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With trophies like that for the losers, who wants to be a winner?

Pac-Man (Marty Ingels), "The Old Pac-Man and the Sea"
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Welcome, welcome, and thank you for playing All The Tropes! Applause!

Unfortunately, I'm afraid you're not our big winner here today, and so we have to say goodbye! Awwwwwwwww! But you're not leaving empty-handed! No, you're going home with our fabulous Consolation Prize! Eddie, tell our lucky losing contestants what they've won!

That's right, our Consolation Prize is a nice little gift basket loaded with various and sundry household goods and items, maybe some store credit, and we'll even throw in the Home Game version of our own Game Show! Wow, look at that shiny box! Courtesy of Trope Co®!

Applause!

Thanx, Eddie! And before our grand champion starts feeling left out, let me remind everyone that the Consolation Prize is, by necessity, of inferior value compared to our show's real prizes. Now, off with you runners up, and let us bask in the glow of our real winner!

Cheers And Applause!

What, there's no year's supply of Rice-A-Roni, The San Francisco Treat Ding! Ding!? That's THE memetic Consolation Prize, you know...

Examples of Consolation Prize include:

Arcade Games

  • The Stacker Arcade Game lets you pick a "Consolation Prize!" when you're close to the top. However, you only have one opportunity to take said prize - losing while going for the Major Prizes gets you nothing. That said, since the minor prizes are things like pencils and small plastic toys and the major prizes are usually video game consoles or iPods, not too many people choose the consolation prize.
  • Some crane games also dispense candy or trading cards when you play them, so if you didn't get the toy you were after, you at least got something.

Live Action TV

  • The Bozo Show: The long-running children's TV show (hosted by the eponymous clown) had a segment called the "Grand Prize Game," a progressive skill game where the youthful contestants had to throw a pingpong ball into a series of six buckets, each one placed further from the contestant than the last. The value of the contestant's prize package increased as the contestant's success continued, with a grand prize (in addition to everything else already won) awarded for getting all six. Very rarely did anyone fail to make the first bucket, but if they were so unlucky, they were given a consolation prize "just for playing"—usually, a towel with Bozo's face on it, or a balsam-wood airplane, each worth about $1 or $2.
    • Of course, if you were the unlucky child who pouted after getting just the consolation gift—such as was claimed in the "Cram it, clown!" urban legend—you might forfeit even that prize ... thus leaving with nothing.
  • A game show in a Mad TV sketch offered as a consolation prize a "lifetime supply of Rice-A-Roni... the board game"; one box.
  • A Late Night with Jimmy Fallon sketch featured the game show Wheel of Carpet Samples. The winner got to keep his carpet sample, and the losers were left with a $300 gift certificate.
  • Many game shows have Bonus Rounds that, if the contestant unsuccessfully completes its objective (to win the grand prize), will award the contestant a consolation prize for components he/she did meet successfully. Notable examples include Fast Money in Family Feud ($5 for each point scored below the target of 200) and Pyramid ($50 to $300 for each category correctly guessed, depending on its placement on the Winner's Circle board).
  • Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?: If the contestant did not complete round 1, they would receive a traveling kit that comes with an atlas, an official Carmen wristwatch, a Carmen T-Shirt, and a subscription to the National Geographic World magazine. If the contestant did not complete round 2, they would receive a portable world band radio. If the contestant fails in the Bonus Round, they would receive a portable Sony Discman CD player with CDs from around the world and later, a new Rockapella CD (which featured the show's theme song).

Music

  • Parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic in the song "I Lost on Jeopardy!", in which legendary announcer Don Pardo lists off all the stuff Al didn't win:
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Don Pardo: You don't get to come back tomorrow! You don't even get a lousy copy of our Home Game! You're a complete loser!!!

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Newspaper Comics

  • One Garfield comic strip spoofs this with a TV show announcer revealing that the lovely prizes for the runner-ups are tickets to "LOSER-ville!" Garfield thinks that there's finally one game show that's got that part right.

