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Virgin, Electronic Arts bring gambling to video gaming - 22nd January 2011

OTTAWA — Gambling has come to the video-game console in your living room.

Toronto’s Virgin Gaming, a division of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin empire, announced this past week that it had signed a deal with Electronic Arts (EA) to support a majority of popular sports games, including the wildly popular Madden NFL 11 and FIFA 11, using its online wagering system.

The announcement affects everyone from government regulators, who are trying to decide how to best control the expansion of Internet-based gambling, to parents who must now keep an even closer watch over their children’s video-game sessions.

Virgin allows video gamers to wager on the outcome of their video -game challenges and then tracks the players as they play on an Xbox 360 or PS3, ensuring no one is cheating. The winner is then handed the payout. Prizes can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The company said it already has 170,000 users from 30 countries signed up to use its online services.

So far, the Virgin system only allows organized tournaments, sort of like online poker tournaments — meaning players can buy into a tournament and then play their way through it, with the champion claiming the jackpot.

Sponsored tournaments, including a recent Maxim Magazine event, would see gamers skip paying the entrance fee. However, in the coming weeks, Virgin plans to open up a game-by-game wagering system, which will allow gamers to create their own tournaments and challenge others online for real cash prizes.

“This is the biggest deal that we’ve had,” said William Levy, president of Virgin Gaming.

“We have the entry fee-based tournaments. We also have sponsored tournaments. Let’s say there was a $10 entry fee tournament, you could click ‘enter now,’ agree to the terms and conditions and then we deduct the $10 from your account and put it towards the pot.”

To begin wagering on Virgin’s tournament-play system, a player must sign up for an account at the company’s website. Registering requires a credit card.

While a handful of game tournaments have already been offered on the Virgin system, including Halo: Reach and NBA 2K11, the addition of EA is set to greatly boost the profile of the service and open Virgin’s wagering system to fans of sports betting.

It will also allow the company to begin offering new services, such as Madden NFL 11 Red Zone, which will be introduced in the coming weeks and will allow gamers to create tournaments whenever they choose.

“We are going to be releasing user-generated tournaments within the next month or so,” said Levy.

Sports video games represent big business.

EA’s Madden NFL franchise is the best-selling sports video game in the United States, having sold more than 1.81 million copies in its first month on store shelves in August. According to EA, fans of the title have played more than 190 million games of virtual football over the Internet on Xbox Live since the title launched in August.

FIFA 11 is the world’s best-selling sports game; more than 2.6 million copies of the title were sold in its first five days on store shelves in November. On Jan. 14, EA announced the game had been awarded a Guinness World Record. More than 775,000 people participated in the FIFA Interactive World Cup this past summer, making it the biggest Internet-based gaming tournament ever held.

Nina Littman-Sharp, manager of the problem-gambling service at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said the Virgin Gaming service should send up a number of red flags.

Littman-Sharp said while small, infrequent wagers can be a fun way to pass the time, large wagers on a regular basis add up to a problem.

She said addiction counsellors are already helping to treat problem gamblers and they are also working to treat people hooked on video games. Combining the two creates a new problem, she said.

“It’s bridging the gap between online gaming and online gambling,” she said. “We already see people who have problems with both. I can already see this being one more element that we are going to start to be seeing in treatment.”

Virgin’s Levy said the company has created a number of safeguards to ensure underage players are barred from wagering and problem gambling is flagged.

He said the system only allows people to load $500 per week into their Virgin accounts without contacting a customer service agent.

People on a real spending spree will also have their accounts temporarily locked out until they speak to a customer service agent about their account activity.

Gambling on sports is one of the largest segments of gambling spending worldwide. More than $2.57 billion was legally wagered in Nevada sports books in 2009, according to the American Gaming Association.

That is believed to represent less than one per cent of all sports betting nationwide. Nevada is the only state that allows sports gambling on all major sports leagues in the United States. The FBI estimates that more than $2.5 billion US is illegally wagered annually on the March Madness college basketball tournament each year.

Added to that is the more than $1.5 billion US wagered on fantasy sports leagues annually, according to a study by Kim Beason, a professor at the University of Mississippi.

Virgin stands to collect a chunk of that market thanks to opening up sports betting to armchair quarterbacks playing on a virtual pitch.

The news comes at a time when governments around the world are still trying to figure out how best to respond to the growth of Internet gambling.

In July, the provincial government in British Columbia became the first in North America to begin offering a government-run online casino.

The move was made to cut back on private-sector encroachment in the Internet-gambling space.

While many governments have laws prohibiting wagers on games of chance, such as slot machines, or even a mixture of chance and skill, such as poker, there doesn’t seem to be anything prohibiting wagering on a game of skill, such as a game of Madden NFL 11, over the Internet, according to the RCMP, who are responsible for policing Internet-based gambling in Canada.

