With 1 vs. 100, the live game show it launched in open beta on the Xbox last week, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is also pushing another TV staple to the video-game console: The commercial break. The show 1 vs. 100 lets thousands of Xbox owners respond to questions while listening to a live host provide comedic commentary. And just like a TV show, segments are divided by 30-second ad spots. (There’s product placement too, which is more typical of in-game advertising: For instance, the theater in 1 vs. 100 is dubbed Sprint (NYSE: S), as you can see in the thumbnail to the right).
There’s always been advertising in the Xbox 360’s online service, Xbox Live, including some video spots (like movie trailers). But Jeanie DuMont, a senior product planner for Xbox Live advertising, told us that the opportunity for advertising in 1 vs. 100 is particularly strong because it adds “to the realism of the game,” since game-show watchers (and therefore 1 vs. 100 participants) expect to see ads. Microsoft won’t break down ad sales so far, but Honda, *Sprint*, 7-Eleven and Doritos are all already running ads during commercial breaks. About seven minutes of the two-hour game show are dedicated to ads. There’s also a 30-minute “extended play” version of the game which includes about three minutes of ads.
1 vs. 100 is part of a larger initiative by Microsoft to broaden the appeal of the Xbox beyond its core young, male demographic. In announcing 1 vs. 100 at E3 a year ago, Microsoft said it would be part of a “collection of virtual game shows” that would be featured on a new Primetime channel on Xbox Live. For now, though, the company is staying mum on plans to expand beyond 1 vs. 100. “Our focus is 120 percent on 1 vs. 100. Make sure we get that experience right,” said Manuel Bronstein, the director of Xbox Live Primetime at Microsoft. (In fact, Microsoft delayed the initial launch of 1 vs. 100 by more than six months to ensure a smooth launch). Bronstein said that about 50,000 people participated in last week’s open beta. However, “hundreds of thousands” are expected to eventually participate — and Bronstein said that Microsoft is prepared to add more capacity if needed.