‘1 vs. 100’ Xbox LIVE Impressions

July 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

Yesterday evening I had the good fortune of being able to try out Microsoft’s latest experiment in the form of 1 vs. 100: a (massively?) multiplayer quiz game, free-to-play (for the time being, anyway) and available only to Xbox LIVE Gold members. And what did I discover?

That it’s really not bad at all.

1 vs. 100 has a very simple premise. You, along with potentially thousands of other players, answer a series of multiple choice questions – each question with three possible answers – to score points. The questions themselves are region specific and tend to be related either to popular culture or current events.

In 1 vs. 100, players are divided into three groupings: The One, The Mob and The Crowd. The Crowd is the general population of players who can compete against each other for points but who are also isolated from The One and The Mob’s game. As a part of The Mob or The Crowd you are awarded more points depending on how fast you answered and how many other people got the question wrong.

In each round The One is chosen to battle The Mob, a cohort of one hundred specially selected players, in a war of perseverance and intelligence. Both The Mob and The One are asked the same multiple choice questions, and the objective of each side is to outlast the other. The One accrues points (in this case, Microsoft Points) as individuals in The Mob answer incorrectly and are subsequently knocked out of the game; members of The Mob must survive long enough until, hopefully, The One slips up, answers a question wrongly and forfeits his or her points to them, so they may be shared out equally among the surviving members.

Throughout the game, The One regularly gets offered a choice between cashing out their points and continuing on against The Mob in a bid to win more. The round ends when either The One answers a question incorrectly and forfeits his or her winnings (The Mob wins) or The One cashes out when presented with the option (The Mob receives nothing and loses). After the round ends a new Mob and One are selected from The Crowd, calculated on the basis of each individual player’s past performance.

It’s addictive stuff. While the chances of getting into either The Mob or being The One are fairly slim, the questions themselves are straightforward and generally easy, requiring only a minimal amount of common knowledge. As such, the barrier to entry for 1 vs. 100 is quite low, and, consequently, you’re never left to feel like a total moron. But, ultimately, the main draw of 1 vs. 100 – beyond the just-for-fun trivia factor – is that you always have the chance of getting into The Mob or The One and winning real-world prizes. (And, of course, there is the added bonus of laughing in a haughty superior manner at anyone who might have seriously, conceivably thought Ulrika Jonsson or Sven-Göran Eriksson starred alongside Michael Caine in the film Get Carter.)

At present, Microsoft is suggesting that the game will be supported through in-game advert breaks, and so Xbox LIVE Gold members will be able to play the game free of charge. If this is to remain the case right up to 1 vs. 100’s general release and afterwards, I can see it becoming popular. It would generate a nice little bit of advertising revenue for Microsoft as well as, at the same time, acting as a promotional tool for the Xbox brand and LIVE.

What wouldn’t work is if they charged people to play it. The idea of paying for a fairly insubstantial game, within which you have very little chance of winning prizes, getting forced-fed obnoxious adverts and commercial breaks, and then having to pay an Xbox LIVE membership fee on top of all that… I have seen consumers eat shit up, but I think that for most people this would be going a step too far. I don’t believe it would work, and Microsoft will have wasted a lucrative opportunity to try something different in the process.

In other words, 1 vs. 100 is not too bad for – and here’s the caveat – a free game. It’s a cute, enjoyable little diversion, but it’s nothing more than that.

(714 words.)

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