Cross-Media Entertainment

This Blog shares Christy Dena’s research into cross-media entertainment. It is about storyworlds that are experienced over more than one medium and arts type. (Previously ‘crossmediastorytelling’)

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March 4, 2006

Top ARGs, with stats

by @ 11:40 pm. Filed under Industry, Stats, ARG, Audiences, Immersive Design

** Note: This post last updated with more stats on 20th March 2006 ** 

Previously, I’ve posted a listing of a possible Top Eleven ARGs. Here they are again, but without numbers this time and with Chasing the Wish and Push, Nevada added. Further in this post I’ve put the data I’ve collected on their impact.

[Update: March 5th. An overlooked artifact from my previous post is the ordering of the ARGs. Since my intention is not to compare the ARGs, but to show how so many have made such an impact, I’ve reordered the list alphabetically. But I want to add, that I think any discussion about the factors that make an ARG successful is healthy.]

Now, my reason for doing the list was initially for my work with the TV industry — to show them how this is an emerging genre they should know about and emulate. The lack of data around ARGs is an issue, but knowledge about the buzz and uptake of the exciting area needs to get out. Evan Jones, in a conversation about ReGenesis at DeadDrop commented on this issue: 

[mysteryjones] What’s really a challenge is that no ARG really wants to give out their numbers
[mysteryjones] which is a big issue for future PMs to get noticed by partners
[mysteryjones] when we went in to the meeting with broadcasters
[mysteryjones] we had no hard evidence that people would play this
[mysteryjones] It’s a serious problem for pitching the concept
(mysteryjones, 2005)

Originally I didn’t include my data on the list, just a mix of some figures. I’ve now got my data (it has been on an old Linux that corrupted, long story) and so here, finally, are the stats. I think these stats, plus Adrian Hon’s stats on search figures, make a compelling argument for ARGs. This is not a definitive list, it hopes to provoke one though. Please let me know of any information I can add. And, in the end, may this information be used for good and not evil. :) [Note: these ARGs are in alphabetical order.]

