"TV GAME SHOW GAMES"

(Appeared in the June 1983 issue of "Video Games" Magazine)

by Sue Adamo


  • How many times has this happened to you? You turn on the TV set and switch to one of those afternoon game shows, just in time to witness a contestant up for the big cash prize. The emcee's question seems easy enough to you, but, somehow, the contestant blows it. "I could have done better than that," you mumble to yourself as you slump in your seat and watch the credits roll by.

  • Well, the people behind the Great Game Company, Hollywood, Fla., are ready to put you to the test. At the end of this year, they'll be releasing the first cartridges of a game line based on such popular TV quiz shows as The Family Feud, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, Password Plus and The Joker's Wild. "There are 50 million people who watch these game shows," says Michael Sisson, vice president of advertising/marketing, "so logic says that anyone within that 50 million group who has the (VCS) hardware is certainly going to buy these games. You have to explain to someone how to play 'Asteroid Search,' for example. You don't have to explain to anybody how to play Family Feud. There isn't anybody who hasn't watched it at one time or another."

  • The Great Game Company, a division of I.J.A., the children's record company, was the brainchild of president Irv Schwartz who had been looking to carve a unique niche in the video game market. "My first reaction," recalls Sisson, "was 'Gee, Irv I think it's a marvelous idea, but I don't know that we can get those licenses. After all, Parker is doing one of the shows in a boxing game and Milton Bradley is doing at least three.'" Much to Sisson's surprise the video game rights to programs were still available and The Great Game Company went into negotiations with the respective television show producers.

  • Tapped to program the cartridges was conceptual designer Patrick McBride, whose main concern, says Sisson, was getting enough out of the limited 8K memory to do a faithful translation. Sisson reports the results are "superb," with the inclusion of up to 60 game rounds per cart and full use of the music, background and individual trade- marks of the particular shows. For instance, Family Feud, one of the first games on the Game Company's roster, begins with an opening screen featuring the show's logo lights and an emcee walking out and planting a big KISS on the TV screen. The next screen offers a topic, say "Dangerous Fish," and the first player or team to hit the fire button of the joystick gets control of the board. Seven answers are displayed on the screen, with only the first letter of each revealed. The object is to find the three most popular answers on the board by moving a cursor, via joystick, to your guess within three seconds.

  • The producers of Family Feud. Goodson-Todman Productions, had approval all the way through the game's design--from initial concepts, to storyboard, through programming, and they supplied questions and responses from actual shows.

  • Despite the fierce competition among software makers, Sisson feels his company has "an excellent chance" with their products and to help that along they've designed distinctive packaging. "Everyone is ditzying up their packages with all kinds of little pictures and colors," Sisson notes. "I'd like to stand out on the shelf, so we designed a simple package with all the emphasis on the game title. What I'm trying to do is build a family identity for the series and I'm doing that by using the show's logo, in gold, on a silver black background."

  • The company is looking to move into software for other game systems and home computers as well, and to be sure, they're keeping their eyes on the TV listings to see what other game shows might crop up.


    Typed by Keita Iida

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