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Richard Branson Expanding Virgin Gaming iGaming Empire, by Greg Tingle - 20th May 2010

Gaming, gambling and iGaming fans, have we got some news hot of the press for you. Our bat phone has been running hot hot hot!

For the past few months Media Man and Gambling911 have been keeping you updated on all sorts of exciting developments at Richard Branson's Virgin Group, namelyVirgin Casino, Virgin Games, Virgin Poker, Virgin Bingo, and offshoot, AWOMO (A World Of My Own), with a DGI (Game Domain International) tie in. Last week Branson's Virgin Racing also sponsored Full Tilt Poker.

Richard Branson will unleash the Virgin return to the video gaming sector at the E3 event in Los Angeles, USA, in June.

We understand that a hard launch is being orchestrated, with Sir Branson, the one and only, in attendance. Can't wait to see what the man and his army wear and what sorts of stunts they have up their sleeve, but Branson isn't usually one to disappoint.

Virgin was one of the most successful brands to have ever competed in the video gaming industry, albeit over a decade ago, but 2010 is looking to be a record breaking year for the brands re birth, pardon the pun.

RB was one of the first pioneers - visionaries to see the massive potential of computer software as a global Virgin entertainment business, establishing Virgin Games in downtown London circa 1984. He later moved the core of the operation to Guernsey which has lower overheads and is understood to be more igaming industry friendly!

A Bit Of History

The company acquired Mastertronic and rolled Sega's Master System across the European region.

Sega Europe continued to power along, then Virgin Interactive Entertainment.

In 1994 it lost its Virginity, being acquired by Blockbuster for a cool $250 million, then was purchased by media powerhouse Viacom (which owns about half the media world).

Virgin Interactive Entertainment reached its financial global revenue peak in 1997, bringing home the bacon to the tune of $210 million.

Circa 94 - 98 it shared market dominance with EA (Electronic Arts).

Virgin saw partners and affiliates come on board including such greats Westwood, Bethesda, Capcom, LucasArts and Disney.

Since 2004 Virgin Games has been V's staple gaming brand, other gaming ventures basically on ice... until now!

The new gaming "start up" (of sorts), expected to go public at E3 will see Virgin pro actively exploring partnerships with publishers, content owners, and you get the idea. The timing looks to be right with 'Avatar' type technologies all the rage, movies being adapted to games in record time, and the availability of broadband internet at reasonable prices.

Internet, console formats and more will see the big V feature red hot games, both classics and newbies. Think Space Invaders to Cleo to Avatar, and their cousins.

Gamers are calling for interactive slot games, tournaments, TV and movie brands, and more casino and poker type experiences, in addition to what they already enjoy.

Insiders expect some sort of firm announcement from Virgin at the expo or soon after re return to the mainstream games market.

Punters, fire up the consoles...Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, multi-player PC gaming and more is just around the corner from the man who brought you Virgin Records, V Festival and Virgin Galactic... be excited... we sure as hell are.

At the moment Americans and Australians are not able to play casino, poker or bingo games at Virgin, however with the expansion of Virgin Games, and the push to clear up any gray areas in regions such as the U.S and down under in Australia, the whole suite of Virgin Games may go global sooner rather than later.

Competitors of sorts, PartyGaming - including PartyCasino and poker brands, Betfair and Centrebet, are all said to be watching this space closely. Australia's Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and News Limited, publisher of The Daily Telegraph and The Australian, are also following for both potential deal opportunities and in a journalistic (journalism) capacity. Foxtel has only just got wind of the news, putting out its own gaming related press release less than 24 hours before this publication.

Yep, gamers and igamers... Tomb Raider, Rome Total War, Cleopatra, Flatout, WarHammer Mark Of Chaos, Pain Killer: Black Edition, maybe even Dan Dare and who knows what surprises will be jumping out of your computer once Team Branson turns on the turbo and blasts off Virgin Galactic style. TNA Wrestling, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bill Goldberg, UFC, NASCAR, F1 and Bull Run are all understood to also want to talk turkey and potential deals with Branson and 'V'.

Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Playtech, IGT, World Poker Tour, WSOP, SKY, Harrah's Entertainment, Trump Casinos, Infinity Ward, Sony and Sega remain tight lipped on the Virgin developments.

Virgin Games, AWOMO (A World Of My Own), bring in on... faster than you can say Virgin Racing Inks Deal With Full Tilt Poker! Read about the life and times of Branson and his world of planes, trains and automobiles (and spaceships) on the Media Man International website portal. Hours of entertainment for free.

