Xbox makes Primetime play

First offering is interactive version of '1 vs. 100'

SAN DIEGO -- Microsoft is moving closer to its goal of bringing the worlds of TV and video games closer together.

The long-awaited first offering for its Xbox Live Primetime initiative is an interactive version of the popular Endemol TV game-show format "1 vs. 100" that will air Friday and Saturday nights in North America throughout the summer and fall.

Manuel Bronstein, director of Primetime's "100," said execs expect as many as 200,000 Xbox Live Gold members to play either the live versions of the game on Fridays and Saturdays or quick-play versions on other days of the week.

Microsoft also said Tuesday that it has lined up the support of such major advertisers as Honda and Sprint for the show. What the company didn't specify is an exact launch date, though execs estimate "100" will begin sometime in the next six weeks.

Microsoft also will have a sweepstakes tied to the show, giving Xbox Live members the chance to win home theater systems and other goods.

Microsoft is strategically positioning "100" as a small-screen, family-friendly alternative by launching during the summer -- traditionally the slowest time for television -- and on weekend nights, when lower viewer levels are the norm.

"We definitely started this with the big picture in mind and the belief that there's this crossover between TV and gaming," Bronstein said. "We feel we can provide a very compelling experience by bringing the high production values, the scheduling and the anticipation that happens around TV and combine that with the stickiness and social interaction that happens with gaming."

Other major differences are the absence of Bob Saget as host, of course, as well as a different prize structure. Players of "100" can win up 10,000 Xbox Live points, which can be redeemed for game, movie and episodic TV show downloads as well as other content.

Bronstein and Microsoft were vague on what comes after "100" runs through its two 13-week seasons and whether this marks the beginning of a strategy to produce an entire slate of regularly scheduled primetime programming for different nights during the week.

Independent gaming analyst Billy Pidgeon said that games in general -- especially those on platforms like Xbox Live -- are beginning to compete for eyeballs with television.

"The addition of synchronous programming that gets people to come to a game platform at a specific time is a great next step," he said.