Location-based VR start-up Spaces made its debut on Thursday with Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future—a branded experience that immerses players into the blockbuster franchise. Designed for sharing on social media, the virtual adventure gives a high-end twist to VR marketing.
It’s no surprise that Spaces chose a branded VR experience for its first offering. The company got its start at Dreamworks Animation, where Spaces co-founders Shiraz Akmal and Brad Herman started DreamLab—a creative division that created VR marketing activations for films like How to Train Your Dragon 2.
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with most of the studios,” Akmal, Spaces CEO told AList. “We’ve interfaced with all these IPs over the years so we have a good track record of delivering on the promise of whatever the IP in terms of staying on brand.”
Spaces chose Terminator as its first high-end VR experience for several reasons, but mostly because it is a brand recognized throughout the world. As fans themselves, Akmal and Herman leveraged their relationship with Skydance to offer Terminator Salvation at the grand opening of their Irvine, CA location. Not only is the Terminator franchise known and beloved by fans across multiple generations, it will remain in the public conscience for the foreseeable future—Skydance is in the process of rebooting the film franchise, with the first installment being released in 2019.
Terminator Salvation equips up to four guests in VR headsets, haptic weapons, foot and hand trackers and a backpack carrying an integrated HP computer. Players have their faces scanned into 3D, which are superimposed onto their bodies while in the simulation. The VR adventure takes place on a stage, where guests can interact with props and feel wind effects (with the help of nearby fans). Players must infiltrate the enemy by becoming terminators (deadly cyborgs), travel through time and achieve certain goals to save humankind.
Spaces created the VR experience to be shared with others not only in real life but later on social media. Players are given a free 15-second clip of themselves playing in the game. They can also purchase a longer cut for $10, suitable for sharing on longer platforms like Facebook or YouTube.
“We know we live in a very social media-driven world,” Herman, Spaces CTO said. “It’s not just about the experiences that you have, but it’s about the experiences that you share.”
“VR is an opportunity to put you in the experience so that video clip is really meaningful to people,” added Akmal. “They can see and hear themselves having a great time. We’re finding that it’s really connecting and resonating with our guests.”
Wearing a VR headset can be an isolating experience, but arcades like Spaces are making the experience a social affair. Spaces sees the trend continuing into the near future, with companies like Dave and Busters investing millions into the technology.
The implications of high-end location-based VR are promising for brands, Akmal explained. Although Spaces is open to hosting original VR experiences, the company is more interested in using established franchises with built-in audiences.
“We have a history of working with marketing teams and connecting with audiences,” said Akmal. “What I’m seeing here [at the Irvine grand opening] is that customers are able to engage with the experience in a way that they can’t any other way. This leaves a mark in peoples’ mind where they never forget. It’s super unique compared to watching TV or seeing an advertisement. It’s definitely a fantastic way to connect to audiences in a way that’s meaningful and long-lasting.”
Spaces will soon launch a metrics-driven marketing campaign to promote the Terminator Salvation experience that includes social media, print and local billboards.