Alternate Reality Games Catching On

from the need-more-excitement-in-your-life? dept

In 2001, EA launched the game Majestic to much fanfare. It had been talked about for months. It was, to some extent, an attempt at creating an online version of the movie The Game, where the player gets immersed in some sort of "alternate reality" game, designed to make their lives seem more exciting. It would involve emails, phone calls, instant messages at random times and dates, all designed to seem somehow realistic, getting the player involved in some sort of mystery. Despite all the hype and various attempts to make the game more interesting, it took less than a year to fail completely before being shut down. However, about the same time that Majestic was launching and failing, many more people became obsessed with an alternate reality game that received no direct publicity at all -- despite being loosely related to Steven Spielberg's AI movie. The game, which was discovered almost by accident, hooked many people who went all over the web hunting down clues. There have been a few other similar successes where these alternate reality "games" have hooked a growing number of users, often without much official fanfare at all. Last year, for example, it was the I Love Bees game. Even though people realized it was part of a promotion to (again, loosely) pitch a video game, it really got people hooked. With those successes, it appears the alternate reality gaming space is really beginning to get noticed, as new ones start to appear. Still, what seems most interesting is the contrast between these newer ones and the greatly hyped Majestic. Even though many of these are part of big multi-million ad campaigns, it seems that the very quiet way in which they're introduced to the world is working much better than the big bang effort of a traditional gaming offering. Of course, the other major difference is that people don't have to pay to take part in these alternate reality games. That is, they're acting as a promotion, rather than the end product itself.
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  1. identicon
    martin, 7 May 2006 @ 4:51pm

    ARG

    The failure of majestic maybe because part of the charm of Alt reality games is that it feels like you stumbled onto something (even if there are millions playing with you around the world).

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