What's wrong with your game, ABC? Lost fans are getting pissed. About CANDY. Tonight was a complete sham. Microsoft really needs to discuss how to conduct a proper Alternate Reality Game with ABC, because ABC just does not have their act together. Some of you fellow geeks out there who are Lost fans may be aware that they are currently doing a Lost alternate reality game involving a vast network of video snippets, websites (such as apollocandy.com and whereisalvar.com) and crazy ladies interrupting comic conventions. There is a crazy amount of things involved, and if you'd like to read up on it (it's actually quite interesting) you can do so here. I won't explain it, or I am liable to get exhausted.
The other day the character of Rachael Blake sent me an email about the website for Apollo Candy. Savvy Lost fans will recognize the candy bar from the show, and if you peek about the website you see they are doing a promotion where they are giving out free candy bars. Today there was one in the Seattle area, so my wife and I hopped right out there. The instructions were vague, they just said to go to "Merrymoor" park in Seattle at 7:30. For one thing, there is no "Merrymoor" park. There is a "Marymoor" park, but it's not in Seattle, it's in Redmond. We went anyway, confident that they were just trying to throw us off the track.
There were no signs or anything, so we drove around until we found a truck that said ABC on the side. Apparently they were running a test screening there for some new shows, some sort of "Red carpet" event. We asked if this was the place where they were giving out the candy bars, and they said yes. We obtained a small battery powered fan that says "This Fall Watch ABC" in little LED lights and some other knick-knacks. We asked the guy at the table if the candy bars were coming, and he said yes. Why are the candy bars important? Well, think Willy Wonka. Some of the candy bars have a "golden ticket" of sorts, and each person who obtains even a normal bar is encouraged to log on to whereisalvar and take a picture of said chocolatey treat. In fact, if you open the packaging, the chocolate itself is imprinted with the URL.
We waited for a little while with a couple of other nerds, chatting about Lost and how we figured out how to get there. Probably only less than 20 people were there to actually obtain the bars, the rest were there just for the test screening. We talked about how yesterday, at the New York event, they supposedly ran out of bars because of some communication issues, their event took place at the same time as a fantasy football draft, and the bars were mistakenly added to gift bags for people who most likely had no clue that they were getting Lost clues. Should have taken that as a hint.
As 7:30 rolled around, someone got on the mic and said that the bars were Lost in transit, but if we emailed ABC with our addresses, they would send us the bars. And to stick around! Because they were previewing TWO NEW SHOWS. Also, there was a RAFFLE. The nerds were pissed. We wanted our damn free candy bars! Some of those bars are going for good money on eBay right now! We walked over to the booth with the ABC representatives, and I asked to have a PR person's contact information. The lady there said that she didn't have any info on hand, but that I could give her my information and she can have someone get back to me. I gave her my card, and then someone there suggested she take everyone's names, and that ABC send us all candy bars. They complied, passed out pieces of paper and a horde of miffed geeks marched back to their cars.
Why didn't they just have the bars there at the event at the ready? Was this a bait and switch kind of situation? Did they think we would come for the free candy and stay for the crappy pilot screening? ABC made a mistake by not being prepared for rabid fan dissapointment. What they don't seem to realize is that their ARG attracts internet-savvy people. These people will go right on to the internet after they don't get their free candy and discuss it with other nerds, effectively disabling their marketing efforts.
But it's not just about the free candy. It's about the game. It's about the immersion. It's this world that they have created which is so loved by fans, the slightest fantasy that the Hanzo Corporation may be real and that there is actually a hacker out there trying to expose them. That she somehow hacked into the corporation's candy creation efforts to further her crusade. It's awesome, it's a great idea. I just wish it was better executed.
If I get the Apollo Bar in the mail (doubt it), I'll let you know. Here are some pictures of the very teensy, dissapointing event.