Virgin’s got game and cash. w00t!

Sir Richard Branson's megabrand unveils online competitive gaming destination, Virgin Gaming, at E3 in Los Angeles. Sponsorship and add opps are available.

Virgin wants to do for gaming what online poker did for Texas Hold ‘Em.

The world’s most flexible brand today launched its newest venture, Virgin Gaming, a convergence of video games, social networking and competitive online gaming. It’s a Facebook-esque destination for console gamers of all skill levels looking to play in head to head matches and tournaments for points, cash and prizes, all from the comfort of their own couch.

Sir Richard Branson rolled up to E3 at the Los Angeles Convention Centre in an armoured truck, $1 million in hand to break the news, encouraging gamers everywhere to sign up. Over the next 12 months his new gaming destination will run a series of big prize tournaments with cash payouts.

Headquartered in Toronto, Virgin Gaming has a satellite office London, and plans to open an office in Los Angeles in the next seven to eight months.  

On top of on-site advertising, the opportunities for brands to get involved, through tournament sponsorship for example, are plentiful. Sony and retailer Game Stop are already onboard. Sony’s partnership entails a tournament surrounding its ModNation Racers gaming title for Canadian gamers. The prize is a trip to Las Vegas, PSP swag and a new Sony TV. More key partnerships are set to be announced in the coming months.   

“We’re being approached by numerous brands that want to do promotions and contests,” says Rob Segal, CEO, Virgin Gaming. Canadian-specific brands looking to get into the game could headline Canadian-only tournaments.

Working with Cossette in Canada and Rocket XL in California, Virgin Gaming has concentrated promotions for its launch phase mostly online, using internet ads, search, email and social media, including a Facebook page that had over 1,000 fans before the launch, thanks to the viral power of WOM. “Online is certainly the fastest and best way to go” says Segal, adding, “online is where this customer lives.”

PR is also on the roster, with Toronto-based Splash Public Relations handling efforts in Canada, New York-based Highwater Group in the U.S. and London-based Lunch in the U.K. More traditional advertising is being developed by Petrol in California, including TV, print, POS, as well as in-game and experimental, set to launch closer to the fall. Virgin Gaming is also partnering with game publishers.

“We’re already working co-promotionally with some of the top publishers in the world to do things with them on television,” says Segal. “There are going to be retailer-based promotions, as well, we’re going to do our own content for videogames in the online space.”

Virgin Gaming was born from a marriage between the megabrand and WorldGaming.com, a company founded by two avid gamers, William Levy and Zack Zeldin. Users can register at Virgingaming.com, send messages and challenges, browse available tournaments, or set up their own. Other bells and whistles are automatic results validation, a Community Reputation Management System, stats tracking, clan support, news and info.