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Steam's Winter Sale is hiding something, and the internet's on the case

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Detectives are digging up clues for Valve's secret alternate reality game

When Valve launched its annual Steam Winter Sale just before Christmas, it secretly introduced something alongside it: an alternate reality game, which some customers-turned-amateur detectives are just now taking a crack at.

These more dedicated members of the Steam community have taken up residence in a subreddit called Steam Sale Detectives, in which they log their daily findings and chart their progress within the game. The first of the group's daily recaps helpfully gathers all of the ARG's uncovered clues.

Here's how to start playing the game: Go to any game or application's page in the Steam store and type the word "search." Don't enter it into the search bar — just type it while you're looking at the page itself, then press enter.

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But what goes in the dialog box? That's what many are still trying to figure out, but the Sale Detectives have already found some password options.

The comic that debuted with the sale, Gingerbread Jake in "Northpole Noir," offers a number of hints. A barcode previously found on the comic's cover page (it's been removed, perhaps to make things harder for the ARG's players) featured the numbers 94050999014715, which seemed to reference the Hitman series. Those are most of the same numbers as the set tattooed on the back of star Agent 47's head, subbing the 0s for 9s.

Entering the numbers on the store page for Hitman: Codename 47, specifically, brings up this box:

steam sale arg

The Steam Sale Detectives deduced that appending that code to the comic's URL might lead somewhere, and that it does; it downloads an audio file in which an unknown voice says, "I was on the right track, I could feel it. Tomorrow, I was going to search again."

Where to go from there, exactly, is not yet clear. Yet there are further clues embedded in the comic. Redditors found that entering the odd club password that the fictional private eye himself provides on the comic's sixth page redirected to, of all things, Undertale.

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It must be noted that this only works when you're on the listing for Grim Fandango: Remastered, for whatever reason. Speaking of that game, the detectives also uncovered another way to land on its page, as well: by typing "blitzen" into the proper store search bar.

Once you're on the Undertale page, however, if you type the following ...

steam sale arg

You'll end up, appropriately, here.

steam sale arg

Most recently, the supersleuths happened upon a Valve employee's Steam profile which displays a fitting Red Herring badge that, when highlighted, bears a taunting message.

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The user's most recently played games are the aforementioned Undertale and Ikaruga, as well as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex — First Assault Online, which might be the next lead.

Fully uncovering the mysteries might seem impossible to those of us not blessed with the gift of sleuthing, so we have to thank the Redditors for their efforts. In just under 24 hours, they've already made huge strides in solving the game, and the subreddit is updating with more and more information around the clock.

The winter comic updates daily, too, and the sale's collectible trading cards also offer clues of their own.

Valve's Christmas might have been plagued with large-scale storefront errors, but this cool little alternate reality game appears to have emerged unscathed.

Update: Don't forget to hit "enter" after typing "search" on a game's store page!