Game+’s real-money esports platform launches on shaky ground

Started by sushmi, Feb 03, 2021, 11:25 AM

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Game+'s real-money esports platform launches on shaky ground

Game+ comes to the Android and iOS app stores today, offering a platform for users to win (and lose) real money by playing popular video games against friends and strangers. It's not a new idea, but it represents a collision of heavily regulated markets: video game intellectual property rights, banking, online privacy and something that looks a lot like gambling.

Game+ co-founders Adam Frank and Karim Sanford have an answer for most of these concerns. They say the app is secure because it uses existing financial systems to verify users and encryption to protect card data. They distance Game+ from gambling by calling it a skill-based competition platform, and only offering it in 38 US states where head-to-head gaming for money is permitted. The app geolocates users at sign-up and every time they enter a challenge with another player.

However, when it comes to securing the rights to Call of Duty, Madden, Fortnite, Mortal Kombat, Apex Legends, Halo, Mario Kart or any of the video game franchises advertised by Game+, Frank and Sanford don't have a clean answer.

"We didn't go to the companies, no," Frank said.

The Game+ website features more than 50 games, plus the Xbox, PlayStation and Switch logos. A disclaimer at the bottom of the main page says the app isn't affiliated with (deep breath) Apple, Android, Microsoft, Xbox, Sony, PlayStation, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Valve, Take-Two, Ubisoft, Capcom, Infinity Ward, Gameloft, Epic Games, "or any other company that markets a computer or mobile game." In the eyes of Frank and Sanford, this disclaimer is enough legal protection to continue advertising Game+ on the backs of mainstream video game franchises.

"We've obviously looked at these issues and we're confident that what we're doing here is completely permissible," Frank said.

By and large, the publishers disagree.

"The app and service as described would be a clear violation of Epic's policies and intellectual property rights," a spokesperson for Fortnite studio Epic Games told Engadget. "We have no involvement in anything similar to what you're describing and if it is launched Epic will take appropriate steps to stop this exploitation of our players and abuse of our IP."

Multiple other publishers responded with surprise and concern at the description of Game+, and made it clear that the app is unauthorized to use their franchises. Publishers including Activision, Nintendo, EA, Microsoft and Sony are historically quick to defend their IP, pulling top titles even from established gaming services when they don't like how they're being used.

Not to mention, the video game industry is allergic to the term "gambling" and publishers are eager to stay off regulators' radar. Game+ is presented as a skill-based competition app, thereby avoiding a gambling label on its face. At the same time, Frank and Sanford had the app certified under the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which outlines regulations for online gambling.

As proof of concept, a Game+ spokesperson pointed to the existence of services like Players' Lounge and GamerSaloon, which also advertise one-on-one, for-cash competitions using the iconography of popular games. The spokesperson is correct that these programs exist. And, as demonstrated by the iOS app Play One Up, they're raising millions.



Diwali Wishes everyone


Hey! It's interesting to hear about Game+'s real-money esports platform launch, despite its challenges. Innovation in the esports space is always exciting!

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