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Company Announces $30,000 Prize For Solving iPhone Game 85

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the genuine-philanthropy-or-pr-stunt dept.
dlpasco writes "Puzzllotto. The game, styled after titles such as Myst and Zork, will be available in the iPhone App Store later this week for $4.99. 10% of the sales revenue from the game will go to the Madagascar Fauna Group. At this point, only US citizens may participate in the contest but it has been stated that UL wishes to make future events world wide. 'Even though Puzzllotto represents a significant investment of engineering and legal resources, the company refuses to apply for patents on any invention. Instead, the company hopes to share its investment with other developers through its fundware.info site, while the company's ten employees hope Puzzllotto will raise enough money to capitalize bigger dreams.'" This could also be seen as a test for greed, since the prize money will only start at $1,000 and will grow by $1,000 each day for 30 days, at which point, if no one has solved it, the entire pot will be donated to charity.
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Company Announces $30,000 Prize For Solving iPhone Game

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  • Hum (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arthur B. (806360) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:05PM (#25446835)

    Can't someone reverse engineer the enigmas, backtrack through the puzzles and 'win' the game ?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry about it.

      --Puzzllotto

    • Not if they were to keep the puzzle layouts and success conditions on the server. It would be very bandwidth and resource intensive, but that's the only way I can think of to keep everything a secret.
    • Sound like the UK call in shows that used lateral thinking puzzles and other stuff that likely make it seem easy. Playmania / quiznation did the type of stuff with useing real odd word in there Crosswords, Word $lams, Word Cuts and more. Midnight money madness was much better.

      The Game does not tell you how to play or how to win sounds like one of the pay call in live game shows.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by master5o1 (1068594)
      I just lost....
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Maybe. I'd guess: probably not.

      If I'd have to wager a guess, they don't intend to give out the $30k (or any amount) as a "prize" and intended to donate it to charity (as its tax-deductible) from the start.

      Not only is it cheap way to do advertisement, it's great viral advertising. While many people might buy the game, and even more play it, if they were to know about it, a lot more people are going to both know about it and play it now due to the $30k "prize".

      As far as it not being reverse engineerable: I'd

  • Link omitted (Score:5, Informative)

    by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:09PM (#25446857) Journal
    This [puzzllotto.com] appears to be the most relevant site and it includes game rules. This does appear to be blatant Slashvertizing though and should probably be on the Idle page.
    • Re:Link omitted (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lysergic.acid (845423) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:58PM (#25447281) Homepage

      i'd rather read "slashvertising" for an interesting and original game that helps fund a charity [savethelemur.org] than slashvertisements about some crappy Microsoft mouse with a blue tracking light or more Apple product updates. really, of all the slashvertisements that get posted, this is the one you have a problem with? is it because of the lemurs? why do you hate lemurs so much?

      saving lemurs > !saving lemurs.

      besides, their fundware [fundware.info] idea is pretty cool. it creates a way for software producers to be less reliant on VCs while directly involving end-users in the development process. perhaps this model will mean more products that are created for/by the average user instead of all software being made to the specifications of profit-driven CEOs and PHBs.

    • by eggoeater (704775)
      How is this NOT gambling? Granted, you only have to pay the $5 once, but most states in the US don't let you give away something as a promotion unless "no purchase is required."
      • by Krelnor (1189683)
        What do Maryland, North Dakota and Vermont have in common for laws that they can't run their promotion there? Are they the only states which still prohibit lotteries?
  • Will this work? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tony Hoyle (11698) * <tmh@nodomain.org> on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:10PM (#25446869) Homepage

    How are they going to make money?

    If I'm reading it right their prize pot is $30,000. They're selling at $5 a throw and apple get 1/3 of that. So to break even they've got to sell 9000 copies. Doesn't sound a lot but I bet the majority of iphone apps never get near that.

    • Doesn't sound a lot but I bet the majority of iphone apps never get near that.

      I think the idea is that they'd get enough people after that prize to set records with sales.

