Wheel of Fortune has been around for decades, a pride of American Game Shows, it’s pairing with Jeopardy on the Mid-Evening has made it a staple. A variant of hangman with the thrill of luck knowing any spin could wind up wiping out a players total. It’s a game show that you just relax too.
The format has changed over the years, from shopping, to returning champions, to having “pet lovers week” and wheels that half of the spaces are gimmicks ranging from “1/2 Car” to “Free Play” to add new twists to the game.
However, at least in my mind, the show… is stagnant, they offer $1,000,000 (granted you have to land on the space, call a letter, solve the puzzle, make sure you don’t bankrupt, and then spin the final round wheel so it lands on what would be the $100,000 space and solve the final round puzzle tow in)
The format goes like this
TOSS UP 1 is for $1,000. Contestants are on buzzers, first to solve as the letters build onto the thing wins the right to say hello to Pat Sajak First and talk about their pets and loving wife.
TOSS UP 2 is for $2000 and this time it’s for the right to spin first in ROUND 1
Round 1 has no frills, other than the 1/2 car, the featured prize.
Round 2 has the “mystery” wedge where two spaces on the wheel are worth $1000 x value or a 50/50 shot at $10,000 or a bankrupt
Round 3 has a Prize Puzzle and an Express wedge, whoever lands on it, can just keep calling letters until they solve the puzzle or bankrupt out.
Then TOSS UP 3 for $3000 for the ring to get “ding ding’d” as Pat spins the final spin
Round 4 has people calling letters one at a time, and then can solve it or pass and let the next two bozos screw up so they could get an advantage.
Then in the final round, the contestant picks their final category, and spins a wheel and that determines the final round prize.
You feel good watching the show, because the contestants are holding back on solving it early because they want more money, but you think “i am smart i know it before the contestants”
Jeopardy doesn’t really have to change it’s format, the screens and tech around it change, the values go up, but Wheel of Fortune, you just know “Buy a Vowel” and “Solve the Puzzle” and that’s about it.
So I decided, because I am pretty sure nobody would read this, nor would Sony Pictures Studios be looking at this post, that I would come up with ideas to make the game better (that’s not just throwing money at the problem, except in places where it’s needed)
1. DITCH THE PUZZLE BOARD
Yes, it’s fun seeing Vanna walk around touching letters, but it’s really unnecessary. Wheel 2000 was a screen with a CGI Playstation character, when a puzzle is solved the words show up, she doesn’t need to turn any letters anymore. It seems like they want to try things like “Crossword” as a new format, but with the current board as it is, you only get 4 letter words.
This would resort to having Vanna, who is the co-host serve as a prize model, and just somebody to bounce-off of. She would be the cheerleader and much like Tiffany on Let’s Make a Deal, serve as somebody to say “sorry” or “tough luck” along with the host as we see a large screen instead. Video Monitor would be nice, and would be nice (you don’t have to get rid of the “border” or theming in the background which still looks dark and bleek like most late 2000s game shows.
2. DITCH “BUY A VOWEL”
It is the big debate among the “Wheel Watchers”, people love the fact it’s $250 because it’s $1250 which speeds the puzzles along. Others would like the price raised to $1000 because then there is some strategy of what letters to buy again. Personally, I say “ditch it” altogether. The game will just be faster if right when it’s their turn, they spin and call a letter, even if that letter is “A” or “E”. Yes, vowels are more common in puzzles, which is where you will be “Throwing Money” but I love the game going fast.
3. FIX THE MONEY VALUES
I do not like the fact it’s like $500 base and still stuck at $900 before the big amount. I honestly think by getting rid of “Buy a Vowel” you could drop the values on the wheel back to a $200 and have them go up to $1000, Keep the Top Value at $2500, and ditch the $3500 space. In the 90s they had $1000 and $1500 spaces on the wheel. It would not hurt at all.
4. DITCH THE MILLION
I don’t like the bonus round in it’s current format. I think the spin is nice and all, but $34,000 because 34th season and it goes up. It doesn’t keep it fresh. There are 24 wedges on that bonus wheel, you could make a special “BIG MONEY WEEK” where you bring back the million, but I would rather see something where it’s 3 x $25,000, 3 x DOUBLE (Doubles Score), 3 x CAR, 3 x OTHER CAR, and the final 12 be amounts that go up to $250,000 (30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 100, 250)
When the million is activated, the game becomes less about the puzzle, and then becomes more about the contestant trying to “hang on” to the gimmick, I think it works if it’s in ONE round, but not for the duration of the program.
