Sarah Jessica Parker is probably one of the last people we’d expect to see in a web-based mystery, or “interactive fictional story”, let alone actually seeing a web-based game promoting a new perfume. However, Sarah’s new fragrance “Covet” is at the center of a game which begins at CaseOfTheCovetedBottle.com (also the perfume’s official website). The premise is this: “You must try to locate the missing bottle of Covet perfume and help prove that Sarah Jessica Parker has been framed for its disappearance. To do this, your goal is to identify the true mastermind behind the theft.”
The game works much like other recently run promotional campaigns where challenges or riddles are released based on a schedule, leading towards an end goal usually consisting of a challenge or draw for a grand prize. In this case, if you’re able to solve each of ten “lead challenges” released over a ten week period (the end date of the game is October 15), you’ll be entered into the grand prize drawing for $10,000, a trip for two to New York to attend Lucky Magazine’s Lucky Shops 2007, and of course a few Covet products. Numerous other secondary rewards are up for grabs, including weekly prize drawings, and prizes for two bonus challenges.
While The Case of the Coveted Bottle seems to follow in the footsteps of similar online ‘treasure hunt’ promotions, a few points stand out about this one. First, the How To Play guide is clear in encouraging community cooperation, even to the point of linking directly to the Unfiction forums as an example of a community to join. Secondly, in solving the weekly leads, not only are you entered into drawings, but the overall story and mystery is also advanced. The game is filled with opportunities to employ numerous research strategies, from googling for information and answers to interacting with characters in their blogs. The two bonus challenges encourage creativity by requiring players to make videos based on particular guidelines, and post them to MySpace or Youtube, where the winners will be chosen by popularity (votes and judging).