Art of the Heist/The Art of the H3ist

  • By May 9, there were 125,000 followers of the websites and probably cost about $3-4 million (Kiley, 2005)
  • By Day 22: 203,000 visitors to over the length of the campaign, staying for an average of 5 mintues (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • Online advertising generated 91,000 participants. 31% of this traffice was “buying indicator”. “This percentage represents the most qualified online-ad generated audience of any Audi car launch.” (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • By Day 60 of the campaign, close to 2 million unique visitors to, 5 times the average. (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • By Day 60, over 16,000 A3 shopping indicator queries, including 13,363 quick quote requests (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • 45 million+ PR impressions (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • 500,000 story participants (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • 10,000 leads to dealers (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • 4,000+ test drives of Audi (McKinney-Silver, 2005)
  • “buying indicator” activity on the website (like requesting info from a dealer) by 73% over prior marketing efforts (Clark, 2005)
  • 200,000+ people became involved with the search for the stolen A3 in a single day (bill, 2005; bouquet et al, 2005)
  • Online buzz for the A3 has quadrupled (bill, 2005)
  • Within the first few days of the campaign launch, seven fan sites were created (bill, 2005)
  • “After a person clicks an online advertisement to investigate the program, 34 percent of user page views were to A3 buying indicator pages (configurator, dealer locator, payment estimator, request a quote) on the Audi brand site. That is a 79 percent increase in “qualification” over previous launch efforts.” (bill, 2005)
  • As of 2nd Nov 2005, there are 204,622 posts to the Unfiction Forum for the game.
  • Gold for New Product Launch, IAB/AdWeek Mixx Conference, 2005
  • Gold for Online Integration, IAB/AdWeek Mixx Conference, 2005
  • Silver for Viral/Word of Mouth, IAB/AdWeek Mixx Conference, 2005
  • Best in Show award, IAB/AdWeek Mixx Conference, 2005 
The Beast
  • 3 million+ players all over the world (42 Entertainment, b)
  • Attracted audience of 1mill+ (Hon, 2005)
  • Around 2.5mill players (Lee in Meadows, 2003)
  • 100,000 users in the first 3 hours (Lee in Meadows, 2003)
  • 48 hours after Cloudmakers was launched there were 153 new members (McGonigal, 2003a)
  • Within 48 hours of the Cloudmakers forum launching, 150 registered (Gosney, 2005, 6)
  • At the end of the game Cloudmakers had 7480 members (McGonigal, 2003)
  • By the end of game, 7,400 members of Cloudmakers (Gosney, 2005, 6)
  • 43,000 player messages (Stewart, 2004)
  • Messages in Cloudmakers: 42,209 messages (McGonigal, 2003a)
  • “The Beast’s producers (Microsoft and DreamWorks) now estimate that more than one million people from around the world played the game, many of whom formed large online groups.” (McGonigal, 2003a)
  • More males than females at the beginning (Sean Stewart in Miller, C.H. 2005)
  • 50% of new players in the last 6 weeks were women (Sean Stewart in Miller, C.H. 2005)
  • Described by Internet Life magazine as the ‘Citizen Kane of online entertainment’ (Stewart, 2001)
  • With ‘well over 300 million impressions through coverage in mainstream media such [as] Time Magazine, CNN, and USA Today, as well as from niche outlets such as Slashdot, Wired, and Ain’t it Cool News’ (42 Entertainment, b)
  • Gained international media attention in CNN, ABC, BBC, New York Times, USA Today (Hon, 2005)
  • “If The Blair Witch Project was a shot heard around the interactive world, then A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is D-Day” (Adweek quoted in McGonigal, 2003b)
  • Best Idea, New York Times Magazine (42 Entertainment, b)
  • Best Website, Entertainment Weekly (42 Entertainment, b)
  • Best Advertising Campaign, Time Magazine (42 Entertainment, b) 
Chasing the Wish
  • 1,000+ players registered 1 month before the game started (Szulborski, 2005, 150)
  • 2,700 players at its peak registered (Szulborski, 2005, 152)
  • Cost $1,000 (Szulborski, 2005, 152) 
  • 8,000-10,000 unique IPs to various sites (Szulborski, 2006)
  • 7,975 posts to Unfiction forum, not counting the forum postings at Collective Detective (Szulborski, 2006)
  • 18,000 Google hits to “chasing the wish”, includes upcoming comic though (Szulborski, 2006)
  • Duration: 8 months/240 days (Szulborski, 2006)
  • Cost about $2,000, but $1,000 made back (Szulborski, 2006)
I Love Bees (aka Haunted Apiary)
  • “Over 3mill players worldwide” [Ed: I put this figure as it is apparently accepted by the ARG community that ILB was bigger than The Beast which was 3mill players.] 
  • 2 million+ participated (42 Entertainment,a)
  • 3 million+ players (Handy, 2005)
  • 10,000-20,000 serious players (42 Entertainment cited in Handy, 2005)
  • “For more than 16 weeks, some half a million players engaged” (Jenkins, 2004)
  • logged 80 million hits (Mucha, 2005)
  • Internet traffic 10x The Beast (Jim Stewartson cited in Shachtman, 2004)
  • 250,000+ visitors to on the day it opened in August (Jim Stewartson cited in Shachtman, 2004)
  • 500,000 gamers returned to the site every time the game was updated (Jim Stewartson cited in Shachtman, 2004)
  • 10,000+ fans mobilized in public (McGonigal, 2005)
  • 600,000+ fans united online (McGonigal, 2005)
  • 2.3 million people watching (McGonigal, 2005)
  • 1 million+ tracked blog and forum posts and comments (McGonigal, 2005)
  • 500,000+ unique hits on per day (Beekeepers)
  • 2,000,000+ recorded unique hits on an update day (Tuesdays, Sundays and Fridays) (Beekeepers)
  • 1,000s comment in in-game blog: Dana’s (Jane McGonigal cited in Handy, 2005)
  • “[w]idespread coverage in the gaming press and beyond, including stories in the New York Times, CNN, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Wired, La Presse, and the London Times” (42 Entertainment,a)
  • Sold 2.38 million units [of Halo 2] in the 24 hours in the United States and Canada (Becker, 2004)
  • $125 million opening day [of Halo 2] eclipsed “Spider-Man” record for biggest opening weekend box office take (Becker, 2004)
  • 100,000 page views of a forum page 36 hours after first phone call event (Miller, 2004)
  • Best Games-Related Site, Webby Award, 2005 (42 Entertainment,a)
  • Innovation Award, Game Develops Choice Awards, Game Developer Awards, 2005 (42 Entertainment,a) 
Jamie Kane           

