Eric Johnson

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E-Sports Network Virgin Gaming Starts Pushing Subscriptions Over Fees

Virgin Gaming - LogoVirgin Gaming, the Toronto-based offspring of World Gaming’s 2010 partnership with the Virgin Group, officially announced today that it would offer premium subscriptions to its gamers.

Previously, Virgin Gaming has taken a 12 percent cut of any money users wagered on partnering games. The new $5-per-month subscription option nixes those fees.

The network’s users compete with one another and on global leaderboards for cash prizes, which may be won from personal bets and through sponsored tournaments. Part of the subscription rollout, which has been in quiet soft launch for many weeks, is new marketing and messaging around those global tournaments, promising a minimum of $100,000 to be doled out across multiple games per month.

For gamers mainly interested in playing their friends, however — that’s about 90 percent of the network’s users, according to EVP Wim Stocks — the new subscriptions are all-you-can-play. Stocks characterized the network as “the qualifying rounds” of e-sports, a place to promote the idea of gamers competing for money rather than hosting the biggest championships.

“We’re the regular season for competitive play,” he said.

Users who choose not to buy a subscription will be able to continue playing “money matches” as they had before, with the 12 percent fees in place. Those money matches are legal in most U.S. states, thanks to “skill gaming” laws that say games whose outcomes are predominantly won by skilled versus non-skilled players are fair game for real-money wagers.

Virgin Gaming is still relatively small. Stocks said the network currently has between 150,000 and 175,000 monthly active users, out of 2.7 million registered to date.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik