We’ve been teased to the point that it’s become on the biggest running gags in the gaming community, but somehow Valve fans can’t help but still feel a small flicker of hope every time another story crops up “confirming” the existence of Half-Life 3. Perhaps it’s because the idea of a game as well-loved and popular as Half-Life 2 not getting a follow-up is unthinkable, or perhaps it’s because with so much smoke around, there has to be a fire somewhere underneath it all.
There certainly has been a lot of smoke, which might be why things are still so unclear. From the concept art for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 that was released last summer to Valve’s recent teases of three upcoming announcements (none of which turned out to be related to Half-Life 3), it could be said that Half-Life 3 has been the subject of the most drawn-out and perennially effective viral marketing campaign in history – all for a game that might not even be in development at all.
The latest “Half Life 3 Confirmed” headlines came from a combination of two pieces of information that came to light in quick succession. The first of these, and certainly the most interesting, was a glimpse at Valve’s project management software The User Picker, which showed that a few dozen employees – some of them veterans from Half-Life 2 – were working on projects called ‘Half-Life 3‘ and ‘Half-Life 3 Core.’ As though that wasn’t exciting enough, an application from Valve for the Half-Life 3 trademark was found to have been filed with the European Union’s trademark and design registry, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market.
Just a few days later, one of these pieces of evidence is gone. Polygon reports that the application is now missing from the OHIM registry, and notes that no equivalent was ever found in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application was originally filed on September 29th, by European trademark and patents firm Casalonga & Associés – supposedly on behalf of Valve Corporation – but a mere week later it was no longer available.
There are a number of possible explanations for why this might have happened: a gamer with far too much time on their hands may have filed the application as a hoax, whether in cahoots with the trademark firm or by somehow tricking them; Valve may have made the application and withdrawn it upon its discovery by the public; or, for the conspiracy theorists out there, Valve applied for the trademark and deliberately leaked the information for just long enough to stir the pot, before making it mysteriously disappear so as to keep the conversation going. If the latter is true, then congratulations to Valve for succeeding and for having such a bafflingly complex and odd approach to marketing.
At this point it would be far more surprising to learn that Half-Life 3 isn’t in development – it almost certainly is. What most fans really want to know are actual details, such as how soon it might be released, what it’s going to be about, whether it would be released on Steam Box, and a virtually infinite number of other unanswered questions that are all a lot more interesting than “yes or no?”