One of the most successful games of the 2000’s, Halo 2 had an expansive, thorough marketing campaign supported by robust budgets and with hundreds of potential touchpoints.
One particularly notable element amidst high profile billboard campaigns and TV advertisements was an alternate reality game (or ARG) known as I Love Bees, which was launched ahead of the game’s release. ARGs are essentially puzzle games in their own right, typically divulged over the internet and solved by hardcore fans who sleuth their way through a variety of marketing collateral often including (but not limited to!) elaborately built in-universe websites, phone numbers, and live events at physical real world locations.
In the case of I Love Bees, arguably the first truly high-profile ARG videogame marketing campaign, a website URL was hidden in a publicly released trailer for the highly-anticipated game, which led to an in-universe website that appeared to have been hacked by an unknown entity.
The puzzles led to a series of GPS coordinates and times, which corresponded to payphones in real world locations, and the time they would ring. Players who answered either received a pre-recorded message with additional clues, or spoke to an actor who would engage in interactive storytelling and reveal clues through conversation.
Participants went on to receive emails and phone calls with further details until the full plot of the game was revealed, a story about Artificial Intelligence systems within the fictional Halo universe. The ARG’s ending implies the invasion of Earth by alien forces, which was a significant plot point of Halo 2 when it was released.