  • “20,000+ players” [Ed: I estimated this figure, based on the rapid uptake of the game after I received the following statistic:] 
  • About 11,000 players signed up as of Nov 2005 (source undisclosed, 2005)
  • Gender ratio about 70:30 (female:male) (source undisclosed, 2005)
  • Cost was more than £250,000 (Lowonsky, 2005)
  • “I’m aiming for in excess of 100,000 players in the first year” (Sophie Walpole quoted in Lowonsky, 2005) 
Last Call Poker
  • Number of users data cannot be revealed under NDA (Sean Stewart in Wells, 2005) 
  • Over 10,000+ players (Cook, 2005) 
  • “We got lots of feedback from Activision both in the early phases of design and as the game went on. They were quite pleased at the game’s ability to reach an audience traditional marketing would not be able to.” (Elan Lee in Wells, 2005)
  • “A dozen live-action puzzles and 20 persistent real-world missions (completed over 500 times by players all over the world).” (McGonigal, 2005b)
  • 60 people participated in the finale event (Terdiman, 2005)


I didn’t have any stats of this ARG, but was told by an ARG player that this was a highly successful game and should be included in the list.

  • At its peak, the yahoo group registered about 700 players (Thompson, 2006) [Added 5th March]
  • During Lockjaw, players formed ARGN and Unfiction (Thompson, 2006) [Added 5th March]
  • Unique IP visits to website around 10,000 (Thompson, 2006) [Added 5th March] 


  • 800,000 started registration process (Morris, 2001)
  • 100,000 signed for the free pilot (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • 71,200 completed the registration (Morris, 2001)
  • 10,000 to 15,000 subscribed (Morris, 2001)
  • 13,500 subscribed (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • Cost between $5 and 7million (Morris, 2001)
  • “[R]eportedly cost $10 million in development” (Hon, 2005)
  • Cost estimate is $10 million (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • $600,000 revenue earned (Miller, C.H., 2005) 

MetaCortechs (aka Project Mu)

  • 1.3 million players [I cannot find where I got this statistic from, anyone?]
  • 125,000+ players (Thompson, no date given)
  • Players from 115 countries participated (Thompson, no date given) 
  • “It became the most successful Arg ever, with around 12,000 players and visits logged from 118 different countries.” (Losowsky, 2003)
  • By end of game the mailing list had 8,300 members (metacortechs pms, 2003a)
  • 123,000 unique IPs from 118 countries (metacortechs pms, 2003a)
  • 1,000 players were called for the Halloween event (metacortechs pms, 2003a)
  • 14,500 IPs logged by Little-Boxes (metacortechs pms, 2003a) 
  • 10,500 MC screensavers were downloaded (metacortechs pms, 2003a)
  • Media coverage in The Guardian, The Scotsman, Yahoo Movies, Movie City News, etc. (metacortechs pms, 2003b)

Perplex City

  • 40,000 registered players since April to Aug (Smith, 2005)
  • About 160,00 packs of cards sold in the UK as of Feb 2006 (Takahashi, 2006) [Added 10th March 2006]
  • 1.5 million cards created (Adrian Hon in ARG Fest DVD, 2005)
  • £100,000/ $200,000 reward
  • 17,000+ players registered on Leaderboard as of March 2006
  • Listed in FHM’s Top 50 Websites, March 2006 [Added 10th March 2006]
  • Some players have also written books to gain access to a library where the solution to a puzzle is (Frauenfelder, 2006) [Added 10th March 2006]
  • Live Event run on 25th Feb at Trafalgar Square, London attracted 220 players (almost 1,000 applied to play). People drove hours and came from Ireland, Barcelona and Hong Kong to play. The event activity included 971 texts and 176 photos received, 3627 texts sent out and a 127 person conga line. (Perplex City News, 2006) [Added 20th March 2006]