Radio

  • Groucho Marx's radio quiz show You Bet Your Life had a clever twist on the idea: if the contestants wound up losing all their money (or ended their appearance with less than $25 in winnings), Groucho would ask them a consolation question worth $25. The consolation question was one which it was almost impossible to get incorrect (though some contestants did miss it): "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?", "When did the War of 1812 start?", and "What color is an orange?" were among them.
    • In one episode, Groucho asked the contestants if they really wanted to bet all their winnings on a question. One of the contestants replied, "Why not? I know who's buried in Grant's Tomb."
    • An alternate game show used similar questions...but with a twist. Mentioning a specific Grant, or asking where Panama hats are made. In Ulysses S. Grant's tomb, there's both Ulysses S. Grant AND his wife, Julia! (Panaman hats are NOT made in Panama, but in Ecuador.)

Theater

  • In Monty Python: Live At The Hollywood Bowl, several notable historical figures participate in a quiz show. When Karl Marx fails to win the Grand Prize, the emcee (Eric Idle) comments, "Well, no one leaves this show empty handed. So we're going to cut off his hands."

Video Games

  • Should the fates conspire in your favor and you encounter an Ultra-Rare monster in Kingdom of Loathing, but then you mess up and get beaten by it, you get a Consolation Ribbon instead.
  • In the Shadow Hearts series, if you fail on the Lottery, you get Tissues. In the first game, you need Tissues at one point to get one of Yuri's most powerful Fusions - which is why Margarete's prize for completing the Monster Arena is Tissues (in case you never lost the Lottery).
    • For those who feel that this seems a little random, it might be noted that tissues are in fact a common consolation prize in Japanese lotteries.
  • Modern Warfare 2 introduces Deathstreaks. When a player loses several lives without killing any enemies, they get one of four bonuses (that they select prior to the match). They are "Copycat", which allows you to copy the gear of the soldier that killed you, "Painkiller", which grants you a 10-second health boost upon respawning, "Martyrdom", which has you priming a grenade as you die, and "Final Stand", which lets you, upon recieving what should be lethal damage, crawl around on the ground with your primary weapon ready to fire. If you survive long enough in final stand, you get back up.
  • Ask a Gaia Online member about Potatoverseer. You're likely to be shot.
  • There's a Team Fortress 2 achievement for the Sniper by this name. It requires the achiever to be on the receiving end of a Back Stab from a Spy, their natural and greatest enemy. Fifty times.
  • Inverted in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. When you send a lottery ticket to the mailbox, and you supposedly don't win, you get a ship part as a consolation prize. When you do win, they forget to put the prize alongside the letter, so you receive nothing at all.

Web Original

  • Neopets' Tiki Tack Tombola has the Booby Prize, which are usually even more pointless than the regular prizes.

Real Life

  • Many contests, especially youth-related (and especially more where young children are involved) give ribbons, certificates, etc., to everyone who participated, meaning that even a contestant who fared poorly—but at least did their best—went away with something.

Notable aversions

  • Wheel of Fortune used to offer consolation prizes to any contestants who finished with a score of $0. Starting in the early 2000s, they now get the "house minimum": first $500, then $1,000.
  • Similarly, Jeopardy! has always paid full winnings only to the first place winner ever since Trebek joined in 1984. The second- and third-place contestants originally got parting gifts, but now, second and third respectively get flat amounts of $2,000 and $1,000.
  • On the current[when?] version of Let's Make a Deal, when a contestant gets Zonked, Wayne Brady will often (but not always) give them a bit of money (usually around $100) so they don't walk away empty-handed.
  • On Sale of the Century, losing contestants still kept everything credited to them in the main game, including their score in dollars. (Of course, the latter usually wouldn't be much, as it was a rare occurrence for the winner to have a score greater than 100, much less the losers.) It was possible, and in fact not even terribly unusual, for a contestant to lose yet get a bigger single-episode haul than the winner, by virtue of prizes that don't count towards the score - although of course, the endgame prizes offered to the winner were much more valuable, and only the winner can come back and get one step closer to the lot.
  • Hollywood Squares (and many other Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley produced shows) had consolation prize packages that often totaled $1,500 – and these were nice gifts! (For instance, on one Heatter-Quigley show, the loser walked away with a photo session at Olan Mills studios, a microwave oven (and a couple other kitchen appliances), a water softener, a $300 Iowa Pork Producers gift certificate, and some Sarah Coventry jewelry. Other contestants have received things such as two-night stays at a local resort, encyclopedias, gift certificates to clothing stores, car care packages and much more. Keep in mind this is what the loser receives!)
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