August 31, 2007 4:02 PM | Simon Carless
So, ARGNet is still the place to go to learn about bizarre cross-media Alternate Reality Games, and it has a particularly interesting new piece up analyzing the creation and slight unraveling of the Halo 3 ARG, or "spiral marketing campaign", as it seems to be better dubbed.
Rather than going full-out this time, some of the mysterious elements to the marketing for the game were explained in an internal Microsoft article posted on the Unfiction forums. As ARGN notes: "The article reveals that Iris was developed by "more than 50 people from 20 Microsoft teams [who] contributed time, coding expertise, and industry contacts." The attempt was ultimately to provide a grand marketing scheme incurring little cost while attaining "critical mass" -- defined in the article as getting "interview requests from The Wall Street Journal"."
However, it's clear that the ARG-ers were a little skeptical, given the class act the ARG had to follow: "Strictly speaking, given the resources used to produce the campaign and the costs (or lack thereof) incurred, Iris may be considered an impressive success. However, if one includes the overall sentiment of the demographic that was actually actively playing or following Iris, one might say that their reach had exceeded their grasp. They seem to have ignored (or miscalculated) an inherent factor in the kind of campaign they were hoping to produce - most players had expectations, whether misplaced or not, of another I Love Bees."
There are also some fascinating accounts of problems with Halo fans swarming the puzzles, such as: "A paperboy with a user account on Bungie.net leaked the content of the Best Buy ad circular before the papers hit the newsstands." (The article reveals that the site was found prematurely and was still being tested, and that the response from the game designers was to slow people down with a countdown.)" Or: "During episode one, an executive e-mail sent to employees leaked to game bloggers, and parts of an internal Q&A document were inadvertently distributed with a press release."
Anyhow, it does seem like there were some pretty big, neat and interesting moving parts in the campaign, even if it didn't mesh completely in the end, particularly because planning executionally for so many intermeshing puzzles, campaigns and hints is terribly difficult - the Halo 3 Iris Wiki has lots more info. [via Clickable Culture.]