Microsoft Set to Beta-Launch Interactive TV Game Show Service, Xbox Live Primetime

--Service Will Initially Feature Interactive Version of Endemol's "1 vs. 100" Format

Microsoft says that it will shortly begin the beta-launch of its long-awaited Xbox Live Primetime service, an offering that will allow subscribers to its Xbox Live online entertainment network to use their Xbox 360 gaming consoles to participate--via their personalized Xbox Live avatars--in live, TV-style, interactive "virtual game shows." The first show to be offered on the new service--which was first announced at the E3 show last summer and originally slated to launch last fall--will be the Endemol-originated format, "1 vs. 100."

Like a regular linear-TV game show, the Xbox Live Primetime version of "1 vs. 100" will have a real host (in the US, the host will be Seattle-based comedian, Chris Cashman, who will also be represented via an avatar), will air in regularly scheduled timeslots, and will have a set run: two-hour episodes will air live every Friday and Saturday, Microsoft says, and the show will be produced in 13-episode seasons (note: a 30-minute practice version of the show without a live host will be available between the live show's scheduled airings). The show will also feature commercial breaks that include 30-second video spots from sponsors, Honda and Sprint Nextel (though participants will be able to take advantage of Xbox Live's social media features to communicate with one another and with their friends during the commercial breaks); and sponsor messaging will be incorporated into its content (for example, it will take place in a virtual "Sprint Theater"). Participants in the live version of the show will have an opportunity to win prizes, including Microsoft Points (which can be redeemed for Xbox Live content downloads).

Like the TV show on which it is based, the Xbox Live Primetime version of "1 vs. 100" features a single contestant (the "one") competing against 100 other contestants (the "mob") to correctly answer multiple-choice trivia questions (note: the trivia questions will be localized by country): each question is first posed to the "mob" (outside of the "one's" hearing), so that they can lock in their answers, and is then posed to the "one." If the "one" answers the question correctly, all the members of the "mob" who answered it incorrectly are eliminated. The "one" wins Microsoft Points for each correct answer and, if he or she succeeds in eliminating all 100 members of the mob, he or she can win up to 10,000 Microsoft Points. Individual members of the "mob," meanwhile, can win prizes (including Microsoft Points and Xbox Live arcade games) for answering questions correctly, outlasting the majority of their fellow "mob" members, and outlasting the "one."

According to Microsoft, Xbox Live subscribers who want to participate in one of the show's live episodes will be selected to play as the "one," as members of the "mob," or as mere audience members, based on how frequently and how well they play the live and practice versions of the show (while awaiting selection, they will mingle in the "Sprint Theater's" virtual lobby). Xbox Live Primetime will be offered free to "gold" Xbox Live subscribers (note: the "gold" version of Xbox Live is priced at $49.99 per year; the service also offers a free "silver" subscription level) and its beta-launch will be staggered over the spring and summer, beginning May 8th in Canada (note: the service will eventually also be available in the US, the UK, Ireland, France and Germany).

North America