Branson back in games

Richard Branson will use next month’s E3 in Los Angeles to unveil Virgin’s return to the video games business.

MCV believes that a launch event is being planned, with Branson himself in attendance.

This is a major coup for the US trade show, but also signals the return of one of the most exciting and successful brands to have ever operated in the games industry.

Branson was one of the first to see the potential of computer software as a global entertainment business, setting up Virgin Games in 1984.

Under Nick Alexander, the company eventually acquired Mastertronic and rolled Sega’s Master System across Europe.

As Sega Europe then built its own operation, Virgin Interactive Entertainment emerged under the leadership of Tim Chaney. It became one of the powers on either side of the Atlantic before being acquired by Blockbuster in 1994 for $250m, which itself was then bought by Viacom.

At its height in 1997, Virgin Interactive Entertainment reached global revenues of $210 million.

From 1994 to 1998, VIE often took turns with Electronic Arts for market leadership in the UK and other European territories. Market share reached a high of 16 per cent at one point.

Affiliates such as Westwood, Bethesda, Capcom, LucasArts, Disney and more made Branson’s one of the most respected sales and marketing outfits in the business.

Since 2004, one of Branson’s many businesses has been a new era Virgin Games, which focuses on prize-based online gaming websites.

The new gaming service rumoured to launch at E3 will seek partnerships with leading publishers and content owners, offering new and unique opportunities.

Ambitious and global, the business is expected to run across the leading console formats and feature the most popular games on the market.

MCV understands that the new video games venture will be online-only and again challenge-based, possibly built on a technology acquisition.

The company itself has refused to comment or confirm any kind of return to the mainstream games market for Virgin, but more details could well emerge as further plans are put in place for what will be one of the biggest events of this year’s E3.

A new online launch is likely to tap in to the huge success and growth of networks such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, as well as multi-player PC gaming.

About MCV Staff

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