“ARGs are dead”. We’ve heard it said many times over the years, and now most recently by Elan Lee, Founder of Fourth Wall Studios, at the Storyworld conference in LA this past October
Adrian Hon: (one of The Beast‘s player-moderators, former Director of Play at Mind Candy, and CEO at Six to Start)
"We can’t say that “ARGs are dead” because they don’t make money, as they never really did in the first place. Almost all ARGs have either been promotional or non-profit, with the few exceptions such as Perplex City, eDoc Laundry, and Majestic not being successful enough to sustain themselves over the long term.
Creatively speaking, I can’t say that ARGs are any better or worse than they were five years ago, for the simple reason that like most people, I don’t play ARGs any more. I find them extremely opaque before joining in; I have no idea long a given ARG might run for, how difficult it will be, whether it’ll be any good, or what’s involved in playing it.
So perhaps that’s what “ARGs are dead” means: unlike other genres such as social gaming, mobile gaming, or MMOs, they haven’t successfully evolved over the past decade to attract millions of loyal players. They never had millions of loyals players in the first place. What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be much hope of change on the horizon.
I would like nothing better than for ARGs to succeed – commercially, creatively, and popularly. So, what would that take? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Increase accessibility - A good game or TV show will have me hooked in the first five seconds, and I know that I’ll have fun even if I just stay for 30 minutes. ARGs need to be more transparent and more accessible.
2. Make money - There isn’t much separating The Room – an incredible blockbuster iPad puzzle game – from being a full-blown ARG (the same applies for Zombies, Run!).
3. Take the best and discard the rest - How can you replicate the immersive sensation of a good ARG at a low cost?
4. Think about scale - Imagine if Angry Birds or Farmville were only playable from April to June 2010; that’s what ARGs are like, and it’s mad. No-one bats an eyelid at paying $25 or $50 for a theatre ticket, and the same should be true for a live ARG.
5. Ignore the pundits - Just because an ARG is for a major movie doesn’t mean that it’s good; just because someone says an ARG had a million players doesn’t mean it did; and even if it did, perhaps a better-designed game would have attracted double the number.