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?