While Internet gambling is an issue that has been examined by provincial and federal governments, there has been no new legislation in Canada to specifically address the issue.

In a bid to reduce exposure to Internet gambling sites, in 2006 the Ontario government made it illegal for Internet-based casinos and web-based poker games to advertise in the province.

A 2004 report from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, called Internet Gambling in Canada Waits in Legal Purgatory lamented the lack of updated legislation to deal with online gambling.

The foundation said little has changed in the past six years to deal with the issue.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. chairman Paul Godfrey has publicly stated that the gambling regulator is loosing as much as $500 million annually because it has turned a blind eye to online wagering.

That figure will only increase as more initiatives such as Virgin Gaming spring up and grow in popularity. (Credit: The Vancouver Sun)



Virgin Gambling On Gaming With Sony And AWOMO, by Greg Tingle - 4th June 2010

Gamers, punters, punters... Virgin or not...the world at large... the cat's out of the bag. Sir Richard Branson, communications, media and aviation "king of the kids", will be personally launching the global hard launch of his highly anticipated Virgin Gaming at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles cum 15th June. At least its 99% on the cards, unless there's last minute changes, but in the world of Branson's Virgin anything is possible. Media Man toggle the gaming consul with this special report...

Those switched on folks at Virgin, Virgin Gaming to be precise, having been teasing us for months, every week releasing a new clue or two to the highly anticipated release of Virgin Gaming. The Media Man machine has been adding to the clues with inside tips offs on Twitter and its own Media Man website.

A Bit Of History Re Virgin in gaming

Circa 1981 Virgin Interactive launched

In May 2002, the Spanish arm of Virgin Interactive, known as Virgin Interactive España, was purchased. The offspring was then separated from the main Virgin Interactive company, already part of Titus Software, and retained its own identity as a Virgin brand. Renamed Virgin Play in October 2002, this Spanish publisher has remained as the sole representation of the Virgin Group in the video game industry, until now!

Circa 2004 Virgin Games in born, hatching Virgin Casino, Virgin Poker and Virgin Bingo. Virgin also launch an impressive affiliate program.

This week

The VirginGaming.com domain name and website go live, albeit in a partial, soft fashion. Check out VirginGaming.com/Modnation

Virgin staffers, management and / or those with too much time on their hands may like to attempt to qualify for ModNation Racers. The website also sports logos from the likes of PS3, Playstation, EB Games and Game Stop. The site graphics also display a Sony branded gaming controller.

World has leaked to us that the developments also include tie ins to AWOMO (A World Of My Own), which sports games such as Warhammer: Mark Of Chaos, Tomb Raider and and Rome, and wait for it.... an acquisition of WorldGaming aka WorldGaming.com, which looks to be a good match for Virgin Gaming.

The WorldGaming.com website blurb includes the following:

WorldGaming.com is a safe, secure global platform that gives console gamers the chance to win real money playing video games. Combining a passion for technology with an obsession with fairness, WorldGaming.com is built on a promise to give users the best possible gaming experience on the web.

The WorldGaming.com platform combines a number of unique tools that automatically verify results, ensure secure payouts, and accurately reflect the skill levels of potential opponents. Registered members also gain access to a number of rich community features including member pages, clan support, stats tracking, an invitations to some of the biggest gaming tournaments in the world. For every gaming that has dreamed of holding a controllers high about their head and proclaiming they are the greatest freaking player alive, WorldGaming.com is the ultimate destination to play for real money against gamers from all across the globe.

*Gambling911 readers, please note that a Virgin Gaming - WorldGaming deal is not 100% for certain, however various leaks have tipped us to think its quite likely.

Media Man Inside Tips Of Potential Games (you won't read anywhere else)

James Bond 007 (Sony Pictures connection)
Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future (Virgin Comics and Virgin Play connection)
Marvel VS Capcom (don't ask, Excelsior!)
Doom II
Resident Evil: Gaiden
Inside The Playboy Mansion (no comment, tipster remaining anonymous)

Kids of all ages... "Gamers More Dangerous Than Bikies" as a former South Australian Attorney General said. You be the judge, and keep an eye on the potential censorship complexities re Virgin Gaming and a number of other online gaming sites. Some "Thought Police" have even suggested a few hours of gaming is more addictive than cocaine, and gives a similar "buzz" and rush of excitement. Read up the UK rags for more on that.

Please enjoy your gaming and gambling, but don't forget to look after your general wellbeing. Tactics such as skipping meals and sleep to enhance gaming time is not recommended.

Virgin Games - Virgin Casino is not currently available for American or Australian players (which is part of the reason for the upcoming global launch of Virgin Gaming).

The late news...

Virgin Casino has just released the City Of Gold online slot game. Playing at Virgin Casino sees the player being able to accumulate exclusive V*Points which are able to be exchanged for a wide variety of Virgin goods and services.


