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.

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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.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Ryan MacDiarmid

    Huh. Well someone clearly didn’t watch any of the developer videos before playing this to actually understand the purpose of it! Man, people are too lazy to even learn a little more about projects before judging them.. smh

    • Mark Godfrey

      In isolation, that is an odd statement to make. To evaulate a game, I don’t watch developer videos that could be inherently biased. I [try to] read independant reviews. Even if it is free, no-one likes having their time wasted.

      • Ryan MacDiarmid

        Well, that’s the thing; this ISN’T a game. I get it, its structured like one, but in terms of there not being consequences (i.e. not being able to crash into cars) or having any sort of struggle, it isn’t one. This is even confirmed in said dev. videos; you see, deadmau5 didn’t just show them a picture of the mau5head and let them do whatever; he worked with them directly because he’s trying to learn the new VR technology, but didn’t have the resources to do so on his own. He has stressed a lot that this is pretty crappy, because it isn’t a refined game; they made it in a few weeks. This is nothing more than an extremely simplified experiment. Yeah, I’ll admit, the branding is there and the placement of the vodka’s catchphrase at the end did make me cringe a bit, but don’t think this was intended as a refined and professional VR game. Also, this was mostly intended for people like me, who can’t afford headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTCVive; for some cardboard and my iphone, this did impress me a bit. Yeah, it isn’t some sort of revolutionary experience, but it is the first toe dipped in the water of a new generation of tech. And… sorry if I came off a bit passive aggressive. I probably need to get some of this caffeine outta my blood.

        • Raphael

          “Passive-aggressive” is something else entirely. If you have a habit of telling someone you’re going to meet them at a certain time but you’re always late then that is passive aggressive. If you have a habit of saying things that hurt others and then claiming you don’t know why people are upset with you… that’s passive aggression.

          Allowing your son’s dog to run amok and bark aggressively at kids who come to the door (even though it upsets your friend) on halloween is passive-aggressive (this happened to my wife).

        • elum

          If you release something to the public it’s fair for a reviewer to describe how it made them feel to play it. Naturally there’s nothing wrong with making an experiment to learn about
          game development, but one of the ways you learn from an experiment like this is
          from how people react to it. There are small experimental games of all kinds out there which range from extremely satisfying to extremely unsatisfying to play, and that has more to do with the concept and approach to execution than it does the amount of time the developers had to put it together (look at game jams). Maybe with honest feedback the devs will be encouraged to come up with more satisfying interactivity at the designconcept stage of their next project. If this project was not meant for ‘hardcore gamers’, that’s totally cool. Reviews like this are how other such gamers will learn that it’s not for them.