The Hidden Bats ARG promoting the upcoming release of AI: The Somnium Files- NirvanA Initiative has finally come to a close, after running for a month. The final round started on June 2nd and ended on June 15th.
This round had the most stakes compared to the other rounds, as one of the characters in danger in this round was Iris Sagan, an internet idol who featured prominently in the first AI: The Somnium Files game. She was trapped with a new character, Kairo Goshiki, an athletic part-time worker. The puzzles for this phase were the most complex yet, with puzzles utilizing multiple outside sources, like Scytale ciphers, Rail Fence ciphers, and even puzzles requiring players to look at hidden pages on the Sunaiku Foundation website, along with elements from the original Bats489 video. You can view all the puzzles and answers on this page of the Hidden Bats site.
Kairo and Iris, while seeming unrelated at first, turned out to be related through a past event revealed during the ARG. Kairo was a skateboard prodigy, and on track to becoming a pro, until he got hit by a car because he ran into Iris dancing in the street. The damage from the accident left him unable to continue his career, and he fell in with the wrong crowd as a result. He blamed Iris for the accident, and eventually found her at her job at a maid café. He decided to take revenge on her through irritation—he would specifically request her at the café every day, and always smoked even when she asked him not to. Unbeknownst to him, Iris had a brain tumor that was made worse by his smoking, eventually getting a diagnosis of stage 4 brain cancer, and only a year left to live. Both participants reacted to the information differently: Iris expressed remorse, as she had no idea that she had ruined someone else’s dream while pursuing her own. She told her followers that she wasn’t sure what to do, as she wanted to help Kairo after learning, but couldn’t. Kairo, on the other hand, flew into a rage at Iris, swearing at her and affirming his belief that she ruined his life. He was ecstatic that his actions had worsened her cancer, finally ending by saying she should “dance in hell”.
Despite Iris being a well-loved character from the original games, members of the fandom decided to push the hashtag #kairosweep, thinking it would be more interesting for the underdog to win. They assumed that the game masters would be assuming that Iris would win, based on her being a fan favorite, and wondered what would happen in the sequel game, as Iris has already been confirmed to be in the game. Iris had also died in the original AI: The Somnium Files ARG, so some people decided to vote for Kairo because of Iris’ “plot armor”. In the end, the fandom got the results they wanted. The poll ended with these results:
A message was posted on the Hidden Bats site after the results.
As a result of your choices,
Kairo Goshiki was rescued and Iris Sagan's existence has been removed from this world.
How do you weigh a sin?
They manifested themselves in the numbers. The results of this experiment are fascinating.
Thank you for your cooperation.
This message was posted alongside an additional video message, telling the players that this world is a “simulation”, and the truth about this world would be revealed on June 24th, when AI: The Somnium Files- NirvanA Initiative releases. The website also encouraged players to submit any other Nirvana Spell codes they found elsewhere into the website to learn the full truth behind the experiment, leading fans to believe that there will be a phrase released in the upcoming game that will connect to this ARG.
The AI fandom seems somewhat divided on how the poll played out. Many were upset by the voting being done through a poll, as players could only vote once this time, removing the engagement of the balancing from the other two rounds. Use of a poll also meant that people could pay for bots to manipulate the votes, and this was confirmed to have happened by members of the fanbase. The poll also had 25 thousand votes, twelve times the amount of engagement the other rounds had, which lines up with the idea of bot usage. Of course, there were also people upset about losing such an important character in the series this way. Some people who voted for Kairo were even disappointed, saying the result wasn’t as “interesting” as they had hoped.
Several hours after the result, the Hidden Bats Twitter posted that Kairo had been found in a ravine in the Toyama Prefecture. Kairo also addressed his rescue, saying that he didn’t know why he was taken, but he was a little thankful that he was able to learn about Iris through his participation in the game. However, he didn’t seem sorry that she wasn’t found.
The series’ creator, Kotaro Uchikoshi, spoke to fans about the results of this round on his personal Twitter. He expressed sadness that Iris has “disappeared from this world”. He also tells fans that he believes Iris is still alive somewhere, and for fans to have hope. He ends the thread with what he feels like he learned from this round of the experiment: “Curiosity killed the cat.” The fanbase wanted to see what would happen if they killed a pre-established character, and they’ve gotten their wish. Players will have to wait and see what effect, if any, this could possibly have on the upcoming game.
AI: The Somnium Files: NirvanA Initiative will release on June 24th for Xbox One, Playstation 4, Steam, and Nintendo Switch.