Absolut deadmau5 is a new VR experience featuring electronic music artist deadmau5 (aka Joel Thomas Zimmerman). Released yesterday on Oculus Rift, Gear VR and Google Cardboard, fans get a brief chance to see 360 video of deadmau5’s studio and concert, and complete a number of tasks as you guide a low-poly likeness of the iconic mouse-eared musician to the night’s concert venue.
The free app is a blending of 360 video and a third-person real-time rendered mini-game, a project created by Absolut as a part of their ‘Absolut Nights’ ad campaign. Cardboard headset manufacturer Knoxlabs also signed on by offering a limited edition deadmau5 Google Cardboard for $9.95.
Playing the experience on my Oculus Rift, I got the very clear sense that nothing I did in the app really mattered—from driving on the freeway to dodging sound equipment carts in a night club hallway—it all seemed like a trick to make you think you’re playing a game when in reality you’re just being guided by the hand through a hollow advertisement.
And experiences like Absolut deadmau5 aren’t really a new thing for virtual reality, as marketing firms and businesses have been descending upon a necessarily captive audience of VR users since the developer kit days in hopes of getting more eyeballs on their wares. Experiences like Kite and Lightning’s Insurgent VR or the Within app’s more recent Mr. Robot 360 experience show that ‘brand engagement’ isn’t a dirty word if it offers something of substance to the user.
After trying to crash my car into a semi-truck to no effect, purposely failing a mini Guitar Hero-style rhythm game to no effect, and then automatically jumping over every errant cart headed in my direction, I found myself in the club with a handful of fans waiting for me to start my set.
Approaching some people on my way to the DJ stand, I graciously snap a selfie with a couple enthusiastic concert-goers. After the chance meeting, a starstruck fan hamhandedly utters the Swedish vodka’s catchphrase: “Now that was an ‘Absolut’ night!”
If you’re like me, you’ll ask yourself “Why the hell am I doing this?” several times before reaching the grainy 360 video of deadmau5 shaking his butt at the concert venue.
The only real answer I can think of? Because it’s free.