Blog Post

1 vs. 100: A Case Study in Real-Time Entertainment

The problem with talking about how the Internet is revolutionizing entertainment is that in many ways, it isn’t. Most web series are basically shorter and cheaper TV series released online. Interactivity, social storytelling and community building are for the most part waiting around the bend. Meanwhile, cultural touchstones are still TV series from broadcast and cable networks, films with wide theatrical release, and major game franchises. In most cases, an official in-character Twitter account is as good as it gets.

EN_OneTaunts_01But a game show from Microsoft that aired on Xbox Live this spring and summer is actually one of the most revolutionary and popular medium-busting projects to date. Called 1 vs. 100 Live, and offered as part of the Xbox Live Gold ($49.99) yearly membership, the show was based on the international TV show 1 vs. 100 and co-produced with reality TV king Endemol. (Our colleague Kevin Tofel wrote a review for us when it first came out. Basically, you play as your avatar in a twice-weekly live prime-time trivia game, competing against hundreds of thousands of other users, with the centerpiece action of one chosen top player facing off against a “mob” of 100 other top players).

When Chris and I were up visiting Redmond, Wash., we had the opportunity to sit down with 1 vs. 100 director of development Jo Clowes, a game developer who had a crash course in producing television to create the live game, which just completed its first season. What’s significant about 1 vs. 100 is that it combines one of the best aspects of a TV show — the moment of people joining together simultaneously to watch a live event unfold — with the best of a video game — interactivity and competition. And because 1 vs. 100 piggybacks on Xbox Live, it’s incredibly popular, making it a shining early example of a massive communal participatory experience. The collective excitement of “appointment TV” might have some life left in it yet.

Clowes reported 1 vs. 100 was downloaded close to 3 million times in the 13 weeks of the inaugural season. With 100,000 to 200,000 users playing each of the two nights the show aired per week, the highest simultaneous game play was 114,000 in North America (apparently topping the Guinness World Record for most game show contestants) and 81,000 in the UK and Ireland (there are also editions in Germany and France). The average user played seven live games. When 1 vs. 100 ran a special 24-hour marathon earlier this month, some users (Microsoft wouldn’t say how many) even stayed online for the full duration.

Even through it’s just a trivia show, I think 1 vs. 100 previews where hybrid media is headed, so I wrote an extended article on it for our subscription service GigaOM Pro. As endless platforms proliferate, I’d recommend one of the best ways to stand out is to create original real-time interactive content that shows off what your device, software, service, network or social site can do.