Did Studio Cypher Leave Agents Out in the Cold?

studiocypher_02.jpgThe first Studio Cypher Case, Out in the Cold, was released last month when a Cypher field agent, Chuck Lehner, disappeared. Soon after the case launched, players started to receive postcards in the mail from Lehner which led them to his website and a blog that belongs to his friend Sue Terrini. The game, which ended yesterday, had some difficult puzzles, real world hidden caches and even an ingame band which seems to be the hip ARG thing to do these days. Players had been working to unravel the mystery of what happened to dear old Chuck and what mysterious brown pieces of clay had to do with it.

To many, the real mystery surrounding Studio Cypher is whether or not the pay-to-fully-play model is working on all levels. In order to fully participate in each case, players must become a Wakeful Agent for $9.99 ($13.99 outside the U.S.). Only Wakeful Agents will receive special content and can interact directly with the characters. Paying players also get access to game updates before the non-paying players. Those who don’t pay can still play along, but it still remains to be seen whether or not this limited access really allows players to immerse themselves in the story enough to want more and become a Wakeful Agent.

One player, Steffeny Muller (aka Magesteff), who didn’t pay said of the experience, “Not being a WA makes it difficult for me to follow along, and since I can’t contact the in game characters, or enter solutions, I really have not felt like I am involved with the game. The information that is flowing to the non-WA about the puzzles is difficult to follow along with since some of the information is coming from in-game characters, and only WA who have paid for the contact rights can e-mail them. Since Character Interaction is one of my favorite things, and I am really bad at puzzles, I’m not getting much enjoyment out of the game so far. However, I do wish the gang over at Studio Cypher the best of luck with their business plan. I am very interested to see how it works out for them and people new to the ARG genre. ”

Players who did pay seem to be thoroughly enjoying the experience. One Wakeful Agent, ilikepucks, said of Out in the Cold, “This is the first ARG I have actually taken full participation in. Usually I lurk through the forums solving puzzles here and there, but never really getting into the story with character interactions and so forth. I think Studio Cypher has done a good job so far, and I will definitely be taking more in-depth roles in future ARGs because of it… I think the fee was well worth it.”

Since Out in the Cold is only the first Studio Cypher case, it is difficult to predict whether or not the pay-to-fully-play model will work in the end. Hopefully, Studio Cypher will continue to release quality cases and more players will be able to join the Wakeful Agents and find out for themselves. The PMs behind the project are open to feedback and have a section on their forums dedicated to just that for those who would like to share their experiences.


  1. Seemed so rushed, so short-lived. Is that worth the $10?

  2. I was a person who payed-to-fully-play, and i thought it was well worth the money, and many times over. It was in depth, and constantly updating, now that it is over, i finally have some free time. It did not feel rushed, and the length was just right, because it was so in depth. This was my first ARG, and i liked the way that they used multi-layer puzzles and player interaction to draw beginers in. I thought it was great, and plan to pay-to-fully-play next time around, too.

  3. Speaking purely from a price perspective, I think that 10$ (or 14$ for International) is too much money, especially when you think about the vast multitude of good, *free* ARGs that are available, which are not only longer, but… better.

    I can understand that they are trying to make a profit with this game while providing us with a good experience, but I’m sure they have to understand our plight… there are plenty of ARGs in the market right now that aren’t asking for money, such as the Lost Experience and CTW2. Not to mention that if you want the entire story of Studio Cypher, you could realistically spend upwards of 100$, if it lasts as long as the PMs predicted.

    I cannot see myself playing this game in the future, at its current price model.

  4. Hey all. I paid to play, and I was let down by this game right from the beginning. You mention that there were hard puzzles, but the only true puzzle was in the beginning… something that went on for 2 weeks before they just gave the answer away. Then it became a story that we weren’t involved in at all… characters would respond to emails, but it wasn’t really a game. I stopped following a while ago.

  5. We hope everyone will respond to our survey at http://www.studiocypher.com/survey/oitc so that we can make the next adventure even better. Even if you didn’t play our first ARG, we’d like to we’d like to find out what you look for in an ARG.

  6. Michelle Senderhauf

    June 30, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    The Studio Cypher PMs have put an overview of Out in the Cold on their website which can be read here – http://www.studiocypher.com/studio/blog/8

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