It’s been too long since we had a good old-fashioned moral panic related to video games, and perhaps that’s why Ubisoft is making an effort to stoke the fires of controversy by encouraging gamers to rob a bank. This is the focus of a new mission video and competition that have been created to promote Ubisoft’s upcoming vigilante hacker sandbox game, Watch_Dogs.
Admittedly the anarchic nature of this promotional stunt is dampened a little by the fact that it’s, well, just a promotional stunt. No banks are actually going to be robbed and the target – Michael G. Aronson, a vague cardboard cut-out of a rich scumbag with “ill-gotten cash” – is a fictional character, but you have to give Ubisoft some credit for creativity.
Watch_Dogs is out later this year, and casts the player in the role of a hacker with a grudge called Aiden Pearce, who lives in a version of Chicago where everything that runs on electricity is connected to, and powered by, a single system called the CtOS. Pearce uses his technological expertise to break into the CtOS and access vast amounts of information about, and influence over, the world around him.
The mission video, titled “Cracked for Cash,” is shown above, and speaks to a network of hackers who are all invited to have a stab at breaking into Aronson’s account and making off with his money. There are four security levels to be cracked, and once the fourth is broken an ATM somewhere in Canada (which is a fairly big country, so those directions don’t really narrow it down much) will spit out wads of cash in a live event filmed by Ubisoft.
The first two levels have already been “hacked,” leaving two more to go before the live ATM event happens. The current security level waiting to be hacked required a six-digit security code (it’s not 1-2-3-4-5-6, we checked).
Go to the Watch Dogs Live website to take your own turn at cracking the code, and to have a chance of winning $500. You can either sign up to the mailing list and be sent a different code every day with the possibility of being sent the correct one, or simply take random guesses. Since this is labelled Mission 1, there will presumably be more events like it before Watch Dogs is released in November.
Obviously, when the fourth level is cracked, the ATM cash-spitting stunt will either be something organized between Ubisoft and the bank, or simply a fake ATM set up with money inside, but there’s nothing fake about the downright creepy Watch Dogs promotional site WeAreData. This covers three European cities – London, Berlin, and Paris – and allows the user to take a very, very close look at them: zooming in on particular neighborhoods to find out their crime and unemployment rates, average salaries and electricity usage, and even snooping on tweets and image shares from specific locations.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Watch_Dogs is its concept. The average person, especially in developed countries, generates a staggering amount of data, and with enough close study and a general hacking knowledge it would be possible for a complete stranger to learn a frightening amount of intimate detail about you. Anyone who’s ever “Facebook stalked” or “Google stalked” someone they just met will know just how much you can find out about a person without ever even needing to speak to them, and if nothing else Watch_Dogs may end up acting as a cautionary tale for social media addicts.
We’ll keep you updated on the Watch_Dogs Live competition and what happens when someone cracks the final code and triggers the ATM. Will it be one of our Canadian readers who managed the final hack and wins the payload? That’s assuming that the video’s mention of “those who need [the money] most” is referring to “those who sign up for the competition and get lucky.”
Watch_Dogs releases November 19, 2013 for the PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, and will also be available for the PS4 and Xbox One.