Confident in your Counter-Strike: Source skills? Destroy all your friends in Half-Life 2? Maybe you can make some spending money.
Tournament.com, a service that will offer online game competitions for cash prizes, has announced an exclusive agreement with game publisher Valve that will allow the company to run online Counter-Strike and Half-Life tournaments when the service launches in May.
You'll have to pay to play, but if you win the round, you win cash.
At a San Francisco media conference, company representatives showed off a beta version of the site. Players will launch the Tournament.com client, which looks like a Web browser window. The company sets up all the matches and determines the length of the game, rules, and prize payouts; players cannot create their own. When a player enters a match, the software automatically loads Valve's Steam launcher and runs the appropriate game.
Two tournament options that they showed included a standard entry fee-prize structure, in which six players contribute an equal amount to the pot and play for ten minutes. Another option is a perpetual, ongoing game that players can drop into at any time. If you get killed, you lose $1. If you kill another player, you get $1. When your virtual "wallet" is out of money, you're done playing. Until you add some more funds with a credit card or PayPal, that is.
For now, Tournament.com is strictly small stakes. Entry fees for the example tournaments were $3.60 for each of six players, with an $18 pot split between first, second, and third place. Company representatives said they're considering high-roller tournaments, but want to make sure the service has been fully field-tested, and potential cheating methods blocked off, before big money starts getting thrown around.
The final beta version of the service launches tomorrow, and every player who signs up to test it will be given $20 of "play money" in their account. They won't be able to cash out that $20 once the final service goes live, but if they win more than that amount, they'll be able to withdraw it, either into a bank account or PayPal.
Online gaming for cash wagers is a sticky legal issue that company representatives say they have worked out. Online gambling is illegal in all fifty states, but 36 of them make exceptions for skill-based gaming even if there are cash prizes and entry fees. Of course, that leaves fourteen states -- Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Vermont -- in which Tournament.com is illegal.
The site verifies a player's location via their credit card details.