Update 8 December: Hoaxer reveals the cost and motivation behind the Falllout 4 hoax.
This evening the survivor2299.com website revealed its true colours in what has been a cruel hoax by a member of the Fallout community.
Last week we received messages from a Fallout fan who wanted to remain anonymous showing conversations with a member of the Fallout community who runs a Fallout Facebook page. The chat dialogue we were shown indicated that this member was getting “bored” with running the page and so concocted this elaborate hoax to troll the community.
Earlier in the week there were indications that this could be a hoax when the site started to fall over and the timer was reset to keep rolling. Despite this, the countdown continued and clues even started to ramp up in the past few days, including this afternoon.
The domain name was registered with GoDaddy using the name ZeniMax so it looked semi-legit when initial investigations began. According to our tip-off last week, a hosting plan was purchased to run for under 30 days which is why the countdown timer was set to run out at a rather odd time and day initially. The alleged plan was to post a troll face or a trolling message on the site when the countdown reached zero. The individual said he was doing this “just for fun”.
This evening the coded messages and Morse code was replaced with this video.
Bethesda have kept very quiet over the whole period the site has been running but they eventually posted this on Twitter this evening. It’s was a pretty standard PR response.
PSA: If you don’t hear it through an official channel like this, assume all rumors and speculation are false.
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This has to be have been one of the best executed videogame hoaxes for a long time and it was brilliantly imagined by the individual. Despite there being clues such as the domain name registration information indicating it was likely a hoax, the Morse code and cryptic clues engaged the community and brought everyone together.
Let’s take a quick look back at how this all panned out…
- 14 November – A member of the Reddit community discovers the survivor2299.com website which is broadcasting a Morse code message which translates to the date of 11 December 2013.
- 14 November – EU Trademark discovered
- 21 November – A phone number appears in a message which reads “Nuclear winter is coming. Reserve your future home today! 877-260-2299” When called it plays the Tranquility Land music and more morse code. Line apparently goes dead after a few hours.
- 21 November – site’s Morse code changes again and when deciphered translates to “Calling any station. Calling any station. Calling any station. This is OZ. Please stand by”.
- 22 November – New message on the site is deciphered to read “MY DEAR SISTER. I’M HEADING TO THE INSTITUTE. GOD KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS PLACE NOW. THIS OLD BASTARD WILL HELP US. HE MUST HELP US. –0321–”
- 22 November – Site message changes to “Nuclear winter is coming. Reserve your future home today! ###PERMISSION DENIED BY OVERSEER (15334) ###”
- 23 November – New site message reads “The quabbin reservoir is seven zero four two two nine nine” and “one two two seven two zero one three || one one two five two zero one three” which is two dates used to desipher the next code reveal.
- 25 November – “Nuclear winter is coming in 6days 11h 41m 25s (counting down)” and “Bridgeport, this is Concord (MA), message: Quabbin Reservoir is hit, repeat, Quabbin Reservoir is hit” appear.
- 26 November – New morse message translates to “NCRA UNIT BST 314 7 EMRG MSG NEW YORK STAGE 7 WASHINGTON STAGE 7 LOS ANGELES STAGE 7 AUSTIN STAGE 7 CHICAGO STAGE 7 NEW ORLEAN STAGE 7 LAS VEGAS UNKNOWN MIAMI STAGE 7 DALLAS STAGE 7 DENVER STAGE 7 SAN DIEGO STAGE 7 SAN FRANCISCO STAGE 7 BOSTO”
- 27 November – More code translates to “Calling any station, Calling any station, Calling any station. Boston is gone, repeat, Boston is gone. No Hope. Frequency 3450 Return Transmission. Goodbye America.”
- 28 November – EU trademark appears to be fake.
- 30 November – The ‘Nuclear Winter is Coming’ countdown ticks to zero (after some hiccups,) revealing a crapload of extra codes and messages.
- 1-2 December – A new area appears on thesurvivor2299.com with even more bits and pieces on it.
- 3-4 December – New codes and new ciphers.
- 5 December – More code malarky.
- 6 December – Tunnel Snakes rule.
For some this conclusion will result in major disappointment, but for others it has been a fun few weeks following the updates and solving clues. Bethesda themselves probably couldn’t have done a better job to engage the Fallout community.
As for Fallout 4? We sit and wait and hope that Bethesda will reveal the title at some point in the future.
So were you guys fooled by this hoax? Apparently so. Here’s the results of our poll in which we asked you whether you thought it was real or fake. This poll has been running for about a week and it appears most people have been fooled.
Update 5AM GMT.
It’s been a wild evening for Fallout 4 fans and Bethesda finally stepped up and hit Twitter again this evening after they were questioned about another site called started raising a few eyebrows yesterday.
When asked about this site they responded with:
Not us. We’re looking into who is doing this.
This comes on the back of the survivor2299 site finally revealing itself as a hoax a few hours ago which sent some of the community into a rage while others commended the individual for his/her inventiveness.
Bethesda obviously though enough was enough in light of the fact the VGX awards are running tomorrow night in the US. Bethesda added:
The hype being generated had escalated and needed to let folks know it wasn’t us
Bethesda could probably not have executed a marketing plan as solid as what’s been happening over the past few weeks. The Fallout franchise has come to the attention of most gamers once again as they surfed around the Intertubes.
Update: 5:10 AM GMT
The hoaxer left a rather unfriendly message on a hidden page on the survivor2299 site which is using Gary Numan’s hit Cars as the music, the same as thepropheteer site mentioned above.