Alternate Realities: Who Needs 'Em?

The Vulture notes The Dark Night’s, erm, “alternate reality game” (read: giant-sized, over-funded scavenger hunt) and says what I’ve been thinking:

Sure, the Dark Knight campaign has more money, but it’s not substantially different from other ARGs — and will have similarly little to do, in the end, with how well the movie does at the box office. When The Dark Knight makes a gazillion dollars, it won’t be because of a handful of enthusiastic gamers; it’ll be because everyone and his sister wants to see the awesome new Batman movie.

How many people even play these games? I spent about 30 seconds messing around with the A.I. game back when it came out. And I played with The Lost Experience for maybe 45 minutes one afternoon until I realized that it would never provide anything more than ancillary material — the equivalent of deleted scenes and bonus features (at best). I just don’t get the point: There’s no way the producers of a major entertainment would ever be stupid enough to hide crucial information in something as obscure as a web game. On the other hand, they spend gajillions on this sort of marketing. I know that’s not necessarilly a measure of value — corporations blow gajillions on moronic ideas, repeatedly, all the time. But still. Is there a reason for this I’m missing or is it just a freebie for the net-nerd/obsessive crowd?