Push, Nevada

  • 600,000 actively played (ABC; ABC cited in Miller, C.H., 2005) 
  • 200,000 participated in the online portion (ABC)
  • 100,000+ viewers of the TV show (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • 60,000 downloaded the “Deep Throat” book (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • Prize money $1,045,000 (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • ABC discontinued the show after 7 episodes (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • Final clue given during Monday Night Football was solved in 2 minutes (ABC; Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • 500 people called within 20 minutes of the final clue (ABC; Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • 10,000 people had called by the end of the day (ABC; Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • About 20,000 visited the websites (Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • About 10,000 users in the forum & many other forums created (Thompson, 2006)
  • “The Push, Nevada Game was the largest TV and online game of skill ever played in America (for a prize of over 1 million dollars).” (ABC)
  • “rivaled one of the largest online games in history” (ABC; ABC cited in Miller, C.H., 2005)
  • Most TiVoed shows of the fall season (Miller, C.H., 2005)  

ReGenesis Extended Reality Game

Unfortunately, despite requests and understandably, I have not been able to get any stats from Xenophile Media. The project is based around a TV series and was seemingly very popular and so I entered it in the list.

  • I estimate the players around 20,000?? [Ed.]
  • “we are very happy with the results of the first season…we did find that a large number of people signed on to ReGenesis and remained lurkers” (mysteryjones aka Evan Jones, 2005)
  • Forum members as of 6th March 2006: 1,027 [Added 8th March 2006]
  • 2005 Gemini Awards for Most Popular Website

Urban Hunt

No stats as yet.

  • Media coverage, including the New York Times (Szulborski, 2005, 182) 
  • First ARG to include an actual in-game book (Szulborski, 2005, 182)


42 Entertainment (a) ‘I Love Bees’, 42 Entertainment 

42 Entertainment (b) ‘The Beast’, 42 Entertainment

ABC ‘Push, Nevada’, ABC

Becker, D. (2004) ‘’Halo 2′ clears record $125 million in first day’,, 10 Nov.

Beekeepers (2005) ‘The Beekeepers’, We Love Bees. 

bill (2005) ‘Art Of The Heist Declared A Marketing Success’,, 9 June.

Bouquet, M., J. Nail, F. McDonnell and J. Favier (2005) ‘How To Build A Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Campaign’, CMO Magazine, 1 Sep.

Clark, B. (2005) ‘Post subject: good questions!’ Immersion Unlimited Forum, 8 July.

Cook, D. (2005) ‘Austin Game Conference Part 2′,, 27 Oct. 

Frauenfelder, M. (2006) ‘More on Perplex City’, Boing Boing, 2 Feb.

Gosney, J. (2005) Beyond Reality: a Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming, Thomson Course Technology PTR, Boston, MA. 

Handy, A. (2005) ‘The Buzzmakers’, East Bay Express, 18 May

Hon, A. (2005) ‘The Rise of ARGs’, Gamasutra, 9 May.

Hon, A. in (2005) How Do You Like Your Reality?: ARG Fest NYC 2005, Abacus Video Productions, 2005.

Jenkins, H. (2004) ‘Chasing Bees, Without the Hive Mind’, Technology Review, 3 Dec.

Kiley, D. (2005) ‘A New Kind of Car Chase’, BusinessWeek Online, 16 May.

Losowsky, A. (2003) ‘Puppet Masters’, Guardian, 11 Dec. 

Losowky, A. (2005) ‘BBC’s teen dream a risky business’, Guardian Unlimited, 23 June.

McGonigal, J. (2005a) ‘I Love Bees: A Buzz Story’ presented at AD:TECH, San Francisco, 25-27 April, published by Avantgame [pdf]

McGonigal, J. (2005b) ‘Graveyards are the new payphones’,, 1 Dec.

McGonigal, J. (2003a) ‘’This Is Not a Game’: Immersive Aesthetics and Collective Play’ presented at MelbourneDAC, the 5th International Digital Arts and Culture Conference, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia, May 19 - 23, published by School of Applied Communication, RMIT [pdf] Also Available at: FineArtForum

McGonigal, J. (2003b) ‘A Real Little Game: The Performance of Belief in Pervasive Play’ presented at Digital Games Research Associaton (DiGRA) “Level Up” Conference, November, published by [pdf]

McKinney-Silver (2005) ‘Art of the H3ist: An Audi Project’, Mc-Kinney-Silver.

