SAN FRANCISCO (03/30/2000) - I was on my way to becoming a millionaire the night before last, sort of, when tragedy struck.
It happened at 8:40 p.m. Tuesday, March 28. ABC's wildly popular hit show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was well into its first night as an online game. The "Expanded TV" Web game runs concurrently with the prime-time show and lets at-home players answer the same questions online that Regis Philbin asks on TV.
Virtual contestants score points for answering correctly and quickly, and are eligible for prizes.
You don't win money with Millionaire online, so technically I couldn't have become rich. But I was answering all the questions correctly, so if I'd been on the show, I would have been on the way to being a millionaire, right?
Anyhow, there I was, in the top 1 to 3 percent of all the online players (a small browser window displays your ranking throughout the game). Suddenly, my worst fear came true: My dial-up Internet connection dropped.
Frantically, I scrambled to reconnect. My first two efforts met with "server not responding" error messages. After an agonizing five minutes, I rejoined the game in progress--only to discover that by missing out on several questions, I had slipped to the top 11 percent. It was downhill from there. With only 15 minutes of the show left, my score never recovered. When the game ended, I was in the top 16 percent.
Beyond the Silver Screen
Technical glitches aside, the online Who Wants to Be a Millionaire adds a fresh, exciting, addictive twist to the hit show's formula. The producers have done an excellent job synchronizing the Web game with the show. As soon as a correct answer is revealed on TV, for instance, it shows up in your browser window.
During commercial breaks, Web players can answer bonus questions for extra points. And when the TV show hits its inevitable dead spots--hey Reege, how about cattle-prodding those ponderous contestants?--the Web site fills the void with fun graphics or trivia. Web gamers can play against friends, too, by setting up a group. You can compare your ranking against those in your group throughout the show.
One potential limitation: You'll need a laptop, a computer near a TV, or an interactive TV service to play. The "Expanded TV" Millionaire displays only the multiple-choice answers; you must have the TV on to hear the questions. You'll also need to become a member of Disney's Go site, from which ABC's online site originates, and have the Flash 4 Web browser plug-in installed.
ABC plans to regularly offer the online Millionaire game. The next interactive play is scheduled for Thursday evening, March 30. Mark your calendar, call your lifelines--and pray for a continual connection.