In an attempt to get people to pay attention to Steven Hall's novel The Raw Shark Texts, his publisher, Canongate, has created an online "alternate reality" game that uses working phone numbers, YouTube, Flickr, and independent Websites to lure game-players into a mystery with a real-world prize.
In an attempt to get people to pay attention to their "alternate reality" game, Steven Hall's publisher, Canongate, has gotten Publishers Weekly to write about the game.
And of course that's always the problem with guerrilla marketing efforts like this. As far back as the first known example of an alternate-reality game used as indirect marketing, the innovative and exciting game The Beast, created by Microsoft to market Steven Spielberg's A.I., game designers have had a hard time getting people to notice their hard work — since part of the point of these games is that they are meant to seem unobtrusive and under-the-radar.
In the case of The Beast, the game's popularity only exploded when a tipped-off Ain't It Cool News featured the clues hidden on A.I.'s poster. In the case of lostenvelope.com, the origin site of The Raw Shark Texts' game, we don't know that the PW story will help. We followed the clues to Flickr, then to YouTube, and even called the U.K. phone number one of the game's YouTube movies directed us to. But then we got bored with the flashing lights and the static and the cryptic messages.
The game clearly needs the help, given that under a thousand people have viewed the clips, and around half the YouTube comments seem planted. Without a Cloudmakers-like group working together to solve this thing, the Raw Shark game seems destined to be subject to dissociative amnesia on the part of the reading public.