All last week, Microsoft has been trialling 1 vs 100, an Xbox Live version of the popular game show. For those uninitiated, the real 1 vs 100 pits a contestant, dubbed The One, against 100 other people, called The Mob. All players answer each question. If a member of the Mob gets it wrong, they’re out of the game. The more The One can knock out of the game by successfully answering questions, the more money she can win if she walks away. If The One gets it wrong, it’s game over.
The Xbox Live version extends this by adding The Crowd, where other people can participate, allowing the room size to grow over 101 players. This is a necessity, as the game has been pulling tens of thousands of players in Beta. To get a sense of inclusion, these players can also win prizes by being in the top 3 of The Crowd for that round, as well as being the pool from which the next One and Mob are picked from.
So far, so obvious? Not really. This is one of the most important products Microsoft has ever launched on the 360, so read on to find out why.
Presiding over the proceedings is the host, Chris Cashman, who comments on the round, meaning he chimes in with some human charm about once every 10 minutes or so.
The game is entirely free via ad-support, and promises real prizes when it launches. Currently the interface offers Microsoft Points as prizes, but these aren’t awarded yet.
It might sound like a logical extension from the likes of Buzz and You Don’t Know Jack, but you’ll have to believe that this game is ringing the death knell for game shows as loudly and vigorously as it possibly can. Why watch a game show, when you can participate? Why shout at the TV, yelling at the idiot answering wrongly, when you can be playing instead? Why watch some person you have no emotional investiture in win a car, when you can win a car? This game expertly positions Microsoft at the forefront of “digital entertainment”.
The game show is fundamentally changed when you are participating. You feel the tension on every question asked. You feel some sort of respect and kinship towards The One, even though they don’t speak. You derive some sort of personality from the way they’ve dressed and the questions they’ve answered. Is he intelligent? Is he old? How did he know the answer to that one?
What’s amazing, is that despite Microsoft’s fantastic success, is that the format still has much more to go. You’ve got to be pleased when you have an amazing product, and then the logical extensions for improvement are just right in your lap. Here are some things I mentally jotted down:
- The host, Chris Cashman, is charismatic. Why does he only speak in-between rounds? There’s only one game being played at one time, so he could be reading out the questions instead. The human factor is a key part of keeping you playing for an hour or so. I presume this is a technical or financial limitation, it seems like an obvious move.
- The adverts are either stills or television adverts. This is a gaming venue where advertisers can really make a killing. Instead of the resistance that gamers have to in-game ads, here they accept it as part and parcel of the game being free, and the game offering prizes. Now’s the chance to really go for it. Instead of showing me a still for Sprint, why can’t I play around with a virtual Palm Pre for a couple of minutes? I’d rather try driving a little Honda around a track than seeing a TV ad. Even the products where it’s hard to think of a transformation, like Slurpee, could have something done. I thought about having my avatar (who I’m very connected to at this point) drink a virtual Big Gulp, and then have a large smile on his face afterwards. That’s a connection, an involvement and interaction with the product, that TV just can’t match.
- This could be used for gaming as education. A miserable number of people answered that ‘a’ or ‘b’ and not ‘x’ was the 24th letter of the alphabet. How this happened is beyond me. But it triggered a little light switch about being used as an educational tool. How about showing a history documentary, then have the “teacher”/host ask questions about it, then elaborating on the answers afterwards? It allows for a competitiveness that isn’t acceptable in the classroom, and may go a long way towards engaging the young boys that schools are struggling with.
About the author: Chris Lewis is a British PhD student researching the intersection of software engineering and video game development.