After what was a fabulous beginning, the ill-fated Lost “Octagon Global/Dharma Wants You” ARG has definitely come to a close. Participants received an awkward, if entertaining, email saying that because of the “global economic crisis,” the Dharma Initiative went belly up and had to be sold to the television show, Lost.
That email was followed up by one from Damon and Carlton, with a link to what was the old “Dharma Wants You” site, which is now being used to stage exclusive Lost-related content, which former game participants can access earlier than the general public.
As a marketing professional who works for a Louisville advertising agency whose particular specialty is building brand ambassador programs, I found this pretty interesting. Clearly, the game was a failure. But it did apparently effectively help them identify and build an email database of their show’s most passionate fans.
I’m of two minds as to whether I think using that database for anything other than the game is a good idea. Obviously, anyone interested in playing the game was a Lost fan first–and getting first look at new show-related content is probably appealing.
Still, people opted into the database in good faith that they were providing information in exchange for an experience, and the overwhelming majority of participants I’ve heard from feel like the experience didn’t live up to expectations.
Speculation is rampant as to what went wrong. There’s the distinct possibility that the tongue-in-cheek references to the economic downturn reflects a very real budget cut that resulted in ending the game early. Another possibility is that the game may have been a victim of its own success. I’m no expert in ARGs, but the number of participants Damon mentioned in their first video on the preview site probably made actually pulling off the game as it was originally conceived extremely challenging.
I still think there’s some value in turning over a future alternate reality game to the fans almost entirely, and keeping it more lo-fi and story-centric.
What do you think? Is attempting to roll the email database generated by the game forward as essentially a marketing tool a good idea? Bad idea? Is there any merit to the idea that offering first look at what are essentially ads for the show is a compensation for the game being dropped while in progress?