With all the furore over 3D gaming, Kinect, Move, and whispers of what the next generation of consoles might hold, it’s all to easy to lose sight of more recent innovations in video gaming. Microsoft has just announced that there will be no third season of their acclaimed quiz show 1 vs 100, and the future of gaming is a darker place for it.
While video game adaptations of prime time television quiz shows have been around for almost as long as video gaming itself, it was the way 1 vs 100 presented itself that marked it apart from a sea of similar titles. Taking its cues from Sony’s popular Buzz games, 1 vs 100 turned a television quiz show into a social experience.
Unlike Buzz, it didn’t just allow friends and families to play together in a single living room; it opened the game up to the entire country – even the whole continent – and went against popular thinking that video games are there to fill up the player’s spare time by requiring participants to sit at their Xbox 360 at a set time on a set night.
Like a television programme, it followed a strict broadcast schedule. Indeed, with the increasing interactivity of TV quizzes; with phone-in questions, websites and red button functionality, 1 vs 100 seemed like the joint future of television and gaming; where the two had been spliced together into something more than just the sum of its parts. Winners took home prizes – not just Microsoft points and XBLA game codes, but expensive home electronics and holidays. The show even had a live presenter commentating on the events of each of the weekly ‘prime time’ episodes to give it an authentic TV quiz show feel. The only real difference between the 1 vs 100 on the National Lottery show and 1 vs 100 on your Xbox was that, unlike the BBC show, you could join in and win.
So what went wrong? Why was 1 vs 100 killed while its particular brand of hybrid entertainment was still in its nascence? With Kinect taking up so much of Microsoft’s focus, maybe it didn’t have the money to keep funding the show. Maybe participation figures weren’t great, or reliant upon a shrinking base of hardcore week-in, week-out quiz fanatics. Or maybe at the moment the kind of audience that would have been perfect for 1 vs 100 isn’t the kind of audience that would buy a video games console on which to play it.
Consider this: experts talk about social gaming, about Zynga and Farmville, and how iPhones and Facebook will get people who currently have no interest in games playing with the rest of us. Right now these non-gaming gamers spend real money on virtual crop seed and worship the latest apps in the Apple app store. They spend the kind of money gamers would reserve for games consoles on mobile phones; mobile phones able to play games, mobile phones that are so flexible and functional, they’re starting to make the traditional games console look antiquated. They’re also the kind of people who make daily or weekly appointments to watch Eastenders, Doctor Who, The X-Factor and yes, the National Lottery. And when 1 vs 100 – or A Question of Sport, or The Weakest Link – comes on, they yell their answers at the screen and laugh when they get them wrong, celebrate when they get them right.
Only time will tell whether 1 vs 100 was ahead of the curve or not. Judging by the Mob, I’d say it was.
– Campfire Burning