To the last month, Redditors i Nines: Slots society tried to solve a mystery. It involved a secret door, a church that was supposedly hidden in the game for five years, and about 175,000 fans debated whether it was real or a very elaborate lie.
It started, as many conspiracies do, with a cryptic post online. Two months ago, Reddit user sadfutago went to a small Nine forum to ask how to open a church in Platinum’s 2017 hit game The post attracted little fanfare, but they continued to follow up with photos and later videos of the area: a white paper room, eerily empty except for a few small hints that some fans thought were a nod to other games in the series. After sadfutago started writing, no other player was able to find it.
Countless theories and studies later, no one could figure out what the space was or how it got there. Was it the work of an advanced modder, or old code only unlocked on a dev kit? Maybe it was a teaser for a new title or the game’s Switch release later this year? Or was it a final secret hidden by the notoriously enigmatic and eccentric creator Yoko Taro? The answer didn’t matter nearly as much as the meta-mystery it created. “This is either a great tier and impressive cheat or insanely cool data to spare and either way this is AWESOME,” user Mild Disappointment wrote in a thread. “I’ve never been so happy to be potentially confused before.”
Nines: Slots is not quite like other games of its kind. Taro is notorious for wearing a grinning, bubble-shaped headpiece that looks like a Tim Burton prop, and his games are known for doing things that turn what you think you know on its head. Secrets are his business, and Nine is full of them. A player discovered the presumed last of these in 2021: a feature unlock cheat that only works under hyper-specific circumstances and was later confirmed as a Tarot hidden gem by the game’s official Twitter account. But this time Taro offered no help. Even his response sent punters on perhaps the shortest chase of his career. “Do you want to know more about my insight?” he tweeted earlier this week. “In that case, you can find answers on my Twitter profile. Thank you.”
The chaser for this shot? His Twitter bio says: “I cannot respond to any products. Please ask the publisher.”
Thaw Nine fans, Lyn and Vera (who requested that WIRED use only their first names), share a Twitter account that has religiously documented every major development via a popular thread Vera created. Both say that they have followed closely. Vera was eager for answers straight from the source — the people who made the game — to “give us some sort of explanation for the wild goose chase we’ve all been on.” Lyn hasn’t slept much. “In any other game series, something like this would be quickly dismissed as a hoax,” says Lynn. But Taro “has created a huge mythology that has mostly consisted of screwing with players. This means that no discovery is completely out of the question.”
Lyn compares it to films like David Lynch’s Mulholland Driveor “a willfully obtuse” book like Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Fans can pick different cues apart and debate theories, but ultimately these media are static rather than interactive. “Everyone experiences the same in all the cases, they do not vary from person to person,” says Lyn. “Anything can happen in a video game, and developers like Yoko Taro are known for hiding secrets that lay undiscovered for years.”
Ninesociety went to great lengths to fix things: dug into literature, scrutinized architecture, tried reconstructions their own, creating memes. Modders shared their progress as they elaborate proofs. That rabbit hole grew deep and the fan base kept watching. “That’s the kind of mindset everyone should have about quests like these. They’re absolutely about the journey and what’s revealed about the game as opposed to a singular, monolithic secret,” says Lyn.
On Reddit, the mystery continued as the original poster released more footage for armchair detectives to sift through. “I… can’t fathom how this can even be real or how can this possibly be false,” wrote using vgxmaster after a new video posted on Wednesday night. “No matter how this ends, I’m along for the ride. Thank you for taking us on this journey.”
Late Thursday, fans got their answer. The Church is the work of three modders who plan to release the level and the tools needed to create it for others to enjoy. On Reddit, many members of the community still see the experience as a net positive. “Even if you’re disappointed that this didn’t end up with a new game announcement, what these modders did for the community is huge,” said a user named Bossman1086. “I’ve seen so many posts and comments on this sub the last few days from people who had never played one Nine game before excited to jump in for the first time because of this thing.”
Updated 29-06-2022 at 2:00 PM EDT to reflect that the mystery has been solved.