17th of June 2010 Author: Natalie Stephanopoulos
Betting on video game outcomes - another string for the Virgin bow
Virgin's engaging founder and entrepreneur in chief, Sir Richard Branson, is renowned for identifying new and commercially exploitable trends, and his recent venture into video gaming is a good illustration of his talents.
Virgin's partnership and rebranding of Canadian-based World Gaming last week is described by Branson as having the potential to form an online competitive platform that allows video game players to wager cash they'll win against their opponents, and that makes kit a sure bet.
To exploit the concept, Virgin has opened an office in Toronto for Virgin Gaming, which will follow a skill-gaming business model in which people challenge equally skilled players to online video game matches and wager on the outcome. All perfectly legal, even in legally complex North America.
Virgin Gaming's first CEO, Rob Segal, says that there are 40 million people already playing video games over the Internet through the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles.
All Virgin Gaming has to do is tap into it, he said.
'"t wasn't a question as to whether or not there was an industry out there, the question was who's going to be the first person to figure out how to - in an automated approach - be able to offer a product like Virgin Gaming," Segal explained to Canadian media reporters this week.
ï¿½This is the next big thing,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½Itï¿½s the future of online gaming.ï¿½
In typically Branson style, the new Virgin company will make the enterprise attractive to players, initially investing over a million dollars in prize money for the online gaming tournaments it intends to organise as a promotional exercise.
Virgin Gaming has 42 employees, mostly held over from World Gaming, and will be opening another office in Santa Monica, California, Branson revealed. It will also have access to diverse stable-mates in the wider Virgin group.
College roomies Bill Levy and Zack Zeldin, who founded World Gaming, applied the concept of poker tournaments to the video gaming field in their initial business moves and soon found they had hit on a winner, attracting Segal as an investor ï¿½ one who would subsequently present the idea to Virgin.
Segal immediately saw the potential, noting that in online poker, a busy night could see over a million and a half players online contesting tournaments. With console gaming, there are more than 40 million people playing Xbox and PlayStation online, delivering even greater potential if marketed effectively.
Virgin Gamingï¿½s automated system allows gamers of all levels to play against each other by matching competitors through a skill rating. This protects players by allowing them to challenge members who are better than they are, but not worse.
Segal said that only the biggest video game titles with a clear definition of victory, such sports games, racing games and first-person shooters will be supported by Virgin Gaming.
While signing up for the service is free, Virgin Gaming will charge tournament management fees, he said.
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