Regardless of whether you’ve seen Netflix’s original show Stranger Things (you should go start after you read this post if you haven’t), watching the video above with any kind of 360 VR viewer, like Google Cardboard or Gear VR, is quite the experience. Stranger Things is a perfect starting point for Netflix to dabble in VR, given how atmospheric, immersive and spooky the 80s throwback world is that provides the setting for the show.
This 360 YouTube clip, which lasts just a little under two minutes, lets the viewer feel as though they’re right in the middle of a slightly altered version of a particularly tense moment from the show. Also, be sure to follow any instructions provided within, or you might miss the big shock at the end.
Netflix has not been very demonstrably excited about creating VR content so far, but it has acknowledged it’s watching the space. Back in February, the company’s VP of Product Innovation, Chris Jaffe, told Trusted Reviews that VR “has a great place in gaming” currently, and that the company has “interest in where it could go in storytelling.” The company also launched an app for Gear VR, but the virtual component isn’t in the content – it’s in the viewing environment, which lets you watch 2D Netflix from a virtual couch.
“Yes, this is the first time we’ve used Google Cardboard and VR to promote a specific show (if you don’t count 360 video),” Netflix told TechCrunch in a statement. “Stranger Things is a uniquely atmospheric series that inspired us to create a fun way to immerse viewers in the rich world, allow them to experience the thrills and mystery of the story and excite them to watch the series.”
This Stranger Things teaser is a well-executed experiment and shows that Netflix is indeed paying attention to how VR might best suit storytelling. We’ll have to see if these early steps end up resulting in long-form VR forays later on.