Thousands of visitors come to the 20Q.net website each day to try their hand at stumping an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). The 20Q A.I. not only plays the Twenty Questions classic word game with players,
but uses each game as a learning opportunity.
Robin Burgener, the 20Q A.I.'s inventor, first coded the game in 1988. Burgener's friends would swap a 5-1/4-in. diskette in order to play.
The web-based version was launched in June 1996 with a knowledgebase built from only 2,000 games and within a few months, as many games had been played online as had been played in the first 10 years of it's existence.
Burgener was expecting the website to play its ten millionth game sometime in mid February. "The popularity just keeps increasing," he said. "The number of games played per day has been increasing exponentially for the last
eight months or so. Some of the other statistics -- the number of games played by each visitor, the number of people playing in other languages, the number of sites linking to us --
are growing steadily as well."
In order to play ten million games, a single human would need to play the game eight hours a day, seven days a week for more than one hundred years.
Each visitor who plays the 20Q game usually plays about 3 games, and while that may seem small, it actually means they click on about 100 pages, and in website terms that is a very high 'stickiness' factor.
Casual visitors spend about fifteen minutes on the site, and many people spend between half and hour or more.
"a single human would need to play the game eight hours a day,
seven days a week for over a hundred years"
The game is currently completing about one game every second. At any given time, there are up to 1,000 people playing the game. The most popular object in the game is played almost 1,000 times
each day, while the least popular objects still get exercised several times a week.
Recent reviews of 20Q's website on the CNN Money website, in the Washington Post and on Business Week's
internet site caused an unprecedented increase in the number of people playing 20Q. "We realized early in January that we were coming up on 10 million games," said Tanis Stoliar,
Managing Director at 20Q.net Inc., "but almost overnight the number of people playing the game tripled. We are obviously quite thrilled that our site is so popular." The 20q.net website hit the ten million game mark on February 5,
about two weeks sooner than was predicted because of the unanticipated increase in traffic.
Ed. Note: In the four months since this article was written, 20q.net has doubled the number of games played which now stands at
over 20 million.
Radica Games, a 20Q licensee, is also very pleased that the 20Q.net site is so popular. The more people who play against the online A.I., the better the knowledgebase embedded in their best selling toy,
and the better the Pocket 20Q, and the newly launched tabletop versions, will play the game. They plan to release two new versions of the game with additional features, as well as a newer,
smarter version of the knowledgebase--made possible by the millions of people who play against the online 20Q A.I.
"We think users will be amazed by how much smarter 20Q is now," said Patti Saitow,
vice president of global marketing at Radica Games. "20Q was one of our best-selling products last year and we expect it to continue to do very well." With a newer, smarter knowledgebase,
there's no doubt that players of the pocket game will be even more impressed and baffled by the mysterious and addictive toy.