Another LOST ARG update. Interesting. Now instead of an ARG, it's a CRM program?

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?


  1. ·

    It's treating people like fans and giving them an inside look. But, to me, it better be a way inside look.

    another thought is that they should be honest. If indeed it blew up because of money, they should tell people. Or they should tell people why they think it sucked. Why not engage them honestly, and get their thoughts on the suckiness?

    Ie: This ARG didn't work because too many people joined/we ran out of money/ we got in over our heads (thankfully we're not the ones making the show, those people are good). etc.

    I think the important thing to remember is this point: People will not be turned off of lost because the game sucked. People will not be turned off the show if they e-mail them. but they'll be pissed. And I'm not sure I see the need to do that.


  2. ·

    Matt – Thanks for your thoughts.

    While total disclosure on what went wrong would be great, I'm betting it's probably not going to happen. And honestly, I'm not sure fans need to know all the dirty details of what went wrong. I think the fact that they're openly acknowledging that they dropped the ball, and need to make it up to fans, is a good sign.

    I really like your idea about engaging the fans directly, and getting their thoughts on the suckiness. They've clearly got a passionate fanbase.

    I think the content of the emails is going to be everything. One big complaint about the game was that folks were just waiting for weeks on end to hear anything–so getting communication from the creative team behind the show might actually be a good substitute.

    I received a second email today, and it's promising a sneak peek at the season premiere. I would consider that a pretty "way inside look." I'm off to sneak my peek. 🙂


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