"With trophies like that for the losers, who wants to be a winner?"Welcome, welcome, and thank you for playing TV 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! Fast Eddie, tell our lucky losing contestants what they've won!
— Pac-Man, "The Old Pac-Man and the Sea"
- 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.®!
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- 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.
- The Mega Stacker at Dave & Buster's is a bit more fair with its consolation prize- 200 tickets for reaching the Minor Prize level on a game where the Major Prize is 1000 tickets.
- Some crane games also dispense candy when you play them, so if you didn't get the toy you were after, you at least got some candy.
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, even though Jade's Batman Gambit to steal the masks from Section 13 fails, SOLELY due to the Spanner in the Works known as Agent Wisker, she still manages to escape with information on the locations of the other set of artifacts she was looking for!
Live Action TV
- Game Shows: Probably the originator of this trope, as spelled out in the introduction:
- 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, with Dick Clark famously adding the total aloud).
- Many game shows that had Home Game adaptations also got a copy of the board game, as part of their stash of consolation gifts.
- Additionally, many hosts will also remind contestants of what else they had already won if they fail to win the bonus round (or, if it's The Price Is Right, a pricing game). Drew Carey doing this in the latter case has annoyed a few longtime TPiR fans note , although Barker has done this on occasion and both Dennis James and Tom Kennedy frequently did this.
- The Crystal Maze once ran a special edition of the show where the contestants were kids. They did really well but fell down at the last hurdle - the famous crystal dome, missing out on the grand prize - a trip to Disneyland. Or so they thought. In what also counts as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for the show, the host suddenly revealed that they were going to Disneyland anyway. More conventionally, every competitor, regardless of how well they did, got a replica of one of the crystals.
- Queen for a Day: The producers deliberately kept the consolation prize stash small for losing contestants, according to one history of the genre. The explanation: The show wanted to prevent fortune-seeking contestants who lied about their "dire" circumstances just to get onto the show. This was, because in addition to things that a contestant truly needed (such as medical care or therapeutic equipment to help a chronically ill child, or her out-of-work husband a decent-paying job), there were other gifts, such as fur coats, vacations and so forth as part of the stash. Even though the consolation gifts were comparably less expensive, such as a toaster oven or a camera kit, no legitimate contestant ever left empty handed.
- Said consolation prizes were also left unmentioned on the program for the same reasons, leading to the popular belief that the losers were left with nothing, adding to the show's infamy.
- Normally, even the unluckiest contestants on Deal or No Deal walk away with at least a small amount of cash, even if it's a single penny. But when a hapless contestant on the Australian version managed to win literally nothing, they handed him a Giant Novelty Check for the amount of "Nothing".
- The Price Is Right: During the Drew Carey era, after a contestant lost an over/under pricing game on the first item (a roll of aluminum foil), he spontaneously gave the contestant the roll as a souvenir.
- Drew has been keeping up the trend, if a bit randomly. If a contestant loses on a game based on grocery items, Drew will give the contestant the item that made them lose as a souvenir, whether it is walnuts, potato chips, or even whipped cream.
- Early in the show's history, a losing contestant in Grocery Game — provided they used all five grocery items but failed to reach $6.75 — was given a $100 cash consolation.
- Just prior to the second Showcase Showdown (or the Showcases during the 30-minute era), "Contestants not appearing on stage" (or CANOS, as it was fondly abbreviated by fans) were usually given a combination of grocery items plus small prizes, usually up to $500 in value. Since Season 41, CANOS receive $500, which is not stated on-air.
- On the Taiwanese version of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, the first question is worth NT$1000 as well as a NT$500 guarantee (about US$17), so that players who flunk out in the first half of the game still get a minimal consolation prize, unlike the US version. But on the occasions that a contestant answered the very first question incorrectly, they were awarded a big novelty check for "ZERO YUAN".
- In the Trebek version of Jeopardy!, third place contestants won a small prize like artwork or something similar while second place frequently won trips. All departing contestants would receive your standard bundle of grocery items along with the home game where applicable. The show then changed the consolation prizes to be $1000 and $2000 to the contestants that finished in 3rd and 2nd respectively.
- If the contestants misses buckets 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 on Bozo's Grand Prize Game, they keep the prize (If they miss bucket 1, they just keep on going until the ping-pong ball lands in bucket 1).
- Any Wheel of Fortune contestant who finished with $0 originally received parting gifts. This was changed to $500 cash in Season 20, and again to $1,000 in Season 23.
- On the PBS Kids game show: Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, The gumshoe would get a consolation prize if they did not complete a round. If the gumshoe came in third place in round 1, They would get a traveling bag, It contains a atlas book, an official Carmen Sandiego wristwatch, a Carmen Sandiego T-Shirt, and subscription to the National Geographic World Magazine. If the gumshoe did not complete round 2 (Jailtime Challenge), They would get a world band radio. If the winning gumshoe did not complete the map round in 45 seconds (Or 60 seconds if they are using the Asia map), They would get a portable CD player and some selection of CDs from around the world.
