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Macs and ARGs

Last year, a group of marketers decided to try to sell a package of Mac shareware by means of an alternate reality game (ARG). To that end, they launched MacHeist, and for every mission you went on (puzzle you solved) you received a discount on the package. (Wikipedia has a good article on it, including the criticisms of the concept as well.)

The game part of MacHeist 2 is over, but the package is now for sale. I didn’t have time to play through most of the missions, but I stopped by to watch how the community of players tackled the intricate puzzles together to solve them as a group. This reminded me a lot of how Cloudmakers.org formed to solve the riddles in the first ARG on which I worked: the Beast.

No matter whether you play the game or not, the package is an insanely good deal—assuming you have a Mac and don’t already own much of the software. For myself, the cost of CSSEdit and Pixelmator alone is worth it. (I already have and use 1password, which rocks.)

Plus a quarter of your purchase price goes to a charity of your choice. If you buy through this link, they’ll toss me a couple more apps as a referral bonus, but don’t let that sway you either way. I’m just intrigued by how a small group can successfully use an ARG to help make them a lot of money. The deal’s only been going on for just over a week, and they’ve already sold over $800,000 worth of packages on the site.

I wonder, of course, if you could manage the same sort of promotion to sell games, perhaps in conjunction with a site like Tanga.com (which is like Woot.com, but with a heavy board game rotation). Any takers?

Comments 4

  1. Is one of the features of this promotion that additional apps are added to the bundle as more people buy it? (And that early purchases can download the later additions for free as/if the thresholds are reached?)

    I read something about a bundle like that recently, and thought it would be a good convention promotion for a single publisher.

    “We’re selling books A, B, C, X, Y, and Z. The bundle costs $15, and includes A, B, and C by default. If 50 people buy the bundle, they all get X, too. If 100, X + Y. If 1,000, X + Y + Z.”

    That leverages people to try to convince others to buy the same thing they bought, because then everyone gets something free.

    It also makes it beneficial for people to keep stopping by your booth over the course of the convention, to see if a new threshold has been met. That makes you look busy, which attracts more attention.

  2. Is one of the features of this promotion that additional apps are added to the bundle as more people buy it? (And that early purchases can download the later additions for free as/if the thresholds are reached?)

    I read something about a bundle like that recently, and thought it would be a good convention promotion for a single publisher.

    “We’re selling books A, B, C, X, Y, and Z. The bundle costs $15, and includes A, B, and C by default. If 50 people buy the bundle, they all get X, too. If 100, X + Y. If 1,000, X + Y + Z.”

    That leverages people to try to convince others to buy the same thing they bought, because then everyone gets something free.

    It also makes it beneficial for people to keep stopping by your booth over the course of the convention, to see if a new threshold has been met. That makes you look busy, which attracts more attention.

  3. That’s the exact scheme, Jeff. As you mention, it might be great at a convention and create a lot of buzz. Pair it up with one of the live-action puzzle games from Lone Shark Games or with something like True Dungeon and offer discounts to the game’s players, then you’d have an ARG-like game to attach to the promotion too.

    You could also use it for a short-term promotion through a website. A multi-publisher site like Indie Press Revolution, DriveThruRPG.com, or even Paizo might gain a lot of traction out of it by drawing in fans of all sorts of different games too.

  4. Post
    Author

    That’s the exact scheme, Jeff. As you mention, it might be great at a convention and create a lot of buzz. Pair it up with one of the live-action puzzle games from Lone Shark Games or with something like True Dungeon and offer discounts to the game’s players, then you’d have an ARG-like game to attach to the promotion too.

    You could also use it for a short-term promotion through a website. A multi-publisher site like Indie Press Revolution, DriveThruRPG.com, or even Paizo might gain a lot of traction out of it by drawing in fans of all sorts of different games too.

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