It is scientific fact that a videogame based on a film has only a 0.004 per cent chance of being good. (That percentage drops to 0.001 per cent if the game doesn't have the word "Riddick" in the title.) And according to research I just made up, it's equally unlikely that a videogame based on a TV gameshow will be fun for more than 118 seconds. See Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link and Deal or No Deal if you need convincing. Not to mention Golden Balls - officially the worst game I've ever seen.
All those tie-ins appear to have been designed by someone who's only seen the TV show once, and didn't understand it. There are always too many loading screens and too many bits of business to skip before you get anywhere near the questions, and the graphics always look like they were drawn by someone with all the artistic skill of a monkey with hooks for hands.
The biggest problem is there's nothing at stake. Even if you get all the way to that million-pound question and answer correctly, glitter will not rain down from your living room ceiling. Pound coins will not pour from your console's disc tray. Noel Edmonds will not embrace you, but even that isn't enough to make it worth playing.
Now Microsoft is hoping to break with tradition and produce a gameshow tie-in you'll actually want to play. The twist is there's real incentive to do so because in 1 vs. 100, points mean prizes. And sometimes prizes mean points, as there are Microsoft Points to be won. Also on the conveyor belt are free Xbox Live Arcade games plus, in smaller quantities, laptops, HDTVs, holidays and even a car.
The rules of the game will be familiar if you've ever seen 1 vs. 100 on the telly. One player from a potential cast of thousands is chosen to be 'The One' and stand on the podium. Another 100 players are selected to form 'The Mob', and each player (or avatar, in this case) gets their own little box on stage. Everyone else becomes part of 'The Crowd'.
The host asks a series of multiple-choice questions. When The One gets an answer right, every member of The Mob who gets it wrong will be instantly eliminated. If The Mob manages to outsmart The One, they'll split the accumulated points and prizes. Those in The Crowd can play along and answer questions for fun but they've no chance of winning anything.
There are various set-up options available in the 360 version. You can invite up to three friends to form an Xbox Live Party, which means you can chat via headsets during the game and track each other's progress. You can take part in the Extended Play games, which are held every night and are just for fun. Theme nights are planned so you might find yourself involved in a Battle of the Sexes or competing in a Formula One quiz. But if it's real prizes you're after, it's all about the Live Show.
This is what Microsoft has invited us to try out at on a Friday afternoon at its London offices. We're taking part in the Canadian beta, which is like the American beta only more laid back. Because this is only a practice there are no real prizes on offer, but the real 1 vs. 100 host is here - or coming to us live via the internet, anyway.
His name is James McCourt and his bright, smooth patter suggests he is a graduate of the Steve Priestley Academy for Movies, Games and Videogames Presenters. He likes to remind us what an exciting time we're having on an almost constant basis ("The best thing is we're totally, totally interactive!") and is obsessed with chronology. "It's coming up to 5pm!" he likes to say, or, "It's a bank holiday weekend!" or simply, "It's Friday!" No need for a calendar when James is around.
While waiting for the Live Show to start you can see your avatar in the 1 vs. 100 lobby. You can chat with friends if you're in an Xbox Live party, and make your avatar dance by pressing the Y button. The faster you press, the more animated your avatar will become. Some of the dances are stupid while others are suggestive to the point of obscene. Keep hammering that Y button and your Xbox Live Party can recreate the magic of Gay Xchange (skip to 45 seconds).
With James about to explode ("This is going to be great!"), the game begins. The multiple-choice questions are mostly UK-centric, based around pop culture and pretty easy. For example: Which celebrity chef appears in Sainsbury's adverts? Who is the driver on Top Gear? Who is married to Tess Daly? In other words, you'll have better luck with a copy of Heat than a history degree.
As a general rule, you either know the answers or you don't - there are no clues hidden in the questions and it's hard to make educated guesses. I got knocked out of one round because I didn't know which team plays at the Reebok Stadium, for example. I am not ashamed to admit that. However, I am ashamed to admit I lasted longer than the blokes in the following round because I know a fact about the progeny of Geri Halliwell.
It's worth remembering these questions were specially selected for our playtest session, so there could be more variation with regard to subject matter in the finished game. Plus, you'll be able to take part in pan-European Shows where there will be fewer questions about the name of the pub in Emmerdale and so on. (There's no crossover with North America, however, so you won't ever end up trying to guess who won the 1983 Superbowl.) Different questions are promised every week, and there will be topical ones based around current events.
Back to the Canadian beta. The rounds are interspersed with chatter from James ("It's coming up to 5pm on the Friday of this bank holiday weekend!") and Olivia Lee, the pre-recorded host who appears in every game. There are breaks of around a minute between rounds where nothing happens. The chap from Microsoft explains that in the finished game, adverts will be played here. So that's how they can afford to give it away for free. The ads might be for games, or they could be for soft drinks, breakfast cereal, Gay Xchange. Maybe not the last one, seeing as it's Microsoft. Although...
On the one hand, this shouldn't prove too irritating - we're used to sitting through ad breaks when watching gameshows on the telly, and these ones are shorter. On the other hand, we're not accustomed to having our gameplay sessions interrupted by ads. And the fact they're so short means there's not enough time to flick channels or make a cup of tea - there's nothing for it but to sit there and wait.
A more important question, and one that can't be answered until the game goes live, is how 1 vs. 100 will work when there are thousands of people playing. There appear to be less than a hundred players taking part in the Canadian beta, so all of us are selected to be in The Mob for each round. Were we playing for real prizes, I'd be walking away with a free Arcade game and 80 Microsoft Points at the end of the hour. Not a bad reward for knowing about the life and work of Geri Halliwell.
But in the real game, with thousands of people trying to get in the Live Show, I'd be statistically more likely to end up in The Crowd - which means no chance of winning actual prizes. And only The One is in with a chance of nabbing those holidays, HDTVs and the like.
So how is The One chosen, anyway? "It's a complex algorithm," says Microsoft's Tania Chee, "but to put it in a nutshell, it's based on how much you play, how quick you answer the questions and whether you get them right." In other words, the game chooses smart, fast players; slow thickos who take half an hour to answer and keep getting knocked out would make things dull for everyone.
You can increase your probability of being The One by investing time in the game. The more rounds you play, the higher your chance of being chosen. Those who are really keen will want to play the game every night to maximise their chances. However, the stats are wiped every seven days, so if you don't make it you'll have to start from scratch the following week.
Again, it's hard to see how all these probabilities and complex algorithms will work without playing the full-scale live game. It'll certainly be worth finding out, especially since 1 vs. 100 will be free to download for all Xbox Live Gold subscribers. It'll also be "free to play in season one", says Chee. Does that mean you'll have to pay to play in the future? "The business model, post-season beta, is yet to be decided." Hmm.
The real test will be whether 1 vs. 100 can make you care even if you don't have a chance of winning. After all, you've no more chance of landing a load of cash by watching Deal or No Deal than by playing the videogame. But watching the TV show is a more rewarding experience because real people and real emotions are involved; you become invested in the players. If Microsoft can make you care about who wins 1 vs. 100, with the chance to win an Arcade game or a trip to Barbados thrown in, this one could be a winner.
1 vs. 100 is down for a European launch in "late spring". Which is right about now, come to think of it. Could they be planning to go live during E3 next week?