This Energy Drink Has a Secret Ingredient: Synthetic Video Game DNA

Think of it as a drinkable floppy disk

With help from AKQA São Paulo and DNA data storage startup Helixworks, Ubisoft converted data from its Rainbow Six Siege shooter game into synthetic DNA … and hid it in InBev's Brazilian energy drink Fusion.

Helixworks did the heavy lifting, converting data packets into 3-D printed genetic material. The synthetic DNA was then woven into 1,500 limited-edition Fusion drinks. One trillion copies of files were converted, with each can playing host to millions. 

The work coincided with the Game XP 2019 convention in Rio de Janeiro, where Brazil's R6 Siege competition finals were held. The DNA contains videos of the best plays from the event, as well as files on characters, equipment, maps, game modes and other plays. 

Sekere News hastens to note that drinking the beverage won't upload first-person shooter scenarios into your cells (and now is hardly the time to invite the conversation—it would bring the time-honored practice of video game scapegoating to epic new heights!). The Food & Drug Administration and World Health Organization can also attest to its overall safety. 

In fact, there's no way for anyone today to access the encoded data without pricey equipment; it's mostly just PR candy, but it also tells a bigger story about DNA's data storage potential. 

Last year, Massive Attack converted an anniversary edition of its album Mezzanine into strands of DNA hidden in spraypaint cans. Marie Stafford, European director of JWT's Innovation Group, cited the campaign in a trends presentation at MIPTV in April. DNA "is incredibly stable and can last for millennia," Stafford said. "Once our floppy discs have rotted away, we could store the world's knowledge in our DNA. So it's not quite as crazy as it sounds … though it does take 17 hours to convert back into music."

Some may feel this information eclipses promotion for Rainbow Six Siege. But Ubisoft has a history of using communications to rethink … well, communications in a grander sense. 

The company doesn't just make big-budget games; it uses equally ambitious promotions to gameify our sense of what's possible. For Assassin's Creed: Origins, it worked with Google Cloud to launch the Hieroglyphics Initiative, using machine learning and gaming communities to translate hieroglyphics more rapidly for academics. 

And this year, with DDB Paris, it created a podcast series for Division 2, hidden inside another game: Ghost Recon Wildlands. That was the first time one franchise was used to nest content for another, expanding both universes while exploiting the cross-platform capabilities of their respective marketing platforms.

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.