Bungie's cryptic Marathon ARG yields a treasure trove of new lore

(Image credit: Bungie)

What you need to know

  • Alongside the full reveal of its upcoming PvP extraction shooter Marathon, developer Bungie began an alternate reality game (ARG) with coded messages and other puzzles.
  • Throughout the week, fans have worked together to solve these puzzles, resulting in the reveal of over 35 pages of new Marathon lore.
  • The lore revolves around the UESC Marathon colony ship, the game's Tau Ceti IV setting, communications within interstellar corporations, and the anticapitalist rebel faction MIDA.

Bungie's reveal of its upcoming PvP extraction shooter Marathon was one of the biggest highlights of the 2023 PlayStation Showcase earlier this week, but the developer had more than public trailers and blog posts to share. The studio also kicked off an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) puzzle by discretely sending ciphered messages to content creators, with several Bungie staff members and influencers also posting  cryptic images of computer files and terminal logs.

The gaming community came together and managed to solve what most thought was the full ARG, which led to Bungie publishing its Somewhere In The Heavens ViDoc that goes over Marathon's gameplay structure, themes, art direction, and more. However, investigative fans quickly discovered that there was much more to the ARG, including secret websites, additional coded messages, ciphers, and more. And by collaborating to solve the ARG's various mysteries, fans have uncovered a 35+ page treasure trove of new Marathon lore.

The full process of solving the ARG as well as all of the resulting lore has been recorded on this Google Doc for easy viewing and reading, with each of its sections dedicated to specific reveals and how they were found.  Much of the new material hints at how the new Marathon will connect to Bungie's past games in the series from the '90s, and also offers a clearer look at the story in the upcoming extraction shooter.

(Image credit: Bungie)

The lore primarily revolves around the UESC Marathon, a colony ship sent to the planet Tau Ceti IV to establish a new colony called New Cascadia. Though the original Marathon game took place in 2794, the ARG has revealed that the new game is set nearly a century later in 2888. Fans, playing as "Runners," will explore Tau Ceti IV to discover what happened to the UESC Marathon, which is now a ghost ship, and also find and collect mysterious alien artifacts. It's explained that powerful interstellar corporations want these artifacts and will pay Runners for them in a secret video, suggesting that players may work for them in the game.

Most of the material fits into one of two distinct categories. The first part of the lore features several communications between members of corporate groups like  Traxus Global (a large defense syndicate), Sekiguchi Genetics (a biotech organization capable of producing clones), and Interorbital United Shipping (a shipping company).  Runners are mentioned, as are disputes and battles between corporations over valuable resources. Notably, the strange techno-organic silkworms seen in the Marathon reveal trailer are discussed as well, with one log noting that they're part of a "security process" and will help "redefine the human condition."

In stark contrast, the rest of the lore has a much more visual focus, with lots of bizarre images and GIFs that feature creepy drawings, glitchy computer screens, and blurbs of enigmatic text. These seem to originate from a new wing of MIDA, the Martian anticapitalist rebel group from the original games. This new MIDA faction seems to be attempting to overthrow the main group, which it views as corrupt, while also running operations against its megacorporate adversaries. Since players may be working for these companies while completing runs on Tau Ceti IV, it's very possible that they'll encounter MIDA PvE enemies trying to stop them.

Overall, there's a ton of rich lore here, and it's absolutely worth reading through if you're interested in learning more about the Marathon universe. Note that if you'd prefer a TL;DR summary, fans are currently putting one together at the top of the document. 

While waiting for Marathon, we recommend checking out Destiny 2, Bungie's popular science fantasy looter shooter. It's one of the best Xbox games for fans of the genre, and its latest expansion, Lightfall, is out now. The Annual Edition includes all of Destiny 2's Year 6 content, including Season Passes, dungeons, and more.



Destiny 2: Lightfall + Annual Pass

The Lightfall expansion takes players to the neon-soaked city of Neomuna on Neptune and pits them against the fearsome Shadow Legion — all while the threat of Darkness Pyramids, The Witness, and his new Disciple Emperor Calus looms overhead. The Annual Pass gives you access to everything in Destiny 2 Year 6, including Season of the Deep's Season Pass.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.