Understand it yet? This Virgin is not the old Virgin.
It’s the brand being added to an online gaming platform which gives gamers of all skill levels and numerous countries the chance to meet, challenge and play each other in head-to-head matches and tournaments on Xbox Live and PSN for cash, points and prizes.
Sir Richard Branson held an exclusive briefing at the swish Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard ahead of E3, then rolled up at the show in an armoured truck with the $1m cash he is giving away in prize tournaments over the next 12 months.
Gamers must register at Virgingaming.com to enter the tournaments and there will be a variety of free and paid services.
Third-party content owners will be announced shortly and retailers will be invited to promote subscriptions. Simple.
The technology comes from the previously little-known WorldGaming.com, which was co-founded by best friends Billy Levy and Zack Zeldin and a key man is the highly rated North American and Canadian games industry exec Rob Segal.
Now CEO of Virgin Gaming, Segal has worked with Levy and Zeldin to add funding and global ambition to a platform that boasts secure transactions as well as a host of robust functionality that includes automatic results verification, a skill ratings system that matches players of similar abilities and a reputation management system that makes good sportsmanship a pre-requisite for access.
To get your head around it, think of Virgin Gaming as BetFair Lite For Gamers. A potentially lucrative sector within an online boom.
“Gaming is very competitive by nature and competition is always more exciting when there’s something on the line,” adds Levy, whose exec role is president of Virgin Gaming.
“There are plenty of tournament leagues out there for the pros, but we created Virgin Gaming as a platform for all gamers to have the experience of playing each other with more at stake than just pride.”
It matters more when there’s real money on it. Or free flights. Or trips to Necker Island. Clearly, cash, prizes and publicity are areas where Branson can add value. But just as important is the comfort that most people around the globe have with the Virgin name.
It’s not quite online gambling, but certainly worth a punt for Branson.
BRANSON ON VIRGIN PAST
“I certainly look back fondly on Virgin’s achievements in the games industry first time around. We were one of the first major third-party publishers and handled huge selling titles such as Command & Conquer, Resident Evil and Aladdin. Nick Alexander, Tim Chaney… yes, I remember them.
“Virgin first went into games quite early during the 1980s and achieved a lot of success in the 1990s. It was a bit like being in the record business but, without the live acts, it wasn’t quite so exciting.
“This is like getting back on the ground floor. It’s perhaps more revolutionary than what we were doing then.
“I know why we got out of games. We were always over stretched… Richard could never say no to any new project.”
BRANSON ON VIRGIN FUTURE
“It took a while to get it right first time around and there is obviously a long road ahead for Virgin Gaming. But I think [WorldGaming.com] has already done a lot of the hard graft. The team tested it and I think the basis is solid. Then the Virgin brand goes on top, more resource is added and we take it on to the next level.
“Lots of people have approached me with games projects over the past ten years. I said yes this time because I like the people and that’s key. Sure, they’re a bit older than I was, but we both started when we were teenagers and I even had the same spectacles.
“I also love the concept. This could be enormous.”
IS IT BRITISH? IS IT GAMBLING?
“Will we be saying it is a British company, given the current climate in the US?
“Well, I am very proud to be British and I think it’s very sad that Obama is tarring and feathering BP in the way that he is, but that’s another story.
“As for this company, it is better to say that we are international. It is a British, American and Canadian company and we will be launching in 50 different countries.
“It’s also important to make clear that it’s not gambling. We’re just making sure people can have a fun flutter without having any arguments with their friends about paying up.”