “I think that brands have to realize that their content has to be as good as the next Star Wars trailer or the next Drake video, in order to hold people’s attention,” says Aziz. “We really wanted to raise the bar to make something that wasn’t just so good you’d play it several times; but so good you would also get all your friends to play it, too. And based on that ambition, we decided to test the waters on monetization by seeing if his fans would want to have the ‘full experience’ by also purchasing a limited edition headset. We thought about monetizing the content but a) their isn’t a market for revenue-generating VR content as yet, and b) we wanted to be as inclusive as possible so that anyone could access the experience for free.”