At 5 o’clock GMT this afternoon, what appears to be the final stage Valve’s ‘Potato Fool’s Day’ ARG kicked in after a fairly brief countdown, revealing that if enough players log in to the thirteen indie games promoted as part of the ARG, then Portal 2 will be released early. If the previous sentence appears like the ravings of a madman to you, then check this out, because there’s no way I’m going to try and explain this one.
In short, I’m a little disappointed. To give Valve their due, this whole business has had games websites buzzing for weeks, with today’s countdown driving many into meltdown with excitement. It’s a diabolically clever piece of marketing that I’m not sure is quite over yet. Nevertheless, could they not have done something a bit more exciting at the end of the countdown? After all, the early release, if it comes, will only be to PC players on Steam, unless Valve can command Amazon, Gamestop and a hundred other retailers to do their bidding (I wouldn’t put it past them). I, like many, had high hopes for the end of the countdown that weren’t quite satisfied. So here is what happened in a number of parallel universes when that timer hit zero.
1) Half Life 2: Episode 3 is officially announced, sparking accusations from Gearbox Software that Valve are trying to steal Duke Nukem’s thunder. Consequently, Duke and Gordon Freeman square up for a duel, forcing a UN intervention.
2) GlaDOS, fully rebooted, seizes control of every stock market in the world and forces them to trade in nothing but Panels.
3) The whole Potato Fools Day game turns out to be a stitch-up by Anonymous.
4) GlaDOS reveals that she has kidnapped Valve boss Gabe Newell, having lured him in with promises of cake, before ransoming him in exchange for the incineration of a million Companion Cubes.
5) Due to the intense pressure on Valve’s servers, Steam crashes for half an hour. The PC gaming market collapses within fifteen minutes.
6) GlaDOS turns out to be Gabe Newell, revealing the Valve boss to be nothing more than a holographic projection used to further her nefarious goals. The AI proceeds to insist not only that the cake was a lie, but that Left for Dead 2 was as well.
7) The countdown page reveals a solitary video of Valve employees furiously jumping up and down on an enormous cake, throwing chunks of chocolate sponge at the camera and screaming ‘WHAT IS IT WITH YOU PEOPLE! IT WASN’T EVEN THAT FUNNY IN THE FIRST PLACE!’