- Ready Steady Cook gives the losers a wooden spoon. While this might seem like an appropriate cooking-themed booby prize, it's a cultural in-joke that pre-dates the show by a long way (see Real Life below).
- Concentration: An unusual case for the 1970s Jack Narz version – in that consolation-level prizes, such as Bic writing pens, flashlight batteries and boxed Betty Crocker potato dishes were front-game prizes. Yes, you still could get Rice-o-Roni as a consolation prize if you didn't win anything, but there was the possibility that it was a front-game item as well.
- Additionally, if you solved just one of the Double Play bonus round rebuses, you still came away with $100.
- During the original NBC version, a winning contestant that had nothing in his prize rack when he solved the rebus won $100.
- Also, when is the last time a car was offered as a consolation prize? Well, when you didn't win the game ... but during the course of play, you uncovered both Wild Cards. The car was yours from then on, and no one could take it away from you, even with a loss or an opponent's "Take" card note or upon finding a "Forfeit" card note and it was the only prize available. This "Double Wild means a car" rule was in play during the final three years or so of the original NBC version.
- Blankety Blank had "The Blankety Blank chequebook and pen!", spoonerised in the Les Dawson era as "chequepen and book!"
- In the 1985 pilot version of Finders Keepers, if the runner failed to complete the final search before time ran out, he or she would receive whatever amount was won in prizes as a consolation.
- Averted with the original format of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and many shows that attempted to follow in its footsteps.
- 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 (in some instances, it was literally at the kids feet, and all they had to do was let go and drop the ball,) 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.
- Another skit offered Rice-A-Roni to contestant who wanted liver, but gets the Rice-A-Roni but can liver in it.
- 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.
- The 1969 game Letters To Laugh-In scored viewer-submitted jokes read by the panelists. The highest-scoring joke each week won a trip to Hawaii, whereas lowest-scoring joke won a trip to "beautiful downtown Burbank". And since this was Fall 1969 as opposed to (for example) May 1975, there wasn't nearly as much to do there.
- 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.
- Some games give you a small-to-medium amount of points by losing a ball down an outlane (gaps on the bottom-left and bottom-right of the playfield, which leads to the drain, ending the ball). Examples include Focus in Creature from the Black Lagoon, which gives out 500,000 points, which is a good amount but not worth losing a ball; Bit in The Walking Dead, worth 500,000 points times the end-of-ball bonus multiplier; and Big Shot in Dr. Dude, worth a varying amount depending on the number of times his figurine is hit during play. A few machines do give out pretty hefty awards though, up to multiple free games, putting into Violation of Common Sense territory.
- Doctor Who has The Master's Bonus, which is obtained by draining the ball in a specific place.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation has the Thank You Mr. Data bonus, only accessible once per game as a sort of Easter Egg if you start a mission, completely fail to make any progress whatsoever in it (so you only get the token 5 million bonus for starting it), drain the ball, and interrupt Mr. Data's not-at-all snarky comment on your failure with the flippers.
- 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."
- A contestant once gave the proper answer of "no one" to the Grant's Tomb question. Groucho was surprised that he got it "wrong" until the contestant pointed out that Grant's Tomb is an above ground mausoleum.
- 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! (Panama hats are NOT made in Panama, but in Ecuador.)
- 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."
- Of Thee I Sing, in the Beauty Contest:
Fulton: Matter of fact, we're getting up some consolation prizes. Got the list, Jenkins?
Jenkins: Here you are, sir.
Fulton: Of course the first prize, as you all know, is Mr. Wintergreen himself. The second prize is a season pass to Coney Island. And the third prize is an autographed photograph of Clara Bow, or ten cents in gold.
- 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.
- Sometimes, this is a weird inversion. Unlike the prize you get for killing an Ultra-Rare, the consolation ribbon is untradeable; players who are wealthy enough to buy Ultra-Rare items often intentionally lose to the monster so they can get the ribbon.
- 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 receiving 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.
- 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.
- Doing poorly in a mini-game in Final Fantasy VII 's Gold Saucer gets you a tissue.
- The Stone Award is what you receive when you completely blow a level in Bayonetta. Yes, this game is cruel enough that they invented a level below Bronze just in case you completely botch things. Which is quite likely on your first (few) playthrough(s). The figure also happens to be game's biggest Butt Monkey Enzo.
- Inverted in Billy Vs SNAKEMAN with the game "First Loser". Everyone who plays throws in X amount of ryo. The top twenty or so highest bidders get... one kunai! (Kunai are 100 ryo each in the game's shop, and used to perform the weakest jutsu.) The first player outside of the top ranks gets an extremely valuable item. Thus, you want to be the first loser.
