Uncapping the Ride – BMW Endgame Gives Hope

by Steve Peters
Beginning in 2001, BMW released a series of short films showcasing their cars. Each film starred Clive Owen as the "Driver" alongside many famous actors, and each was directed by such notables as Ang Lee, John Woo, Guy Ritchie, and John Frankenheimer. News eventually surfaced in a Macintosh rumors forum that the Apple site had a mysterious tiny :K: link which seemed to have something to do with those BMW films. Investigation of the subplot films that went along with each production revealed clues to a massive internet scavenger hunt set in the Driver's universe that spanned many sites, including the Apple and BMW Films sites, Starbucks, First Illinois Mortgage, and the Susstones' site.

Several thousand people took the bait and followed the trail, which ultimately led to the chance to register to win a brand new 2003 BMW Z4. Last night's event in Las Vegas, Nevada, was the culmination of their quest. Only 250 people completed the online portion and registered to win the car, and many of them travelled from all over North America to meet the man with the forks. Unfiction's Vegas Correspondent, Steve Peters, was there.

I was privileged to witness the endgame of the BMW Uncap the Ride game here in Las Vegas tonight. Although I wasn't playing along, I had a lot of fun as I found myself in the middle of what seemed to be a scavenger hunt up and down The Strip. Following is my firsthand report of my experience.


The Stardust Casino

According to a voicemail message at the end of the game, we were told to be in Las Vegas tonight: "Okay, here's what we're going to do. I met a guy who can help us out. Meet him in front of the Stardust in Las Vegas, January 11th between 6 and 8 PM. He'll be wearing a black warmup suit with white stripes. Ask him if he has a fork. He'll know where to find me. Don't be late. Keep this number with you."

So, ever the vigilant ARGonaut, I headed down to the Stardust, getting there around 7:30pm (I had a gig, so couldn't get there earlier) – just in time, as I found out. The guy in the black warmup suit was just heading in, so I caught up to him and asked if he had a fork. Startled, he turned around and gave me a white pawn chesspiece. "Go find a man in a brown trenchcoat in front of the Stratosphere," he said. "If he's not there, go up to the Cloud Nine Lounge in the Tower. Good luck!"


BMW Z4

So, I hopped in my car and sped the back way up the strip to the Stratosphere, getting there at about 7:45. Hmm. No man in a trenchcoat here, which is unusual for Vegas. There was, however, a really nice BMW (pictured above) suspiciously parked on the sidewalk in front of the casino, so I knew I was on the right trail. After searching around, feeling like I was in the Amazing Race or something, I ran in through the casino, up the stairs, through the mall and finally got to the base of the tower, telling the guy I was supposed to meet someone in the Cloud Nine. He gave me a pass for the elevator and I headed up, having no idea what I'd find.


BMW Films Poster

Well, after getting to the top (and getting over my fear of heights) I found a BMW films poster pointing me in to a VIP party. Oh, how cool was this?! I composed myself, and walked down the hall and into the lounge to find….

Nothing. Well, a couple guys cleaning up. Crap! One guy looked up at me and told me everyone left to go downstairs like 5 minutes ago. Geez. According to him, they'd shown the films and were heading downstairs for further festivities. So, back into the elevator.

When I got to the bottom I ran out front again (after kissing solid ground), and found a throng of folks around the BMW. Well, well, well! I didn't miss all the fun after all! These were folks from literally all over the country who had gotten to the end of the game and come out to Vegas as instructed. Amazing! Seems they'd had a drawing from the folks who registered online, or from the folks who were there (still not clear on that part), and some lucky person had won the oh-so-cool BMW Z4. The grand prize winner of the Z4 was Jonathan Fisher and his bride of 2 weeks, from Bellingham, Washington. First prize, a BMW mountain bike, went to Andrew Brown of New Hampshire. Nobody had any idea there was going to be an actual car at stake in all of this, so needless to say, they were shocked.


Grand prize winners, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Fisher

I spent a little time talking to them. They had been playing the game all by themselves, and decided to come on down to Vegas just for fun. At the very least, they'd have a trip to Vegas, which is usually pretty fun by itself. I learned a little about the parts of the endgame here that I missed, due to being so late. Apparently, earlier players had initially been sent into a restaurant at the Stardust to find a man with photo they needed to identify. This photo was of the maid in the first series of movies. Depending on their answer, they were either given a chesspiece and sent to the Strat, or sent on a couple of additional missions. I'm really bummed I missed all this, but it's probably a good thing, as I didn't know the answers to any of the questions since I hadn't been actively playing. Anyway, everything culminated with the party at the top of the Stratosphere, the movie screening, and the announcement of the winners down front, followed by a party back inside.

It was here I got to meet a few more folks. Players from Florida, Canada, a lot from L.A., and even one from South Africa (well, originally). I also got a chance to talk to talk extensively to the folks behind the game, both from BMW America and Fallon, the promotion company who worked with BMW to put this whole thing on. I talked with both the executives and the PMs of the game.

According to Wayne Schulte, Media Communications Manager for BMW, this promotion was an unqualified success, going beyond their wildest expectations. "The response was phenomenal," he said. "We'd have been happy if just three people had showed up, but having over 200 here tonight was absolutely amazing!" I asked if he considered this a successful promotion, then. His reply: "No. Not successful. Fantastic!" Another guy from BMW said he'd been "living, eating and breathing this thing for three years. It was great to see it all culminate tonight!"

The crowd of folks was a very pleasant, fun bunch. You'd never have known they had all been vying for such a cool prize, and they were all genuinely happy for the winner. I heard a lot of great stories from players and pm's alike. I learned of one guy who had flown to Vegas from Wisconsin over the protestations of his wife, who just didn't get what was going on. Also, the PMs were surprised at the intensity of some of the players to arrive tonight. Two guys showed up dressed as Men in Black, while another player on a headset cellphone with her partner at home mistook the endgame for a race, thinking they'd won the car when she was the first to arrive.


Free Hat!

Everyone got souvenirs in the form of a cool cap, a poster and of course, a chesspiece. We were mysteriously told to hang onto the chesspiece carefully, for something 'down the road.' If it explodes or anything, I'll let you know!

Overall, I'm really pleased to see this ARG come to a successful conclusion. It really makes me hopeful for the continued future growth and popularity of this sort of thing. It must be noted that this game was done using promotional dollars, so it seems that at least for now, this revenue model is one of the few that really works. Let's hope that other companies and/or movies *cough*matrixreloaded*cough* take note of the success of this and give it a shot.

As far as what the PMs told me about a third BMWFilms game? I wouldn't know. I'm just a pawn. ;)

Steve Peters is a freelance writer, composer, and musician from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is the sitemaster of argn.com, and prefers Battleship to Chess.