With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 out on retail shelves, it hasn't taken long for gamers to become transfixed by a new countdown.
An ominous countdown clock on the recently discovered TheSurvivor2299.com has fueled rampant online speculation that the announcement of Fallout 4, the next installment of a massively popular post-apocalyptic game franchise—could be just days away. But the site's ambiguous coding and tenuous connection to Fallout developer Bethesda Game Studios has some wondering if the whole thing isn't just an elaborate hoax.
Whether the creators of the Survivor 2299 site are connected to Bethesda or not, they clearly know how to play on the passions of a fanbase clamoring for a new Fallout game. The Fallout series, set in 1950-stylized alternative future following a global nuclear war, has developed a loyal following. But it's been three years since Fallout: New Vegas hit shelves, and fans are hungry for more.
It should come as no surprise, then, that after Survivor 2299 was uncovered on Nov. 15, thousands eagerly turned to Reddit to discuss whether the page was an official countdown to a new game. A thread dissecting the site already has more than 2,000 comments.
"It's an interesting time to be a Fallout fan," wrote Jynx104.
Indeed it is. Though Bethesda has been mum about the site, there are many signs pointing toward the announcement of a new game. The site itself was uncovered just after the trademark filing for Fallout 4. In addition to the Fallout logo on the page, the morse code messages constantly emanating from the site are related to the story of the game. And the countdown is scheduled to come to an end the same day as the Video Game Awards, the event where Bethesda announced its mega-hit role playing game Skyrim in 2010.
There are other connections as well that bode well for the chances of a new game announcement. As the Kernel's James Cook reports, a WHOIS record of the domain shows that it's registered to Bethesda. A closer look at the site's data reveals that it belongs to a Polish man named Wojciech Perez, which is also the name of a man believed to be working for AKQA, the company behind Fallout 3's online marketing campaign. Shortly after this discovery, the Gmail account used to connect Perez to AKQA disappeared. AKQA itself has remained quiet about the site.
The fact that Bethesda refuses to comment on the site could also be an optimistic sign for fans. In the past, fan-made websites related to Fallout have either faced legal action or flat-out denials from the game company. And for months, fans have led themselves to believe Fallout 4 is already in production, thanks in large part to a Tweet from a Fallout voice actor.
But there are less positive signs, indicating this could be a fan-made hoax. The site itself is registered with GoDaddy, a domain name service Bethesda has not used in the past. And a number of HTML mistakes found on hidden pages of the site would seem to demonstrate amateurish quality. But as most errors have been pointed out, they've been quickly changed, signalling that whoever's responsible for the site is diligently following the hubbub it’s sparked.
And that wouldn't be hard, given just how much interest Survivor 2299 has generated over the past 10 days. Not only has the site been carefully poured over by commenters on Reddit and other video game forums, a dedicated Twitter account has cropped up to keep users abreast of the latest discoveries about the site. The account, @12072299, originally started out as a hoax riding the wave of excitement surrounding the site. Now it's become a dedicated source of information and fan analysis.
I have no idea whether the website's real or not but I really hope it is. I'm glad everyone's so hyped - atleast we know it's in production!— 12.07.2299 (@12072299) November 19, 2013
Regardless of the developments to come, it seems Fallout fans will have to wait for a definitive answer until the clock strikes zero on Dec. 7.