It's every gamers' dream: win money by playing video games. Despite gaming's newfound mainstream acceptance, most people--especially those in the United States--do not recognize gaming as a legitimate competitive activity. In a country where card games like Texas Hold 'em have recently exploded, turning 21-year-olds into online superstars, it's no stretch to assume that more gaming mediums deserve a similar place in public attention.
Enter video game wagering site World Gaming. Conceived by two hardcore gamers, Billy Levy and Zack Zeldin came up with the idea after a heated game of Madden NFL. Now acting as President and Vice President of the company respectively, they have successfully managed to create an online destination for those who would like to try to turn their video game skills into cold hard cash. Says Levy, "For us, WorldGaming.com is the premiere place where people will go for online gaming competition to compete in tournaments for cash and prizes." And it's already happening. The closed beta version of the site has been live for some time now and people are already competing for money.
So how does all this work? It's actually a lot simpler than you might think. World Gaming supports various titles across three video game consoles: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. While most of the games supported are sports games like Madden 09 and NHL 09, plans are underway to carry first-person-shooters and even adventure games. In fact, titles such as Halo 3 and Resistance: Fall of Man are already available for wagering. Future support will see Grand Theft Auto IV, Resistance 2, and Gears of War 2 all available for World Gaming's services as well. In addition to console-based games, World Gaming will also offer wagering on conventional games such as checkers and chess hosted directly on the site.
Even developers seem to be on board. With World Gaming adding virtually infinite replay value to titles, gamers could potentially be more likely to purchase games that support the service instead of those that don't. Just don't expect to see "World Gaming compatible" badges decorating box art just yet.
All competitions must be scheduled through World Gaming's online interface. Once both parties agree on a title, game specifics, date, and wagering amount, World Gaming takes care of the rest. Since the game data from every single match played online is available to the public, World Gaming sniffs this data off the appropriate server and is then able to award the winning party the money from the wager made. Each member of the site has their profile linked to a bank account or credit card that provides funds for each transaction made. Members can even enter free tournaments for cash prizes as well.
How is all this legal? Simple: World Gaming offers wagering services that involve games of skill. Whereas a casino makes its money by allowing its customers gamble on games of chance, the vast majority of states in the U.S. allow citizens to wager on games of skill. In addition, since World Gaming does not benefit from the outcome of either party involved in these matches, they are only considered the "matchmaker" for these contests. That said, since this "games of skill" clause is not enforced federally, there are 11 states that won't be able to participate in wagering--although those people will still be able to join the site and compete for points.
The site isn't only about wagering. WorldGaming.com implements various social networking elements that allow gamers to come together--sort of a virtual meeting ground for the aspiring professional.
However, perhaps the most important accomplishment of World Gaming is its capability to potentially act as a major catalyst in the uprising of professional video gamers. Not only that, but it also levels the playing field: "MLG and CGS only allow for a very small minority of gamers selected to be pros and get large cash contracts," says Levy. Giving every gamer their chance to prove themselves is the equivalent of what happened once online poker sites began allowing anyone to play online for cash, inevitably buying them entries into real-life poker tournaments. "We'd love for people to be able to do this for a living," Levy told us.
Just as with online poker or gambling in a casino, there's a potential danger here. Keeping that in mind, World Gaming has taken various steps to ensure that not only are its members are of legal age to play, but also that no one gets in over their heads.
World Gaming is currently only available through a closed beta invitation and will slowly roll out to the public through invites. However, for a limited time, World Gaming is offering CNET readers the chance to see what it's like competing for cash. The first 50 gamers who email "cnet [at] worldgaming [dot] com" will get an exclusive invite as well as $20 instantly deposited into their register. Just don't go wagering that all on one game, especially if you're playing me in NHL 09.