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A hushed silence came over the gaming sectors of the internet around noon eastern time today as a countdown clock reached zero on a web page inside Aperturescience.com. Wild speculation had preceded the countdown's finale with many people speculating that Valve was preparing a surprise early-launch of Portal 2 today rather than its scheduled April 19th release. When it finally reached zero, those folks were somewhat disappointed, but few could deny the less-than-subtle genius of Valve's latest reveal.
The countdown clock was for the launch of a new website program that makes numerous references to needing "more computing power." Below that there is a list of all the games included in the Steam 'Potato Sack' bundle. Each game has a gage next to it monitoring how many people are playing. The general consensus as of right now is that playing the games on the list will "force faster boot sequence."
The exact meaning is unclear, but it most likely means that either Portal 2 will release when the bars are all filled or that the next piece of the challenge will unclock when the number of players reaches the goal on the bottom of the page of 123,376 (it doesn't say what the number means, it could be either players or hours played for instance.) If you're aching to get Portal 2 released faster then it seems like your only choice is to pour some time into some of the games in the Potato Sack. We don't recommend buying the entire Potato Sack bundle unless you also have a PC though since only four of the thirteen titles are available on Mac OS X.
This might annoy some gamers and fans of Portal, but it's hard to deny the marketing brilliance behind this move. Only fifteen minutes after the announcement all of the games player amounts had doubled or tripled. They'll doubtlessly get even higher once school and work let out this evening.