Virgin remains one of dozens of corporate tech and communications giants seeking clarity on Australian censorship laws, both online and offline.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a dozen of industry sectors they cover

*The writer is has conducted business with a number of arms of the Virgin Group and is a pro active member of Virgin Unite



Australian Video Game Censorship Minster News, by Greg Tingle - 8th May 2010

Censorship, both online and offline, and in this case, off the shelf, remains a red hot topic down under in Australia. Media Man and Gambling911 investigate and learn that fun and games (and delays) are just part of the ride.

Australian Federal and state censorship ministers have failed to make a final decision on R18+ rated video games despite expectations a meeting yesterday might produce an outcome.

A meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General yesterday instead opted to release a report into the extent of the consultation, showing there had been about 60,000 submissions of which 98 per cent supported allowing R18+ games to be sold.

But federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said the ministers were not yet able to make a decision.

Current laws set MA15+ as the highest rating for a game, meaning anything more explicit cannot be legally sold in Australia.

Any change to the laws would require unanimous support from state ministers.

The R Rated Superstar (Edge) WWE Superstar pro wrestler, was unavailable for comment, as was Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft in Tomb Raider) and Billy Murray (Captain Price in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare).

Media Man will follow up all parties and contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority office into the new week to satisfy the demand of the astute and loyal Gambling911 readership.

The head of one of the world's largest computer game publishers has accused Australia of censoring video games.

Frank Gibeau, the head of interactive powerhouse EA Games, weighed into the debate on whether games in Australia should be granted an R18+ rating by writing an open letter to the Government criticising its lack of support for the adult rating.

Mr Gibeau said the current policy forcing developers to rewrite game code was "censorship".

"Government policies that don't allow for the rating of mature content in video games effectively censor entertainment choices for adults," he said.

"These policies show a poor understanding of today's video gaming audience.

"Existing legislation in Australia that limits age ratings of games to 16 demonstrates a distance between those policies and the reality of the video game industry and the people that play interactive games in Australia today."

Mr Gibeau said adult consumers were entitled to be responsible for their own entertainment choices and the classification system for films had done a good job protecting children from inappropriate content.

"The spectrum of gamers is as wide as the viewership of television, movies, theatre, and the readers of books," he said.

"Governments don't insist that all books be written for children, or that all television shows be cartoons.

"Adult gamers want their governments to treat them with the same respect they get as movie-goers and book readers.

"Adult Australians should be allowed to choose the games they play, including those with mature themes."

Mr Gibeau also warns the existing Australian policy towards gaming classification could also have a negative financial impact on the many talented local developers.

"Policy makers should consider the environment they create for game makers," he said.

"Governments that design policies hostile to game developers and their creative medium will struggle to attract investment from the global industry."

Richard Branson's Virgin Games (and partner, Domain Game International), are currently looking to attract investment to move forward their international expansion plans of AWOMO (A World Of My Own), an online multiplayer gaming platform. Games to be released on AWOMO include Rome: Total War, Fifa Football Manager, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos and Tomb Raider: Legend. These will be offered in addition to Virgin Games’ current suite of online gaming products. Over 200 titles are expected to be added once complete. Potential investors can made contact via the AWOMO official website.

Virgin competitor, PartyGaming, which PartyCasino and PartyPoker brands are available to players in Australia, are understood to be watching the AWOMO space closely. PartyGaming is strong in the themed online gaming sector with branded titles including Sinatra, The Terminator, Mission: Impossible. Like Virgin Games, they also offer a range of Marvel Entertainment - Marvel Comics themed slot games, including Thor, due to hit the movie cinema in approximately 1 year. PartyGaming's Noble Casino also offers iconic Iron-Man, however the Playtech powered Noble Casino has some technical issues in the past few weeks. PartyCasino is working at 100% and Media Man has a number of reviews available for reading. PartyGaming and Virgin Games have both won a number of awards and commendations over the years and are regarded as two of the best and most trustworthy gaming brands in the world. Virgin was founded in 1970 and PartyGaming in 1997. PartyGaming remains listed on the London Stock Exchange.

What Next For Gaming In Australia?

It is currently unclear how this video game classification - censorship situation may or may not be related to Australia's seemingly ultra censorship agenda, well documented by leading journalists, academics and social and political analysts. In the past week weeks bible bashers and other do gooder groups have lobbied government to see magazines such as FHM and Zoo Weekly disappear off newsagent and shopping centre shelves.

The report of gaming and gambling by the Australian Productivity Commission is currently due to finally be made public in approximately 1 month.

The government initiate to filter the internet down under is currently due to be actioned in 1 to 3 months, depending upon what report and source you choose to believe.

Ah, the fun and games continue.

Please adhere to your countries or jurisdictions laws regarding gaming and gambling.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Media Man publishes Virtual Worlds Media

*The writer is a pro active member of the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance and Virgin Unite


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