Back in 1993 on a movie tracking newsgroup, a group of guys started a predicting game. They set up a system where they could bid on upcoming films, and then figured out math formulas based on the buzz and the activity of those films in regards to the newsgroup to see if the price would rise or fall. It soon began to expand enough to become a website with an actual program running on it and thus the HSX or Hollywood Stock Exchange was born.
The HSX has gone through a lot of changes since those early beginnings, back in the dot.com boom of 2001, HSX went public and raised a good chunk of capital that it used to finance a TV channel, radio spots, and a whole slew of other market ideas, almost all of which have fallen through now.
Hollywood Stock Exchange is protected by US patents due to the specific formulas and processes they use and they have successfully protected themselves against software pirates who have attempted to nab the code for their own use. The HSX runs on a java platform with active server pages helping to keep the actual process hidden behind a shielded server wall.
When somebody decides to play the Movie market, they open a free account with HSX and are given 2 million Hollywood Dollars or H$. This is the online currency of the market, and is the only way to play the game. Players then buy and sell shares in the market and if they pick the right shares at the right time, their funds increase. I have been playing the HSX for about 18 months and have achieved more than H$43 million so far, which is not too bad.
Some of the biggest gains can come from predicting how much cash a movie will take on it's opening weekend. Because that is applied with a multiplier to the actual stock price, and if it is higher, then the stock price can jump up or down significantly. A big gain I managed to do was put some H$ onto Spiderman 3 before it released to theatres. That stock jumped more than H$43 on the strength of the box office, meaning every share held increased by that amount.
The HSX is a very good example of a prediction market, and the software that runs it is always being adjusted and tweaked by the operators to keep the system running at it's best performance. Thus we come to the big problem with HSX, downtime.
In the 18 months that this site has been monitored, not a week goes by that the site is not down for at least a couple of hours, or sometimes a full day. Quite often it will simply go down and nobody will say anything, then it recovers and people keep playing. Other times, the server will error or the database will fail, or any number of other excuses may occur that will cause the system to stop working, leaving the game's 10,000+ active players out of luck until the game is reset.
Now, even though the site is currently owned by an investment capital firm, I would imagine they would make it a priority to ensure their game, which is known around the world for what it is, would be kept up and stable. But it appears that they don't want to put too much into it. Even though HSX is ranked at 14,731 on Alexa's top 100,000 websites, which means it gets well over 10,000 hits a day if not more. HSX is also associated with the movie speculation site the numbers.com as they share information daily and have cross-links.
I find that quite sad as this type of site has a strong potential and it seems to be being squandered by the owners who seem to have no idea what to do with a concept like this, other than to let it sit without much improvement and let it die a slow death through neglect.
Tim Morrison is the designer of TV Stocks Online , the world's first fully developed television stock market simulator totally functional with live data from Nielson figures and user interactions. Join the growing fantasy market, share your opinions on current TV and see if you can pick the winners and losers out of the current Primetime television lineups.