Microsoft is already generating buzz for the next iteration of their Xbox game system. Like ilovebees.com, for Halo 2, they have launched ourcolony.net website. Ourcolony is an example of an Alternate Reality Game, or ARG. Others would call it viral marketing.
Such ARGs, such as the one used for Spielberg’s film AI, challenge players with riddles and scavenger hunts. It usually stretches to e-mail, faxes and even phone calls. The lines between reality and fantasy blur. Trying to solve one Ourcolony riddle, I went to amazon.com and looked at quotes for a certain book. I started wondering which were real, and which were fake. It was an unsettling feeling.
But, it seems to work. Such alternative ways of marketing are a good supplement to traditional methods. These games appeal to more fanatical fans looking to interact with a product before it is even released. Halo 2 sold 5 million copies in its first week. While such success is from more than ilovebees, it definitely helped build momentum for the game’s roll out.
Advertising firms have always looked for new ways to market. In these days of advertorials, product placements and marketing blogs, the consumer is bombarded constantly. Some companies send agents to chat rooms to stealthy advertise, while others use hired word of mouth. As interesting as ARGs can be, do we really want to be subverted to camouflaged commercials all the time?KO