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The Secret World Column: ARGs Are Back

By Shannon Doyle on March 25, 2014

For many the first time they ever heard about The Secret World it was thanks to an ARG. Funcom spent years leading up to TSW with a series of ARGs meant to engage, entertain, and sometimes terrify. After the launch sadly ARGs were all but abandoned, with only two since July of 2012. Now the alternate reality games are getting a bit of a boost. Last week, on the 14th a new ARG started, dealing with Division 66. A few days later came the news that Human Equation had acquired the rights to the Black Watchmen, the subject of many of the ARGs for The Secret World.

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Though completely independent of Funcom and The Secret World the new ARGs are tied together in the same universe. Human Equation now has full rights to The Black Watchmen to create ARGs, plus other tie-ins including a web series, movies, comic books, and products for both PC and mobile. If successful this sounds like a very promising persistent ARG with the possibility to spawn many more tie-ins. All of which means more attention for The Secret World.

Who is Human Equation? When the news first hit my desk this was the first question that came to mind. They’re a Canadian digital marketing firm who have a special entertainment division which does gamification and game development. They’ve worked with WB Games, Reebok, and many others on more than 350 different digital projects in 22 countries. They are quite impressive and already have been doing fantastic work with the current ARG.

What is perhaps the most exciting about this new partnership between Funcom and Human Equation comes from one line in the press release announcing the deal.

“Our ARGs have always been about making people’s lives … fun! For some of them, it meant being called at 4 a.m. by a five-year-old girl reading passages from the Book of Revelation, while for others it was overcoming the chaos found in a raid of 4,000 players.”

This to me says everything you need to know about Human Equation. They understand their audience and they aren’t afraid to make you whimper and cry for your mommy. This quote is from Andrea Doyon the Chief Innovation Officer at Human Equation. As awesome as the quote is I do hope that I never get a call at 4 a.m. from a creepy five year old reading passages from the Book of Revelation! Talk about insanely terrifying!

Staying loyal to the fanbase Funcom already developed, it has been promised that there would be special packages tailored for anyone who has taken part in a TSW ARG in the past and lifetime subscribers. Hopefully more details on this will be revealed soon because despite the fact that every ARG for The Secret World I ever did made me feel like a I wasn’t nearly smart enough I still feel drawn to them.

In the past the ARGs were very well done. Perhaps too well done even. There was some criticism when The Secret World launched that the ARG campaigns which had been running for years were better than the MMO itself! I never saw it myself. But it did prepare people for the fact that TSW is a thinkin’ man’s game. ARGs are an integral part of The Secret World’s past and will play an important part of its future as well.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers for the currently running ARG called Division-66 which is already finished with the third mission. But as it is the first of the new alternate realty games being run it is certainly worth checking out if you enjoy puzzles and mystery. You don’t even need to have played TSW, though it will increase your enjoyment of it. If you do want to check out Division-66 for yourself you can start at the very beginning on Unfiction, a site dedicated to ARGs where it first started to appear online. And if you just feel like reading about it you can also find all the details on Crygaia, one of the wikis for The Secret World. But be warned, it does have spoilers.

For a brief time The Secret World had started an ARG trend with other MMO developers, like Trion giving them a try as part of their marketing strategy. Of course none of these other games were really suited for an alternate reality game the way The Secret World is. The MMO is a mystery plot with ties to real life and random pages all over the internet. With so many amazing openings for ARGs The Secret World has it really is a wonder that it never got more. Though the fans did get together and make their own they were never as popular as the official ARGs.

ARGs and The Secret World have a long history together. They add a real world feel to an online world full of mystery and intrigue. And they will keep your mind busy for hours as you try to work out the puzzle and figure out how everything is tied together. The news that Human Equation is picking up the ARG train which had been left sit at the station for so long is exciting and possibly a bit pants wettingly terrifying. I cannot wait to see everything that Human Equation brings out for The Black Watchmen under this new agreement. They may not be easy but they certainly will be fun. It won’t be long now until we can finally leap into Toyko and take on all the horrors that await us. But until then we will have a persistant ARG to keep us busy.  This is an exciting time to be a fan of The Secret World.

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