Meadows, M.S. (2003) ‘Game Complement to A.I. (loosely called The Beast or Cloudmakers) [Interview with Elan Lee and Adrian Hon]’ in Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative, New Riders, Indianapolis, Ind., pp. 131-138.

Metacortechs PMs (2003a) ‘Project MU Credits: Players‘,

Metacortechs PMs (2003b) ‘Project MU Credits: FAQ‘,

Miller, C.H. (2004) Digital Storytelling: A Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment, Focal Press, Amsterdam; Boston.

Miller, J. (2004) ‘I Love Bees’, Miramontes Studios, July.

Morris, C. (2001) ‘Innovation at risk?’ CNN Money, 19 Dec.

Mucha, T. (2005) ‘Luring Gamers Like Bees to Honey’, Business 2.0, 1 Jan. 

mysteryjones aka Evan Jones (2005) ‘ReGenesis Extended Reality Wraps Up’, DeadDrop, 1 Feb.

Perplex City News (2006) ‘London Live Event Summary’, Perplex City News, 2nd March

Shachtman, N. (2004) ‘Sci-Fi Fans Are Called Into an Alternate Reality’, New York Times, 14 Nov. 

Smith, D. (2005) ‘Game snares real world in virtual web’, Guardian Unlimited, 28 Aug.

Stewart, S. (2001) ‘December 2001: A Very Busy Year’,, Dec.

Szulborski, D. (2005) This Is Not A Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming, New Fiction Publishing.

Szulborski, D. (2006) ‘Top ARGs, with stats’, Cross-Media Entertainment, 13 March>

Takahashi, D. (2006) ‘Review: Perplex City And The Rise Of The Alternate Reality Game’, A & E Interactive, The Mercury News, 6 Feb. 

Terdiman, D. (2005) ‘’Last Call Poker’ celebrates cemeteries’, CNET, 20 Nov.

Thompson, B. ‘Alternate Reality Gaming: MetaCortechs’,

Thompson, B. (2006) ‘ARG & Stats’, personal email to Christy Dena, Received March 5th, 2006.

Wells, K. (2005) ‘Last Call Poker PM Chat Transcript’,, 30 Nov. 



2 Responses to “Top ARGs, with stats”

  1. Dave Szulborski Says:

    Interestingly enough, I was finally getting around to trying to put together some stats about various games to post on (Adrian’s site), when I ran across your update which included one of those games - Chasing The Wish.

    Here are figures I’ve put together based on the criteria that Adrian had used (since that’s where I intended to post it) and using the data I have from then.

    Quoted numbers: 8,000 - 10,000. While your entry of just over 1200 is correct for the registration database, it does not reflect the people who followed along without registering and so on, as shown by the unique IP addresses visiting the various sites etc. This figure is the 8,000 - 10,000 number shown above.

    Forum Posts: 7,975 at UnFiction, not counting the posts at the now defunct Collective Detective, where the game was played and discussed heavily (their primary game for a long period of time)

    Google Hits: about 18,000 using “chasing the wish” + arg, but this isn’t entirely accurate as it includes mentions of the upcoming comic book series

    Duration: about 8 months (240 days)

    Cost: Closer to just over $2000.00 but about $1000.00 was earned back by selling / auctioning off real world items, selling shirts, donations, and other sources.

    BTW, thanks for taking the time to compile these figures. Nice work.


  2. christy Says:

    Excellent Dave! I’ll add these in, but still post to Adrian’s site. I didn’t include Adrian’s stats in this post b’c I htought the ARGSIG may marry the two! Thankyou for the thanks. Much appreciated. And thankyou, too, for your books! I enjoyed reading them.

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A cross-media creator is a conductor of an orchestra of media channels & arts types; an imagineer, constructing fictional worlds that cover the planet; a programmer, interpreting conversations between technology and nature; a sorcerer conjuring awesome events even they are surprised by; an audience member that wanted more, and so made a pact with The Creator to change the world.
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