- Tomodachi Life: Lose to one of the Islanders in an Islander Game and they'll "reward" you with either a Box of Tissues or a Toilet paper. Both are Vendor Trash that sell for exactly $1.
- The Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy XIV gives players a small amount of MGP (currency for prizes in the Gold Saucer) should they not win the mini-cactpot or jumbo cactpot (a scratch off and lottery respectively), though the consolation prize is usually less than the amount of points the player paid for to play the games. The player is given some MGP back if they lose the lottery since getting nothing back in return would be borderline gambling and many places have strict laws when it comes to online gambling.
- Should a level go utterly FUBAR in The Wonderful 101, you won't even get a Bronze at the end of it. Instead you'll get a tiny plastic consolation prize. The newspaper at the end of a section in the level will even demand to know "WHERE ARE OUR REAL HEROES?!". And given how unforgiving the game is, you may well end up seeing it at least once in a playthrough. Incidentally, this game is from the same developers as the above-mentioned Bayonetta. Go figure.
- In Miitomo, the Miitomo Drop game has a few spaces on the bottom that award candy, if you were unfortunate enough to not land near a clothing item.
- In a number of the Yu-Gi-Oh! video games, losing a set number of times (normally 10 times) unlocks the Secret Character Mokuba, Kaiba's Bratty Half-Pint little brother. As should be obvious, he is the easiest duelist to beat by a good margin, so the game is basically insulting you by giving you the 'privilege' of playing with one of the main character's younger siblings until you get better.
- In Champions Of Faraus, When Daryl loses the first round of the champions tournament,he gets a tiny dagger as a consolation prize.Since the city it is being held in is attacked by Sarengal's cultists a minute or so later, and Daryl didn't have any other weapons to use, it actually became a lifesaver for him, and he continues to use it to fight.
- Neopets' Tiki Tack Tombola has the Booby Prize, which are usually even more pointless than the regular prizes.
- In the season one finale of Jackie Chan Adventures, after Shendu's destruction resulted in the Dark Hand losing the treasure Shendu had promised them in return for retrieving his talismans but refused to give them, Finn noticed the said talismans in the sand that used to be Shendu's palace, and asks Valmont if he'd be happy with a consolation prize (and keep in mind, the talismans give their wielders magical powers).
- On 2 Stupid Dogs, the dogs are contestants on a The Price Is Right-type show, where the consolation prize is a box of dog biscuits. Naturally, the dogs want the biscuits, and try to lose on purpose, but they just keep on winning.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "If You're So Smart, Why Are You Rich?," The Riddler failed to kill the corporate executive who cheated him out of a job thanks to Batman, but at least he escaped and has the satisfaction that the exec now is plagued with a terrified paranoia for the Riddler to strike at him again.
- 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 his best — went away with something.
- In Britain and the Commonwealth the traditional consolation prize is a wooden spoon. The Other Wiki has a whole article on this; it started at Cambridge University as a prize for the lowest-scoring Maths student to still earn a degree, but was eventually discontinued. The Six Nations rugby tournament awards a (theoretical) "wooden spoon" to the overall losing side, and many smaller quizzes, competitions and tournaments will give away a real one (sometimes with some kind of decoration, as a kind of anti-trophy, but sometimes just an everyday kitchen utensil).
- In pro sports like football or hockey, missing out on the post-season playoffs hurts bad for any team and its fanbase. However, the team and their fans can occasionally enjoy some schadenfreude and get some of their pride back if they still play well enough to ruin the playoff hopes of whichever other team is their major rival.
- Also in U.S. sports leagues, teams get to draft new players in reverse order of the previous season's records, so theoretically the worst team has the opportunity to get the best available incoming pro, assuming they've scouted the recruits correctly and injury doesn't come into play.
- In some leagues, like the NBA, a playoff spot can be considered this since so many teams make the playoffs the lower seeded teams are so inferior they literally have no chance of advancing. All they get is the extra revenue for the additional home games.
- The Olympic Games gives certificates known as "victory diplomas" to the fourth through eight participants, and the Pierre de Coubertin medal might be this to those who show sportsmanship while losing higher prizes.
- Many people think bronze medals for the third place is this, specially in elimination tournaments where the two semifinal losers play for bronze. It's commonly averted as the bronze winner is usually happy to actually win anything (while the silver medalist might content with his prize but would have preferred to win gold).
- A notable consolation prize for losing a war was the island of Elba. After his first abdication, Napoleon was exiled there, but not as a prisoner. Elba was made into an independent country with Napoleon as its ruler: he was still an Emperor, but with a tiny empire. Of course, he decided it wasn't enough (though he made some good reforms while he was there) and he tried to win again. After his second abdication, St Helena was very much not a consolation prize.
- 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 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.
- The 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!)
- Family Game Night will give the families who played and lost $100 for playing, and they still get a shot at the Community Chest. If they happen to pick the winning combination, they have a shot at the car.