The long-rumoured Virgin Gaming service has been unveiled. The Virgin Group's latest venture is a series of competitive tournaments for console gamers, promising $1 million in cash and other prizes over the next year.
Virgin founder Richard Branson unveiled the new service as E3 opened in Los Angeles, arriving at the show with $1 million in cash in an armoured truck.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz sister site Eurogamer.net, a clearly frazzled Branson said, "I just love the idea. People can't play console games competitively and safely, and this is a way of doing it. It's something which gets over the frustration of doing a bet a with a friend and him not paying up. It can all be organised seamlessly."
The service was devised by competitive gamers and founders of WorldGaming.com William Levy and Zack Zeldin, who promised a secure service, supporting a number of triple-A games and with individual tournament prizes as big as £1500.
Confirmed features of Virgin Gaming include automatic results verification, player match-making, skill ratings and a reputation system.
But when asked whether this spelled a return to games publishing, Branson was evasive. "Possibly. Initially we're going to do console games through the site, though knowing these guys we'll end up doing all games through the site."
The billionaire did, however, reveal that the prizes on offer would be drawn from around his vast network of businesses, adding: "We have an airline so I'm sure we'll be doing lots of tickets; we have a submarine so I'm sure we'll be doing trips to the bottom of the ocean; we even have a spaceship company, so if they twist my arm enough, you never know, they might get a space ticket one day."
Levy further revealed that, while the service has launched on PS3 and Xbox 360, plans to widen the offering were underway. We're just scratching the surface of what Virgin Gaming might be, he said.
"In the coming months you'll see not only some of the biggest games in the world but us take the tech we built in the platform into other mediums of gaming, social, mobile et cetera."
Games supported at launch include Halo 3, Modnation Racers and FIFA. Branson added: "It's a new Virgin birth, I love starting new things, like the guys, think it's a great concept and we'll give it a go."
Virgin Gaming is open to sign-ups now.