Something strange is happening in the Steam Winter Sale

Northpole Noir cover

On the surface, the 2015 Steam Winter Sale seems fairly mundane as these things go: Good deals, cute comic, but nothing we haven't seen before. But maybe—just maybe—there's more to it than meets the eye. The Steam Sale Detectives on Reddit have discovered a rabbit hole, and at this point there's no telling how deep it goes.

The “rabbit hole” is actually a hidden password prompt that can be reached by going to any Steam store page and typing “search” (without the quotes) and pressing enter. The prompt is apparently handled by this bit of “nothing to see here” javascript, which includes a link to Entering the correct password will presumably lead to a different page, but there's no hint as to what it might be.

Or is there? Of course there is! The first page of the Northpole Noir comic originally featured a barcode, which closely—but not perfectly—matched the barcode tattooed on Agent 47 of Hitman fame. Entering that code on the Steam store page for Hitman: Codename 47 results in another code, and that, appended to the Winter Comic URL, leads to an audio file:

"I was on the right track. I could feel it. Tomorrow, I was going to search again."

That's not all: The “incorrect” Hitman bar code replaces three numbers—6, 0, and 4—with three 9s, which also happen to figure prominently and in a similar sequence in a string of text hidden in the Northpole Noir “Sending a Message” trading card: 794E2CEA991. There are other potential clues as well, like the “nesse” printed very faintly in the bottom-left of the first page of the Northpole Noir comic, which just happens to be under the part of the cover that was torn away. Some or all of them may be red herrings, but one thing's for sure: There's a mystery here, and we need to solve it.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.