The Next Level Of QR Code Scavenger Hunts

I have said often that the best QR Code experiences are ultra personalized to an audience where it offers personalized content to a viewer in context. Two days ago I found out about the most amazing QR Code scavenger hunt that I never even knew was going on. Ever heard of Deus Ex? It’s a video game that ran a 3 month QR Code scavenger hunt similar to the Mercedes-Benz campaign posted on this site a few days ago. This campaign is now over, so unfortunately you can no longer experience it.

21 codes were hidden in the game, instore displays, ads, facebook pages, and clues were given over twitter (one per week). Using the “Deus Ex QR Missions App”, users scanned a code to unlock virtual prizes (video clips, xbox avatars, player upgrades) and real prizes. If you scanned one of the codes without the app, it brings you to a mobile landing page that asks you to download it. In addition to an individual experience, prizes were unlocked when enough people scanned a certain number of codes or facebook likes were achieved to “level up” the entire gaming experience.

I am impressed how this campaign achieved 3 things.

  1. Broke the stereotype of “offline to online” interactions. It went online, to virtual, to offline, to collective, back to online AND offline.
  2. Offered several experiences after the QR Code scan that were of value on a tiered level. Individual scans were tallied, but also everyone received value from a crowdsourced participation model of leveling up for a prize based on collective scans. The Core idea of the game itself is about Cyborgs, and the “augment youself” mantra behind this campaign is a perfect fit for customizing your xbox UI or character gameplay.
  3. Few campaigns successfully inspire loyalty for a QR Code campaign. This campaign got several people to look and scan all 21 QR codes. And it wasn’t easy. One code was released per week, and supposedly some were in store requiring travel, and others required you looking through a twitter feed for clues.

I think this campaign can inspire us to think differently about how mobile tags can be integrated throughout a multichannel campaign to create a truly unique experience.

A special thanks to Mark Anderson to sharing this campaign with me.

Patrick Donnelly, Mobile Solutions Architect at and personal blog at

Deus Ex images 1
Deus Ex images 2

6 thoughts on “The Next Level Of QR Code Scavenger Hunts”

  1. Nice write-up, Patrick! The ability of 2D codesto tap into mobile and social to move people to action in the real world is pretty exciting.

    Nick Martin
    Online Community Manager
    Microsoft Tag

  2. Is the QR Missions app on the Android market? Cause I cant find it. If not, Are we gonna see it anytime soon? Thanx.

  3. It was an iPhone-only campaign which drew a LOT of heat on the game’s FaceBook page. Why they would exclude Android users is baffling. Luckily, I’m an iPhone guy! And an avid gamer, so I jumped right into this event.

    It was well presented overall, very slick looking app and easy to navigate. Even with a few badly coded codes along the way and some app crashing, they were quick to correct them & communicate to the players how to get back on track. I never spotted any in the wild, the ones I collected were all scanned online. I don’t frequent game stores or even big name electronics stores often though, so if they were out there I’m just not the target user.

    As with most things, there were sites & other places that “collected” the QRs as they surfaced, so it really became a simple practice of checking a few sites daily to see what codes were unveiled. Not much the developers could do about that, of course.

    I didn’t manage to scan all 21 codes, so wasn’t eligible for any of the “real” prizes, however I still received a redemption code for some kind of in-game avatar thing. Nice follow-up by the devs.

    This should show other game distributors & companies with some willingness to invest how a QR Campaign SHOULD be run. I’d give it a solid 8/10.

  4. Only one correction Patrick – there were no codes in the game itself as the game was not released until after the campaign. Great way to generate interest from the hardcore gamer and tech head in some respects, but I do wonder if it managed to expand interest beyond those who were already going to buy the (much anticipated) game? Also, as mentioned, it actually annoyed a lot of would be buyers by being purely iPhone based. Did that harm the sales? Probably not, but still worth noting.

  5. My colleague sent me this screen shot of QR codes in the game. Maybe they didn’t add to the experience, but they are in there.

    In terms of the effect on sales, I think any campaign that adds to buzz has to influence sales or engagement. I dont know how much, but it got my attention, and many other people in the games community. If that could have influenced just a few sales, and core followers, I think it would be considered a success.


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