    • by biraneto (886262) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:24PM (#25446983)
      > So to break even they've got to sell 9000 copies. Doesn't sound a lot but I bet the majority of iphone apps never get > near that. That's because the majority of the iphone apps don't get "slashvertised"
    • Perhaps many applications don't sell 9000 copies, but many must sell a lot more than that.

      Apple, and software writers, can't make a business work on numbers like that.

    • Re:Will this work? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:40PM (#25447131) Homepage Journal
      286 sales a day would just about pay for the prize. As the prize money increases, we would expect more sales. I would assume the expected sales versus time would have an concave shape, where at some point people just buy the game in hope of receiving the prize money, and sales go up dramatically, then likely drop significantly. It is like the lottery where lines grow grotesquely long as prize money increases.

      The scam tag may be appropriate here, because they can basically engineer the game to be so easy as to insure someone can solve it in a few days, or so hard that that no one can solve it in 30 days. Sure the money will go to charity, but the actual net loss such a donation would generate after taxes and publicity benefits are unclear.

      This seems like a credible piece of advertising to boost sales in a market with few opportunities to get noticed. It is low cost, of limited duration, and will encourage people to buy the product with a minimum 200X ROI, for those with a gambling mind.

      • by crossmr (957846)

        The problem is you might expect after that 30 days for sales to absolutely plummet. Like homer simpson trying to sell his pumpkin futures on November 1st. It seems like the window of making money for this app is extremely narrow, and without good marketing (which also costs money) it might not have any long term future as the hook is just too short term.

    • Re:Will this work? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Firehed (942385) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:49PM (#25447193) Homepage

      Look at Trism, which also sells for five bucks. The guy who made it has brought in over a quarter million already (as of when the article about him was written, at least a month ago), and I believe that's after Apple's fees. Granted, he had it out as a demo on the Jailbroken phones and got a lot of good advertising that way, not to mention the fact that he made a very damn good product.

      Any app which has developers (in the plural) behind it is certainly expecting to be profitable. There are plenty of apps released by hobbyists, but there are also tons more that are being produced by real companies, and you can be damn sure that they're not doing it for charity.

      I've only briefly poked with the SDK (I specialize in web work so it's a bit trickier to pick up coming from that whole coding style), but it seems easy enough to work with especially if you have prior Cocoa experience. Given that 9000 copies of an app sold means, by most reasonably-current estimates, that you sell only one copy for more than every thousand iPhone owners, that number hardly sounds unattainable if you have a product that doesn't completely suck. Tell your iPhone-owning friends, have them tell their friends... it'll go by that mark in no time if it's worth its salt.

      Then go make an offer like this, and get all of the otherwise-free advertising? This is brilliant marketing. $30k for millions of views, and giving people a financial incentive to buy? Again, content is king, but if the game is any good they'll probably sell 50k+ copies thanks to this.

    • by MisterSquid (231834) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:50PM (#25447201)

      While in one month the company may not recover the cost of the prize, the possibility of generating enough of sales to earn a quarter of a million dollars is there.

      Why do I mention $250,000? Because that's how much Steve Demeter's puzzle game Trism earned between 11 July and 18 September [twitter.com].

      This mentioned [daringfireball.net] by John Gruber on the very day.

      My best guess is that if this prize money get the company many downloads, the company may easily make back it's money in the first week.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brad Eleven (165911)

      That's why it's called puzzLOTTO. Ever notice how people will drive for hours and stand in line just to pay the moron tax when the PowerBall lotteries announce that the next payout is going to be tens of millions?

      For sure someone will buy the app on day 29, planning to solve it in time to get the $30k.

      • by KevinKnSC (744603)

        just to pay the moron tax when the PowerBall lotteries announce that the next payout is going to be tens of millions

        To be fair, PowerBall has a positive expected return for sufficiently large jackpots (above $240 million or so), not that most players sit there crunching the numbers on the way to the Stop-N-Save, or anything.

        • by Strilanc (1077197)

          You're assuming you're not going to have to share the prize.

          • by makomk (752139)
            Some quick thought suggests that if it has a positive expected return, it will have the same expected return no matter how many people the jackpot is shared amongst. (This isn't necessarily true true once you start buying up a significant chunk of the tickets, of course.)

