This has to be one of the most interesting and clever marketing campaigns even conceived. I’m not a Halo player, but I’m extremely impressed by this ARG.
Before Halo 2 was released, it’s most loyal followers randomly received large jars of honey from ilovebees.com. They were obviously confused, but realized that the URL had been changed to ilovebees.com at the end of the Halo 2 tv commercial. It turns out that they had been invited to participate in an ARG that ties the Halo storyline to the present day.
The story goes like this: A rouge Artificial Intelligence named Melissa came back in time 500 years and arrived on earth, manifesting itself in the server space of ilovebees.com. Melissa’s presence inside the server caused ilovebees.com to begin acting strangely. Strange messages began popping up and the site appeared to have been hacked. The sites creator, Dana, attempted to delete Melissa and damaged it’s memory on the process. Keep in mind that all of this was contrived by Halo’s marketing team.
So, to the outside user, all of this was very mysterious. When Halo players curiously visited ilovebees.com they arrived on a site that looked like it had been hacked, loaded with cryptic messages. According to her blog posts, Dana fled to China leaving visitors to fix the hacked site. The Halo players slowly learned about Melissa as they decoded the information. They also found GPS coordinates of pay phones and specific times when the phones would ring. Halo players had to answer Halo-related questions when they answered the phones. When a large series of phones were answered, a piece of Melissa’s missing memory was restored and the mystery was slowly unraveled. Thus, only the most dedicated Halo players were motivated enough to commit to this bizarre ARG.
The coolest thing is the conclusion. When the entire mystery was unraveled, Melissa was able to return to the future. But, in the process, it told a race of aliens (the Covenant) about the location of the Earth. The Covenant is the enemy in the Halo franchise, and ilovebees.com now has a countdown to the day when the Covenant will arrive on Earth, starting the war that Halo is based on. So, Halo players who participated in this ARG can say that they are responsible to starting the entire Halo story.
Like I said, I don’t play Halo, but this was an absolutely brilliant marketing campaign. I’m seriously impressed.