Bethesda Board-Game Maker Enters Cyberspace

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Like most board games, the trivia title Wits & Wagers was designed to be played by a group of friends sitting around a coffee table. This week, a new version of the game will let Xbox-owning players challenge one another around the world.

Bethesda's North Star Games is set to make its debut on Microsoft's video game console, with a version of the company's flagship trivia title available as a $10 download from Microsoft's online service for the Xbox.

Dominic Crapuchettes, North Star's founder, said he's not sure what sort of revenue the new release could mean for his company. The online release is part of the company's ongoing efforts to make Wits & Wagers a household name.

"We're trying to build Wits & Wagers into an American blockbuster like Monopoly, Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit," he said. "Part of the way to do that is to get the brand in front of as many people as possible."

Wits & Wagers isn't the only board game getting the video game treatment; Electronic Arts has said that it is developing new versions of Monopoly and Scrabble for game consoles. The two games are scheduled for release this year.

Wits & Wagers challenges players to figure out or guess the numerical answers to its selection of trivia questions, such as: "How much did Google pay to purchase YouTube in 2006?" And: "In what year did Queen Elizabeth II first send an e-mail?"

Chances are, players don't know the precise answers to most of the game's questions, so the game is largely an exercise in educated guesswork. As an added twist, players are given a chance to place bets on which answer is correct. (By the way, $1.65 billion and 1976 are the correct answers to the above questions, according to the game.)

The video game version of Wits & Wagers was developed by a start-up company launched by former Microsoft employees and video game industry veterans two years ago.

Jeff Pobst, chief executive of Hidden Path Entertainment of Bellevue, Wash., said he heard about the game from a friend of a friend who was a fan. He thought a downloadable version of Wits & Wagers could catch on by offering Xbox 360 owners a more socially oriented party game than many of the other titles offered on the service.

"We thought that it was unique from what existed at that point," Pobst said.

If the new Xbox version of the game is a success, Crapuchettes and Pobst said, they would like to release the game as a download for other consoles, such as Nintendo's fast-selling Wii.

The early notices have been favorable. One reviewer in an Xbox magazine got an early look and raved that the game is "absolutely a blast" and gave the title a 9 out of 10.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company