The challenge came when he tried to explain to the marketing division the idea of building an elaborate game and then not telling anybody about it. The reaction was, Weisman says, "'Wait a minute, we build a ton of expensive content and don't tell anybody it's there? That's not marketing! Marketing is about telling people.' And I was like, 'Yeah, but I think the rules are changing.' And I think, now, the demographic we're talking about, the bigger the neon sign, the faster they run the other way.

"Luckily, Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy [A.I.'s producer] fell in love with the idea when we presented it to them. Steven loves storytelling, and the idea of being part of an experiment in a new form of storytelling was very exciting to them. With their support, Warner Brothers had no choice but to sign on."

Getting back to the reason he left Microsoft, Weisman tells me he left because "I'd started a company called WizKids. It was initially just designed to be kind of a relief from the bureaucracy of Microsoft, a little hobby because of this game idea I'd come up with. ... But that little hobby took off at this incredible rate, and was growing really fast, and I needed to leave Microsoft and run it full-time. ... And that company grew very quickly, and we sold that to Topps in 2003." Prior to the acquisition, he'd started up another company called 42 Entertainment, which dealt in ARGs and other forms of new marketing. "After the acquisition, I was able to devote more time to 42 as I was fulfilling my obligation to Topps, and [I] left Topps earlier this year to be full-time with 42."

And then to bring it all full circle, 42 wound up working with Microsoft again, through Weisman's prior ties there. I asked him how he happened to leave a good enough impression on Microsoft's internal marketing teams to be hired on as a third-party ARG developer.

"In entertainment, marketing and product development have to be completely hand in glove, because the entertainment experience starts at your first exposure and goes through the final credits, and your first exposure is usually via marketing," he says. "So, in my mind, that should all be one organic whole, right from the beginning, right to the very end."

Microsoft, "like a lot of large companies, has this giant, spiked Berlin Wall between marketing and product development, and [there was] a huge amount of animosity between the groups, which I thought was very counterproductive, and so one of the big agendas I had when I joined the company was to try to tear down that wall." Part of that process was simplification, requiring "our game designers and our producers to be able to ... sell their product in 50 words or less." The reaction of product development was, predictably, "'This is crazy! The game has so many levels of subtleties!' And I'm like, 'Look, if you can't do that now, why, $5 million and two years later, is some schmuck in marketing going to be able to do it?'"

"There were a few groups that really got it, you know, so I built very good relationships with them over the course of this process." Some of these groups were eager followers of what Weisman and his team did with The Beast, and when one of these groups was building the campaign structure for Halo 2, 42 was tapped to put together another ARG. "The goal for us was to take it from what it was already going to be, which was the largest videogame launch, and turn it into a pop culture event."

The basic idea for what would become the ARG I Love Bees came from a very classic source, he says. "The mainline marketing campaign for the product goes around the theme of War of the Worlds. That was their kind of inspiration point, you know? Because the Covenant was going to attack Earth in the beginning of the game. So our team sat down and thought, 'So, in a War of the Worlds context, what's the right sort of jumping off point for us?' And we returned to the Orson Welles broadcast from the 1930s."

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