Virgin Casino and Virgin Gaming competitors such as PartyGaming and its PartyCasino.com as well as Playtech and Sega, have yet to publicly comment on the pending launch of Virgin Gaming.

Insiders remain divided as to whether Google and its Google Pac-Man will be a potential partner, competitor, or remain in the "grey area". Interestingly Google's Pac-Man had an "insert coin" animated slot, which may be a sign of things to come.

Sony will be heavily involved with Virgin Games, which is extremely exciting given the Sony also have Sony Pictures in their portfolio, and gamers (and gamblers) are known to be passionate about branded games, be it Marvel Superheroes, the DC Comics universe, Avatar, Tomb Raider, Cleopatra, James Bond 007 or other.

Do keep checking the official websites of Gambling911, Media Man and Virgin Gaming for more on the exciting developments at Virgin and Virgin Gaming.

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. The gaming sector is just one of a bakers of dozen of industries they cover.

*Media Man has conducted b2b with a number of business arms of Virgin Enterprises Limited, including Virgin Games.



Virgin Gaming Count Down, by Greg Tingle - 28th May 2010

Richard Branson’s next major project is entitled Virgin Gaming.

Full details are not yet available, however Media Man has it on good advise that this is going to be one of the biggest things to come out of Virgin and Virgin Games for the next decade or so!

Branson himself will be launching the product - service in LA on the 15th June.

The world awaits Virgin Gaming loosing its Virginity.



Virgin Gaming Partners With Sony And 'ModNation Racers' - 3rd June 2010
(Credit: MTV)

Richard Branson's plan to bring Virgin back to gaming may have been too big to wait on a formal E3 announcement to set sail. The landing page for VirginGaming.com currently only displays a logo and a countdown clock, but VirginGaming.com/modnation contains quite a bit more.

Canadian copies of "ModNation Racers" have been directing players to a multi-logo'd contest page there, according to a report on CVG. Those who have followed SCEA's directions have found a few registration fields there where numerous Sony-related prizes are listed and a Virgin Gaming tab is marked "Coming Soon."

"Soon" looks to involve a contest from July 7 through July 14 with prizes ranging from PSP bundles and a Bravia TV to a trip to Las Vegas with some spending money. There's a leaderboard on the site that is also labeled "Coming Soon," and that appears to be where all of this competition jazz will be taking place. The FAQ has more details, such the fact that the event will be free to enter.

Surely many, many more things will be said of this when Virgin rolls out its intentions at E3. Until then, start practicing your kart skills if you want to win a trip to Vegas.


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Game makers call for mobile shopping revolution - 15th September 2006
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

The mobile game unit at Electronic Arts Inc. prepared 2000 different versions of the game "2006 FIFA World Cup" when it it launched, but dealing with the particular quirks of individual handsets is not its biggest problem.

Hands down, mobile game makers say they struggle most with getting found on carrier decks - or on-screen menus - that are confusing, space constrained and hard to navigate.

"Most consumers don't know there are over 200 games available on their phones," said Greg Ballard, chief executive of privately held Glu Mobile.

"The deck hasn't changed, but consumers' expectations are very mature. It's clearly keeping some people from buying," Ballard said.

Mobile carriers have cut the number of game makers they work with. Those in the club have to hook buyers with just one line of text that fits across the tiny mobile phone screen.

"Consumers aren't willing to take chances when that's the shopping experience," said Mitch Lasky, head of EA Mobile.

To underscore that point, he added that iconic game "Tetris" outsells other EA Mobile games by more than 3 to 1.

The problem of getting found has been a persistent headache for mobile game makers and other content providers who hawk their wares to the world's 2 billion mobile phone users. And it promises to be exacerbated as television shows and other entertainment get pushed to telephones and hand-held devices.

"Finding mobile content is anything but consumer-friendly," News Corp President Peter Chernin said in his keynote address at the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp cares because it recently bought a controlling stake in ringtone provider Jamba and also is working to provide mobile connections for the more than 100 million registered users of internet phenomenon MySpace.

Lasky said the coming flood of new content "is a bit of a concern" and predicted that the next leap forward in mobile will be on the shopping rather than on the content side of the equation.

In the meantime, the No. 1 provider of mobile games in the United States isn't standing still.

It's working on technology that could help make it easier for mobile gamers to search for titles or see demos on their phones. It's also using the internet, television and magazines as promotional tools.

For example, after the launch of its blockbuster "Madden NFL 2007" football game, EA pitched the mobile version of the game by including it in the ESPN news crawl seen by people playing the new console game on Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox Live online game service.

Compared with newbie mobile content providers, game makers have a leg up when it comes to experience, Lasky said.

"The key to understanding mobile is understanding it's a mass-market business. That's what makes it so hard to get (customers)," said Lasky, who noted that his buyers range in age from 15 to 60 and are 55 percent to 60 percent female.

"We've had the luxury of making a lot of the mistakes that the people launching mobile video have yet to make."




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