I was an addict. It's okay to admit now, because the fever burned out after two weeks.
I love #MSQ. It's Million Second Quiz, a game show from NBC that mixed elements of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with a shorter time limit and head to head instead of individual.
It's a great game on the app. 10 questions, each that allows you to read it, then gives you five seconds to answer the question with four multiple choice answers. In playing almost four hundred games, there were no trick questions. This really was pure trivia, covering everything from history to science to music to observations (Anyone know what key the $ is on the keyboard without looking?).
It was a great simple game.
But the television show debuted poorly, and lost viewers every night, as a combination of technology, gameplay, commercial breaks, and general loss of interest overcame the greed of winning a $2 million prize.
I'll leave it to others to talk about what was done wrong, or how it came about, but I wanted to offer a number of suggestions for either future versions or new kinds of game shows that copy from this format.
1) Explain the rules online.
It's the internet. Pixels and video and pictures and infographics are free to post, and relatively easy to create for one of the national broadcast channels. Going into last Monday night, no one knew how the game worked on the internet, and that is a killer for introducing a new game show in primetime. It didn't have to be Ryan Seacrest. In fact, having contestants or casters explain how to play, win and get on television would have made it far more interesting. Instead, I kinda feel like they were making it up as they went along, and any attempts to be mysterious were really attempts to get me to tune in the first night (which killed interest later nights).
2) Keep people motivated to play the app during the series.
How hard would it have been to add Line Jumpers or players through the app? Do something like say, get 100,000 points, and we'll save a spot for you in line for the next three days? I would have flown to New York if I had the faintest clue I could have played, and especially if I knew I had an advantage to make up for the hours spent playing. This would have cost next to nothing, as the cost to get there would have been my responsibility, but getting to 100,000 would give me hope, hope that would translate to watching the game and staying invested and telling my friends.
3) The casting is way too New York City centric. If you're going to let people get in line to play for a national broadcast, picking a single location where most people come from isn't so bright. There's a reason watching a Superbowl matters more when it's two different big cities.
In the future, consider regional casting events, even if these are just rooms or events where people gather to play the app. There was talk about leaderboards for each state (though I never saw them on my app) - if you're truly searching for a nationwide audience, make it a nationwide audience. This is probably why there was so much dropoff. Once it became clear that watching was entertainment, and had no reasonable chance to win, why continue to watch live?
4) Chance to win live
Speaking of which. If you want people to play live, and to tune in on time - give them a reason to do so. Do a money event, where someone who won the money chair earlier in the show on the app gets a chance to compete for $1000 on their home app live. Think of it. 600,000 people playing, and 10 of them win $1000 after being selected to play. That would have kept a lot of people playing every night. You could put in a multiplier where signing on on successive nights would make you more, so someone who was there every night won $10,000 on the 10th day, while someone who missed an episode won $1000 on the ninth day.
Talk about Must-See TV
5) NBC can't be the answer to every question.
We get it. You're priming the network for new shows. You're driving traffic to the News and Entertainment websites. But your constant referencing of NBC properties on the quiz show tainted the questions. I don't know what exec made that nonsense up, but it made me think you were trying to please the execs instead of maximizing interest.
Viewers have a bullshit meter. Your questions on the prime time broadcast were pathetic attempts to get people to your websites. You could have done the same thing putting ads up running a contest on those sites (Sign up on Facebook to be a commenter gets you a line jumper pass at the open casting call).
6) Speaking of questions - once I ran through about 350 games, I'd seen all the questions on the app. That ruined gameplay for me, and I'm sure it ruined gameplay for newer people who couldn't figure out why everyone else was scoring perfect 10's.
7) Social Media was horrible. You know this because of the lack of traffic and interest, but the game didn't give much in the way of interest of connecting players. A forum that addressed the game, and gave players ways to talk about strategies, casting, the future, and question submittal would have been very easy. Heck, you could have had an old school forum up, but all you had was a Facebook and Twitter account, that made no sense to me, a superfan.
If you're going to play in Social, hire someone with talent. Interns don't count. Take it from the guy known as the Social Media Headhunter.