Mischief in the Metaverse: Cheetos Ventures Into VR, But Are Visitors Engaging?

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
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Chesterville in the metaverse

Are you ready to embrace your inner Chester Cheetah? With Cheetos’ first foray into virtual worlds, the PepsiCo and Frito-Lay North America brand is giving customers the chance to immerse themselves in a digital neighborhood where they have the chance to bring a flavor back to the real world. 

Chesterville is Cheetos' version of a suburban neighborhood set inside Meta Horizon Worlds on Meta Quest 2 — run by Meta Platform Inc.’s (previously known as Facebook) metaverse platform and respective VR headset. It celebrates the mischievous Halloween spirit by encouraging participants to complete tasks around the town, with points tracked by a “mischief meter.”

The end goal is for participants to gain entry into the spooky mansion located atop Cheetos Hill. Once inside, visitors will be able to vote for their favorite “ghost of Cheetos past” to bring a no-longer-available flavor back to supermarket shelves for a limited time. The flavors include Cheetos Flamin' Hot Chipotle Ranch, Cheetos Flamin' Hot Pepper Puffs, or Cheetos Nashville Hot snacks.

Inside Chesterville, visitors can traverse the spooky neighborhood or opt in to play a game, access the spooky mansion, and vote to bring back a flavor from the dead. A stash of Cheetos Mischief Makers will help them win challenges and raise their mischief meter score. These Mischief Makers include a wand to brand the neighborhood, Cheeto-branded paper towels to TP surroundings, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to speed boost, and Mac-O-Lanterns to trap other players. Cheetos’ social media account will also be posting “Cheetle Codes” that participants can use to advance the game.

Those who wish to share their flavor pick without visiting Chesterville can vote on beginning Oct. 23 through Nov. 2. 

This is the first metaverse experience for both Cheetos and Frito-Lay, according to the companies, but Frito-Lay has experimented with VR in the past. Doritos, the Frito-Lay brand within PepsiCo’s portfolio, promoted the season four premiere of Netflix’s popular show, "Stranger Things" earlier this year with a virtual “Live From The Upside Down" concert.

PepsiCo is not new to the space, having launched experiences in Decentraland as well as led product design innovation amidst the pandemic using VR headsets, according to Insider.

"As a culture-first brand committed to innovative consumer experiences, Cheetos is proud to lead Frito-Lay into the metaverse," said Stacy Taffet, senior VP of marketing for Frito-Lay. "This is a significant moment for both the brand and the portfolio as we broaden the ways we engage with fans, inviting them to experience Cheetos in an entirely new way. We can't wait to welcome consumers into Chester's virtual domain that brings his personality and Cheetos' brand ethos to life."

Engagement in the Metaverse

Meta's Nada Stirratt, VP, global business group, touted the forward-thinking brands beginning to build immersive experiences. “It's exciting to see such an iconic brand use our platforms to experiment and connect with consumers in new, innovative ways,” she said of the Cheetos initiative in a statement. “We can't wait to see how users everywhere embrace their inner Chester Cheetah this Halloween and beyond."

While many brands are continuing to experiment with metaverse-like experiences, participation in the space may be lacking. According to Meta documents recently reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, although the company aimed to reach 500,000 monthly active users in Horizon Worlds by end of year, the figure currently stands at less than 200,000. Additionally, just 9% of worlds are visited by at least 50 people, with most remaining vacant.

Brands have thus far leaned on other VR gaming or browser-based platforms to dip their toes into virtual reality experiences. Nike, for example, launched Nikeland on the Roblox platform, while Chobani hosted a virtual marathon earlier this year on the same platform. On Decentraland, Degree held its own race, while Heineken leveraged the platform to launch a completely virtual beer inside the VR environment.

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