A parade of troopers dubbed the IOI Sixers stormed up and down downtown Austin calling for the capture of Wade Watts and offered people passing by a $1 million reward.
Watts, who goes by the avatar Parzival, is not your ordinary fugitive. He is a lead character in Ready Player One, the upcoming action-adventure, futuristic film from Steven Speilberg that is inspired by the Ernest Cline bestselling book of the same name.
The plead from the IOI Sixers was a guerrilla marketing stunt designed to get SXSW attendees wondering exactly what was happening and bring them to the doors of movie’s two-story arcade space in downtown.
Warner Bros. and HTC Vive are taking over Brazos Hall at SXSW this week to promote the forthcoming film with eight pieces of virtual reality content across separate demo bays. The experiential marketing activation is designed to further push the promise of virtual reality toward mainstream adoption while showing the film’s immersive entertainment qualities.
“We want people to understand that VR is now,” J.B. McRee, senior manager of product marketing for HTC Vive, told AListDaily. “We’re using SXSW as a space to promote VR and a film that a lot of people may not know about, while also tapping into its built-in fan base.”
McRee is hoping each of the vastly different VR experiences HTC has created will help increase the awareness and demand for the film, which is eyeing a $45 million debut. Each piece of content represents different key elements from the book, and the adaptations are inspired by the movie’s universe, which is set in the year 2045.
“Everything at SXSW is a mere representation of what was represented in the book,” said McCree. “VR gives us a unique way to expose the book to a technology a lot of people are excited about.”
For those who are not in Austin, fear not any potential FOMO. All of the SXSW-released Ready Player One content is scheduled to be made available on HTC Vive headsets and will be free to download on Viveport and Steam before the movie makes its way to theaters on March 29.
HTC is also adding to the movie marketing plan by launching a national VR arcade program that will distribute the SXSW content across the country.
Many prognosticators have predicted that the movie is in a unique position to deliver on the promise of VR, dating back to when the release was originally announced.
Just last week, Ready Player One released posters by leveraging nostalgia. The response, however, could best be described as mixed.
It will be a lot clearer how consumers feel about the film’s marketing ambush come springtime, and if SXSW and VR offered a helping hand to resonate with audiences long after they left theaters.