If you’ve somehow managed to avoid the news Overwatch has a new hero ‘Sombra’. However unlike most reveals of things like this Blizzard did things a little differently and decided to reveal the Mexican Hacker through an ARG (Augmented Reality Game). In keeping with her hacker theme blizzard hid clue and codes in various ingenious ways for code breaking fans to find and learn more about her. Or at least… that was supposed to be the idea. What in fact happened was one of the slowest, most frustrating and ultimately pointless ARG’s in recent history.
Sombra has been around since the beta of Overwatch, a few voice lines in the hidden data files refer to her and there is even a famous newspaper clipping on one of the maps with a headline reading “¿Quién es ‘Sombra’?” (Who is ‘Sombra’?). The first part of the ARG though came in the form of a frame in the reveal video for another Overwatch Hero ‘Ana’. A series of hexadecimal numbers could be found which when run through a couple of different ciphers read “She who has the information, has the power…” and “Sombra”
What followed was a long trail of very hard and obscure clues such as a dump of lines which could be converted into a QR code, a video which when searched thoroughly would give a series of directions which could be linked with certain heroes to give a password, checking hidden achievements on the website and ‘data moshing’ image files. By all accounts, it was not an easy thing to solve and in fact had some periods of months where countdowns had to be waited for.
So what was the reward for all of this? Well… nothing. All of the hard work and waiting rewarded people with exactly nothing. No early release, leak or additional information (though there was a spray that came out on the PC edition). Everything about Sombra was learned through the reveal trailer that was shown off at Blizzcon leaving many feeling that the ARG was pointless.
ARG’s are increasingly common for video games as people look for interesting ways to engage audiences. The most famous incident of which was for Halo 2 which started with the website ilovebees.com and pieced together the story leading up to the game through phone calls across the globe culminating in letting those who had been following the ARG get an early play of the game in movie theaters. There are several other high profile ARG’s still ongoing such as one for ‘Oxenfree’ but these all tend to reveal more about the world and give ‘”Rewards” which the Sombra ARG simply didn’t offer.
There is perhaps still something yet to come. The ARG has so far ended on the website “volskayaindustries.com”, an important company in the Overwatch lore and Sombra’s own story, which reads “Превышена нагрузка на сервер. Ведётся техобслуживание” (Server is overloaded and is under maintenance). There is hope that there is yet life and reward in this ARG yet but that maybe this time it won’t seem so frustratingly pointless.