Free Virtual Reality Is Totally Metal

When it comes to technology, adoption is everything. And that’s a great opportunity for marketers … like Megadeth. Their “metal origami” gambit is a model of how virtual reality can work for marketers today, even though VR adoption may not yet seem ready for prime time.

Megadeth's "Dystopia" limited edition, virtual reality bundle.
Megadeth’s new “Dystopia” in its “metal origami” limited edition virtual reality bundle.

When it comes to technology, adoption is everything. That’s why many of our ubiquitous devices either have cheaper versions (you can get a PC or laptop for less than $300) or subsidized versions (like smartphones, which exploded after phone carriers began bundling them “for free” with their services).

A few years ago, Facebook bought the virtual reality (VR) gaming headset Oculus Rift for $2 billion and Mark Zuckerberg called it one of the company’s most important platforms. But the $599 headset is going to be a serious buy-in, and each one needs a $1,000-plus computer system to power it. That’s a significant barrier to mass adoption.

There’s already a growing market of cheaper devices. The Samsung VR Gear is designed to use your existing smartphone as its screen (with an app controlling the display), and already retails for $99. Lenovo recently bundled a similar headset with a low-end tablet it only sells in India, and the company sold 10,000 of those mobile-VR bundles in less than a second.

But the real beginning of VR, and the real usefulness of VR in marketing today, is even cheaper.

The future is cardboard.

By that I mean Google Cardboard, a project to create a VR player for smartphones held in cheap cardboard “viewers” with glass lenses, literally a poor-man’s Samsung VR Gear. You can order one for yourself for $20 to $50.

Or, as a marketer, you can give them away.

That’s where this gets “Metal.” Enter Megadeth.

What’s beautiful about Megadeth’s new symphony of VR destruction is that it’s basically an album. The virtual reality experience, including the cardboard viewer — which frontman Dave Mustang describes brilliantly as “metal origami” — comes with purchase of the “limited edition VR package” of their new album Dystopia. And that’s being sold for the very typical album price point of $15 to $25. The VR experience is essentially free, a marketing gimmick, a response booster.

Of course, in our post-Napster time, few people actually buy albums anymore. But when you couple it with a free virtual reality experience and the equipment to make that real, that’s a great offer.

Verizon and Star Wars teamed up to put fans in the universe with the "Jakku Spy" experience.
Verizon and Star Wars teamed up to put fans in the universe with the “Jakku Spy” experience.

Megadeth isn’t the only organization using cardboard VR to build a bridge with its audience. Star Wars got in the game ahead of December’s release of Episode VII. And in the January/February issue of Target Marketing magazine, Mobile First columnist M.J. Anderson talks about a virtual reality holiday card with cardboard viewer that TREKK sent last year.

I boiled Google Cardboard down to just the viewer, but the wider project goal is to make VR more approachable to creators and audience alike. And other companies have stepped up and pushed the technology forward themselves, including Megadeth’s tech partner, CEEK. The tools have been developed.

Creating the experience takes investment, including a pretty high quality video shoot using special camera set-ups (which are available, you can see some options in the Megadeth video and on the Google Cardboard website). But it seems to be similar to any other professional video creation.

I’ve had a few conversations about what virtual reality means for marketers. For now, I think it means this: It’s a value-added, immersive experience that is within the marketer’s reach to offer candidates as a freebie. People have heard a lot about VR without necessarily having the chance to see it for themselves. Most people want to try it. If you provide that, along with a cool experience as part of it, that’s going to get a lot of exclusive attention from your target market.

Author: Thorin McGee

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

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