            What can affect the expected return is the number of tickets sold, which obviously increases if there's a big jackpot. It's still possible to have a positive expected return, though.
            • it will have the same expected return no matter how many people the jackpot is shared amongst. (This isn't necessarily true true once you start buying up a significant chunk of the tickets, of course.)

              If it's not true then, it's not true *ever*. Expected Reture, aka Payout Ratio is simply (Prize/bet)*Odds_of_winning. It doesn't matter how many tickets you buy, because your odds of winning increase as your bet increases.

              Cumulative lotteries are actually pretty interesting from a game theory perspective beca

          • by mollymoo (202721)

            You're assuming you're not going to have to share the prize.

            You can reduce your probability of sharing the prize - in fact that's the only strategy for lotteries other than waiting for large enough rollovers. The numbers people select aren't even distributed, people disproportionately pick birthdays or "special" numbers like 7 or the last number, so by avoiding those numbers you decrease the probability of sharing the prize and increase you expected payout. You should be able to extract some data on which a

      • by mgblst (80109)

        For sure someone will buy the app on day 29, planning to solve it in time to get the $30k.

        Fine, well I am going to get it on day 28, beat this guy to get $29k.

        See the dilemna?

      • by Nevyn (5505) *

        Ever notice how people will drive for hours and stand in line just to pay the moron tax when the PowerBall lotteries announce that the next payout is going to be tens of millions?

        Err, no. You can buy powerball tickets pretty much everywhere. Also your assumption in the above is that all dollars are worth the same amount, which I would disagree with (for sure you shouldn't put your 401k money into the lottery, but putting up $1 a week to win $100+ million is not the same equation).

        • The state in which I live doesn't sell powerball tickets. Carpools form whenever the neighboring state's powerball reaches $40M or so.

          Your point about $1/week as a lottery investment is well taken, but I refer to the tendency of some to regard a larger pot as worthy of a larger investment and the erroneous assumption of a higher probability to win.

    • Considering the number of iPhones that have been sold, selling OVER NIIIINE THOUSAND copies of an app shouldn't be that hard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You had a perfect over 9000 joke right there! Come on!
    • by lxs (131946)

      So to break even they've got to sell 9000 copies.

      I can imagine the boardroom scene now:
      "Vetega, what does the scouter say about the number of copies sold?"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    (a) Purchase the Puzzllottoâ Game. ($4.99) Puzzllottoâ is available for purchase
    online at the Apple® App Store**. Puzzllottoâ may only be played on
    the iPhoneâ or iPod® Touch devices.** If you donâ(TM)t have either device,
    you cannot play the Game or participate in the Contest.
    (b) Play Puzzllottoâ. Puzzllottoâ is an interactive logic-based game which
    is set in the jungles of Madagascar. The rules, fundamentals of Game play,
    Game format and overall objecti

    • by sexconker (1179573) on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:38PM (#25447103)

      Text "Winner" to PLOTO to win your $30,000!!!!*

    • by ravrazor (69324)

      So, you have to figure out how to advance in the game on your own and then do so in one continuous game. Make sure you don't turn off your iPhone, recharge it or receive an incoming call, otherwise you'll have to start from the beginning again...
      This has got to be a joke.
      Anyway, I hope the charity enjoys its money.

      • by Kethinov (636034)

        So, you have to figure out how to advance in the game on your own and then do so in one continuous game. Make sure you don't turn off your iPhone, recharge it or receive an incoming call, otherwise you'll have to start from the beginning again...
        This has got to be a joke.

        You can run apps while your phone is charging. And you can disable incoming calls by turning on airplane mode.

        • by Fnord666 (889225)

          You can run apps while your phone is charging. And you can disable incoming calls by turning on airplane mode.

          From the description it sounds to me like the game has a hook to detect when the phone is recharging, and it if is, the game will exit. My question is whether the game will run on the iPhone simulator that is part of the SDK. If anyone manages to complete this, I suspect that is how it will be done.