5. DROP GIMMICKS, MAKE GAMES
With the loss of buy-a-vowel, you don’t really need free play. There is 1/2 car in all three rounds, there is “prize puzzles” at certain areas. And to me - just as the wheel is spontaneous, so should the format.
I think Wheel of Fortune should take a cue from the Fremantle Library like “The Price is Right” and “Let’s Make a Deal” and make every Round feel like it’s own special game. Rather played with the puzzle itself or with the wheel itself and one gimmick, that’s randomly chosen for the game today. Mystery Round isn’t just Round 2, it could be Round 1 or 3. Express Wedge could be played in Round 1 or Round 2 as well. Prize Puzzle is a “game” in itself, not just attached to something else.
There are some already in the wheel library that can be “games” one for each round.
CROSSWORD - the puzzle is a crossword, no gimmicks on the wheel.
PRIZE PUZZLE - the puzzle itself is a clue to the prize you win automatically, no gimmick on the wheel
EXPRESS - in this game, one wedge is an express, you land on it, you can ride the express at $1000 a word, but be careful of bankrupt. No gimmick on the puzzle
FILL IN THE BLANK - the puzzle has a blank, fill in the blank to earn bonus money (or prize?)
MYSTERY - two wedges have $1000 on them, you can keep everything you have plus the value of the called letter OR flip the wedge and uncover a prize OR a bankrupt.
JACKPOT - the jackpot goes up the value of every spin, if you land on it and call a letter on it, you can solve the puzzle and win it.
Then you could elevate former wedges into games themselves
DOUBLE PLAY - there is a DOUBLE PLAY token, whoever calls a letter earns it and during this round can spin for DOUBLE the value of the space landed. If they keep it before the round ends, they just earn a spin of the wheel for double the value (like a single letter call, for free)
SURPRISE - not one, not two, but THREE wedges are surprises, all of them prizes, but you don’t know what they are until you call a letter and open the envelope. Is it a trip? Is it a car? Home Furniture?
BANKRUPT/$5000/BANKRUPT - taking back the million dollar wedge, the round has $5000 but only if you can land on the one wedge. Unlike the million dollar wedge, it’s not a “prize” and acts as a $5000 space on the wheel in the main game, so a good call could earn big money.
Now given the wheel changes each game and there is a video monitor, you could now do different games that could incorporate the game itself
STEAL - call a letter and steal a player’s total in the round, be careful, they could land on that and steal from you as well.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING - If you land on the DON wedge, your next spin counts as DOUBLE (like a Double Play) however if a letter isn’t in the puzzle, it acts as a BANKRUPT, if you land on the DON on the second spin, your score DOUBLES.
WHAT IS THAT? - With a clue like “Show Biz” or “80s Television”, the winner then gets to decide between 3 or 4 images, which one matches the description (Which of these is the headshot to the celebrity) for the bonus money.
LESS IS MORE - $26,000 can be won if you don’t spin the wheel, but $1,000 is taken away from the cash bonus at the end of the round. Whoever solves the puzzle banks the bonus money based on the amount of uncalled letters left in the puzzle. It encourages strategy with when to solve early.
REBOUND - Similar to “Jackpot” but for Bankrupt. Every time a player “Bankrupts”, it goes into the bank, and if you land on the REBOUND wedge and call a letter, you win it back (Big Bank style on Whammy!) Of course, there is no Lose-a-Turn this round, that becomes a bonus Bankrupt
RISK - If a player lands on “RISK” and call a letter, they get the option to either take $500 per letter OR for $1000 a letter add a ‘bankrupt’ to any space on the wheel, making it tougher for everybody.
SHOPPING SPREE - Every money wedge has a bonus gift card attached with small increments of money ($50-$100) at different stores, Similar to the “Gift Tag” wedge but not as large.
BIG WEDGE, LITTLE WEDGE - five wedges are used in this one, two side-by-side that say $500, one that’s a $500/$500/$500 and the other that’s also a $500 by $500. There is one small wedge that is worth double the value of the wheel. but can it be won?
I am not saying this is a sure-fire way to get more people interested, but with a featured prize already there, it’s possible you could just do this for Rounds 2 & 3 and continue making Round 1 the “Base Game” itself.
I think people would love more variety, and I don’t think the selling point should be the million dollars or the increase in money, it should be pacing and keeping contestants guessing until the last possible second of the round.
Thank you. <3