By Breia Brissey
Updated September 16, 2010 at 06:38 PM EDT

Image Credit: Dario Cantatore/Getty ImagesThe ninth season of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire premiered Monday, and if you watched, you probably noticed some pretty drastic changes. Yesterday, the show went to some pretty giant lengths to promote the new season and game changes. And when I say giant, I’m referring to the giant piggy bank that served as a backdrop for the live Millionaire-style game that took place in Times Square. Four radio contest winners duked it out for $10,000 by answering a series of multiple choice questions. After the competition, all four participants got a fast track audition for the chance to appear as a contestant on the actual show.

Millionaire host Meredith Vieira was on hand to deliver the final questions of the challenge. After she awarded a $10,000 check to the winner, she talked with us about this season’s changes. “I wasn’t sold, to be honest with you, in the beginning,” she said. “I thought, why would you change something that seems to work?” But after the producers played the game for her, she came around to the new look of the game. “After nine years, games get predictable, so there’s always a risk when you change things, but I think it’s been worth it,” Vieira said. “The game is edgier now. It’s far less predictable, and there’s a lot more risk-taking.”

Here’s a breakdown of the new changes:

  • Round 1 — Questions and Dollar Values Randomized: You’re used to seeing the questions get progressively harder as contestants attempt to reach the $1 million mark. Now, the first round will feature 10 questions valued from $100 to $25,000. Before play begins, the order of the questions and dollar value will be randomly shuffled. That means the easiest question could have a $25,000 value attached to it. Conversely, a harder question could be worth only $100. “It does something to your head,” Vieira said. “In the old system you knew the first questions were going to be easy. Now you’re never quite so sure.”
  • Round 2 — Classic Millionaire: After making it through the first round, contestants are guaranteed at least $25,000. The $50,000 question is no more, and only four questions remain valued at $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000.
  • New Lifeline — Jump the Question: A contestant can rely on this lifeline to avoid answering a question. In doing so, he or she will also forfeit the dollar amount attached to the question. Contestants will get two of these lifelines, along with the classic Ask the Audience.
  • No More Hot Seat: The hot seat is gone! That means Vieira and the contestant will stand throughout the show. The questions and winnings are now displayed on an 18-foot-wide HD projection screen. Vieira wasn’t too happy that she’d have to stand in heels the whole time, but she’s come around. “I’ve been OK. Every time we have a commercial break, and I feel like sitting I can,” she said. “But most of the time I don’t want to. You get caught up in it.”

So what do you think about the new format of the show, PopWatchers? Will you still be watching? Or will you take your game show loyalty to something else now that they’ve implemented these new changes?