Dear ASC -- wouldn't people rather win REAL prizes?
The timing on American Softworks Corp.'s video game/marketing gimmick was a little odd, on the cusp of a console transition. The intent was to encourage diehard 8-bit Nintendo players to purchase Treasure Master, so they could potentially win a 16-bit Super Nintendo system. Interested participants had to buy the game (= profit!), practice until the Secret Password was revealed on April 11, 1992 (via a by-the-minute 900 number or by watching MTV at noon), then rush to finish the game before midnight, discover the winning code, and call it in before anyone else to win the best of the fantasy prizes.
The big prizes were luxury trips and a game room setup with a then-whopping 50" projection TV and a Super NES. And there were 250 Super NES systems being given away as well, so after you finished playing Treasure Master you could declare it a fitting coda as you stuck your beloved but now-obsolete NES in the closet. ASC also gave away 36,000 Treasure Master certificates, which hardly seem like a "third prize" -- I wonder if they were even able to give all of them away in the 12-hour window leading up to the deadline.
Of course, all winners had to be accepted by the Treasure Master judges, begging the question of what exactly it takes to become a Treasure Master judge, and how they cleared their docket in a mere twelve hours. The bar exam seems like an inappropriate qualification; maybe they had to, as stated in the ad, "Master all the wacky tools" and "Interact with a variety of mysterious creatures"; i.e., the contestants.