          • It might mean that when you plug it in to charge, it disrupts the game (when the little CHARGING battery icon shows up). Either way, whether you can charge it or not, it means that you have to complete it in one shot. You had better have a good memory or take notes so that when you do leave it and come back you can quickly get back to the spot that you left off at. Seems like a trick to make it more difficult to win.
  • by rminsk (831757)
    Puzzllottoâ is an interactive logic-based game which is set in the jungles of Madagascar. The rules, fundamentals of Game play, Game format and overall objective of the Game have been intentionally omitted by Sponsor (i.e., the developer of the Game). The Game does not tell you how to play or how to win: the challenge of the Game is for the player to figure these things out for him/herself. In order to solve the Game puzzle, the player must deduce and determine the Gameâ(TM)s format and what is re
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I just got spammed and they wanted me to reply to anita04_2008@yahoo.com. That is why I am putting it on slashdot, to get picked up by the bots. Hopefully this makes one spammers email address useless and wastes some of their time.

    • by seann (307009)

      24 hours after it's release, the official walk through and jailbreak patch will already be 23 hours old.

  • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker@gn u . org> on Monday October 20, 2008 @06:43PM (#25447141) Homepage

    Giving money to puzzle solvers has happened before. See for instance The Eternity Puzzle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternity_puzzle).

    It'd be great if the product's home page said something about the rules of game, because then we could geek out and try to solve it programatically (if possible). It says "Puzzle" on the tin, but is it like playing Zelda or is it like the push-the-ice-blocks-around puzzle in Snowpeak Ruins from Zelda [roughly comparable to a small instance of Sokoban]?

    Also, interesting, if this _is_ easy to solve programatically, we'd all be playing a big instance of something like the centipede game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centipede_game).

    • by tibman (623933)

      I really enjoyed Perplex City, one of the most fun puzzle games ever made. The game is effectively over pending Season 2. But you can still find some season 1 cards in original foil packs sometimes. Still fun to play, even without the $200,000 prize.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Zork and Myst should not be mentioned in the same sentence.

    Myst is like playing Zork with your hands tied behind your back. Just play Zork. It has better graphics and your nose doesn't hurt so much.

  • Sensible (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Think of it as marketing costs, which would usually be significant. They already recouped 30,000 plus just by getting this post in Slashdot.

    And stand to generate further coverage publicity in wider online media and blogs and that alone will be worth multiples of 30,000, all leading to more coverage, consumer interest and sales.

    Better than squandering it on the mobile ad networks, PR or placement on iTunes.

  • A paragraph of random facts, PR quotes and bullshit, followed by an aside from ScuttleMonkey that finally explains the headline.
  • 1. Purchase Puzzlotto
    2. Solve the puzzle while no one else does
    3. Claim your prize money on the last day
    4. Profit!!

    Well, it seems pretty clear to me
  • Marketing is the best thing of the world. I belive this game will have a realy fair succes by the way.
  • I thought contests that had cash prizes required a 'you don't have to purchase anything to compete' rule. Not the same as paying to enter I think, since there are many contests where you have to pay to compete.

    But, a vendor having a contest where you have to buy their product to compete?? I didn't think that was legal. Just like Publisher's Clearing House can't require you to purchase magazines to enter. McDonalds gives out free game pieces, up to a certain amount a day so people don't have to buy Big Macs

    • by Ren Hoak (1217024)
      I think that at least in some states, there's a legal difference between a contest (purely odds based) and a tournament (skill based); solving a difficult puzzle could probably be easily argued as being tournament material (IANAL). I know that in my state (not one known for gambling), there are poker parlors which are considered legal because they don't play cash for each hand, instead they play as a tournament.
  • ...the puzzle involves:

    1) Factoring a 2-million-digit number
    2) Concatenating the factors together in the correct order to produce a ciphertext
    3) Which has been enciphered with AES(2048), and which must be broken.

    First one to produce the plaintext wins. The plaintext becomes property of PuzzLotto, and is the current GPS coordinates of Osama bin Laden (with some random padding). Prize will be paid out of federal reward money, and is subject to verification.

  • Push button = receive bacon!

"Card readers? We don't need no stinking card readers." -- Peter da Silva (at the National Academy of Sciencies, 1965, in a particularly vivid fantasy)

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