The one-hour game, which runs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on GoldPocket.com, allows contestants to choose questions within categories -- such as arts and literature, entertainment, sports and science -- and see targeted advertising between rounds.
Those who advance can win $1 million. Prior to the first game May 21, users can log on to practice.
CEO Scott Newnam said his Cambridge, Mass.-based company's EventMatrix technology, which links facilities with dedicated connections to the Internet backbone and each other -- is the only system that allows millions of people to access a Web site at the same time.
"We have 10 times the capability of the largest interactive sites in the world," he said, comparing the 2 million simultaneous users to 150,000 most other interactive sites can handle.
Mr. Newnam said cash prizes would come from the $50 million GoldPocket had raised from venture capitalists this year as well as from advertising sponsors and companies that license EventMatrix.
GoldPocket.com went live May 9 and launched a $15 million, four-week advertising campaign on the May 11 "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (Ad Age Daily, May 10). Mr. Newnam said the campaign would continue beyond four weeks but would give no details.
FROM SPACEDOGS TO DNA
TV spots show multiple-choice questions on the site such as, "What was the name of the first dog in outer space?" (Laika) and "Who discovered the double helix structure of DNA?" (Francis Crick and James Watson).
"[On other game sites] you either are really competing for dollars or prizes, but not playing against anybody, or you are playing sort of vicariously against other people, but ultimately there are no prizes or rewards at the end," said Bob Minihan of other sites. He is chief creative officer for Holland Mark Edmunds Ingalls, Boston, which handles the account.
Cartoon print ads read "Why watch somebody else screw up the million dollar question? You're perfectly capable of doing that yourself" and "All of a sudden knowledge of trivia doesn't seem so trivial."
All ads are tagged: "It's your turn to play for a million." In addition to network TV, they will run in magazines such as People, Rolling Stone and TV Guide as well as on billboards, radio and in newspapers in the top 25 Internet markets, said Carrie Parks, Holland Mark's group brand director. E-mail ads, aerial banners and sandwich boards will also run.
"People have more chance of being hit by lightning two times in one week than of being invited to be on a (standard) game show," Mr. Minihan said. "We've got to convince people that they get to play and they really can win the million. That can happen every week."
He said the ad strategy will focus on winners as the site becomes better established. Mr. Newnam said no commercials would run in the first two games and ads would promote the American Heart Association. He would not disclose which, if any, companies had signed on to advertise on later contests.
Ms. Parks said ads will run between rounds so players will not be distracted.