February 24, 2010

Virgin Games to re-focus as 'total gaming' site with 200-title PC download deal

Virgin Games is to expand into the non-gambling PC games market in a radical move to recreate the brand as a “total gaming” destination that will also allow the company to market the brand in jurisdictions where online gambling is prohibited.

A deal with technology company Game Domain International (GDI) will give Virgin Games access to more than 200 game titles from 70 game developers available for download, with titles including Rome: Total War, Fifa Football Manager, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos and Tomb Raider: Legend.

Virgin Games chief executive Simon Burridge: “We want Virgin Games to be somewhere you go to play games of any description, be that casino, poker, bingo or Rome: Total War. If Virgin Games is going to be about anything, it has to be about entertainment and being a place you can go to have fun.”

The system, called A World of My Own (AWOMO), aims to deliver online game content much faster than rival download services by allowing users to play the games before they are fully downloaded; and will offer pay-per-download or regular subscription payment options.

“This will open up a huge long tail of people who are gamers but are not prepared to invest heavily in gaming, and will open up PC games to a rental market that has never been done before. If this takes off it could do for the gaming industry what iTunes did for buying music: no-one buys music from shops anymore, they go online to iTunes.”

Burridge added that the new games will allow Virgin Games to market non-gambling versions of its sites in markets where its gambling products are prohibited under online gambling rules.

“This will open up parts of the world where we have previously been excluded, including English-speaking markets such as South Africa or the United States where the Virgin brand is strong,” he said. That will also allow the brand greater strength in those markets should they regulate online gambling, he said, “but that is a benefit rather than a main strategic goal”.

AWOMO is currently in beta testing, and the two companies expect to launch the full product in the third quarter of this year. However the launch is dependent on the success of a funding round that GDI is presently engaged in, which Burridge predicted will take place this quarter.

Burridge added that that because Virgin Games, which recently concluded a two and half year platform-building process has development skills in-house, the only cost of the new venture will be in marketing it. “Building the platform has raised our overhead costs but increased our revenue share, so now we have to add on customers,” he said.

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