Starting this (northern) spring Microsoft will again test the waters for a video game that replicates, perhaps replaces, something you might watch on television.
In 2009, Microsoft turned the once-popular television game show 1 Vs 100 into a very popular mob trivia game on the Xbox 360. The game had a regular season, a live audience and contestants, but eventually succumbed to the apparent lack of advertising support. It was canned halfway through 2010.
During last week's Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft told me that the game was the first step in looking at the "one versus many experience". 1 Vs 100 allowed Microsoft to build and test the infrastructure that allows for the next iteration in the experience: Full House Poker.
In Full House Poker, players take on as many as 30 competitors in Texas Hold Em' tournament play. Those competitors can be console-controlled avatars or real players.
But it's the game's Texas Heat mode that may seem most familiar to watchers of television pro-poker tournaments.
In the tournament mode players will compete at live events over the course of a season, vying to beat other players at their table of ten. The winners will move up a table, the losers will move down.
The winner of the top table is the winner of the tournament.
While it's not quite the same as the massive, 1 vs 100 experience, especially in terms of viewing the action, it seems like a neat idea.
And the game's basic play has a lot of interesting twists in it as well.
While the gameplay is straight up poker, you play as your customised Xbox 360 avatar. That means you can play with a Spartan helmet on, with a character that looks just like you, or one that wears skull makeup.
The game includes a number of professionals. If you take them down you win their shirt. The game is packed with all sorts of rewards waiting to be unlocked. There are dozens of customisable tables, chairs and card decks, player titles, locations and even in-game avatar costumes. My favourite unlockable, though, are the neat chip tricks. As you play you'll earn the ability to spin a chip on your fingertip, or roll one across your knuckles. All said, there are more than 150 rewards to unlock. Unfortunately, they all stay in the game. A bit of a bummer.
The game is also connected superficially to the Windows Phone 7 version of the game, allowing you to share your pot across both platforms. Of course, you can never really run out of chips. You just have to hit up an in-game ATM to get more and it's always free. To make those chips meaningful, the game also rewards experience points. When you hit up an ATM for more chips, you lock out the ability to earn experience for a set number of rounds.
The game is due out later in a few months. Hopefully Microsoft stays committed to this game if it proved popular, and doesn't pull the plug out of the blue again.