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Sable & Shuck, the promotional
alternate reality game crafted by Draft
London
for Stella Artois,
has finally come to its conclusion – not with a bang, not even with a
whimper, but with a wall of silence punctuated only by anguished complaints
from its players. Despite offering a £10,946 ($19,225) cash prize
to the player who cracked the final puzzle, the solve eluded the community
and the closing date passed without comment from behind the curtain.

A newcomer reading the post-game thoughts from the players might imagine
that S&S was an unmitigated disaster. On the contrary, the game showed
many a flash of brilliance during its rocky eight month run. Unfortunately,
however, the exceptional design and colourful premise failed to compensate
for the chronic gameplay flaws that ultimately rendered the game a much-maligned
alternate reality car crash. By squandering such high quality material
and even inspiring some players to disown the brand itself, it will live
on as a warning to would-be corporate PM’s in how seriously ‘ARGvertising’
can backfire.

So where did it all go wrong?

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