A social ARG invited gamers to hack into and crash our fictional server to reveal a limited edition Xbox console.
Greetings, Choombas. Welcome to Night City. Cyberpunk2077 awaits. Your mission is to break the code and crash the server. Do not fail. The clock is ticking.
Not just any game, not just any console, and not just any fans. Xbox and CD Projekt Red enlisted Wildlife to develop and build on the idea of creating an Alternate Reality Game to engage fans through an interactive narrative that asked fans to #breakthecode. The challenge centered around accessing an interactive computer terminal and cracking 7 encrypted pass phrases, to finally reveal the limited edition Xbox One X Cyberpunk 2077 Bundle.
We conceived a full user journey and narrative, from researching and identifying compatible and challenging cipher methods, providing art and creative direction, copywriting, technical direction and security as we built an interactive terminal that let fans feel like they were hacking into an encrypted data server.
A Community Awakens
Three initial clues went live, and an impromptu community assembled across multiple social platforms.
Excited fans created a dedicated ARG-specific Discord channel with over 2,000 members, a live Google Doc with over 100 active participants at its peak, and even went LIVE on YouTube and Twitch with over 11,000 viewers discussing the clues and working to collectively crack them in real-time.
Follow The Clues
Hack or Be Hacked.
In order to progress, fans sorted through binary code buried in Twitter posts, decoded a scrambled audio file, made sense of a hidden message in an unlisted YouTube playlist, and wrestled other twisty puzzles.
Throughout each of the 7 passphrase challenges, fans teamed up to tackle the ciphers as a, utilizing a range of software, hardware and 10 different cipher cryptology methods to hack into and attempt to "crash" the server as they raced against a ticking clock.
The infamous "Passphrase 5" has now become legendary, spawning its own memes and songs.
Fans rallied and spent an unheard of, SIXTEEN HOURS straight attempting to break a single passphrase.
The community went so far as attempting to gain admin access to the domain through phishing, brute force DDOS attacks, efforts to crash the domain and even [allegedly] enlisting a military cryptologist.
Xbox Console Impressions