Esler discusses money matches as Virgin are throwing themselves into the ring, providing a service for pro players.
Money matches are something that happens in the dingy underground of competitive gaming. An event, that if you’re a fanatic, rarely ever happens in the light of day. For those uninformed of what exactly a money match is; it is a bet on the outcome of a game with 2:1 odds with each side putting in an equal amount of money. It’s for a good reason that until now these matches have happened in the back of tournaments and for the most part out of the lime light. This is because gambling on such a thing is murky water in certain areas of the world. Although, that’s not to say it doesn’t happen and that they are hard to come by. In fact I have even participated in one or two myself.
Now Virgin appears to want in on the action, offering up a service to money match online through a protected medium using PayPal and other electronic transfers. All for the low, low price of 12% of your winnings and a flat rate applied by PayPal to withdraw said winnings. The service aims to allow users to place money in an account, much like the system used by Virgin for the Fifa equivalent, and challenge others with varying skills and money on the table. The service only lets users play for the money in their account limiting the number of players who are all talk and no wallet. Which, unfortunately, is still a thing in the fighting game community.
An obvious downside to the system is that it is online and many people in the online community suffer from lag spikes and poor connections, or even worse rage-quitters. There are ways to dispute match outcomes by providing evidence and evidence is needed after a match as proof of an outcome. However, this sounds like a bit of a double edged sword to me. For every person you play there is always a chance to lose to the ever growing population of sore losers and salt merchants. It also remains to be seen how the practice of judges work currently as the system is relatively new to the FGC but with Virgin’s experience in the field in other games there is hope that they have already thought of counter measures and suitable work-arounds.
In a sense, the system revitalises the essence of what it is like to play in arcades. You put your money down and play for keeps, even if it was only 50p back in the day. This escalates it and provides more of an incentive to win, if BP doesn’t motivate you enough. Although, the camaraderie of the arcade is lost on the spiritless husk of an online lobby. This is due to the feeling of being distanced from your opponent, no matter how far you are away. Be it by continent or just a few miles. In a scene that struggles to find offline sessions you will see less people willing to travel as it is far more costly than chucking a few pound online and playing for keeps and could act as a deterrent.
All in all, it is a good idea and Virgin has wrangled it’s way around the whole gambling faux pas as games are a test of skill instead of luck. In turn exploiting a loop hole that allows you to gamble on your outcome indefinitely. Some professional players like PR Rog have already adopted the service and have used the service to the full potential by utilising the custom options to have ‘first to…’ sets instead of single matches. I hope to see more games adopt this method as it could help online communities thrive when offline sessions aren’t completely available. Or at least encourage some players to play a bit more seriously online (without rage mail hopefully). Regardless of whether or not you are willing or wanting to bet on online matches, it may potentially revitalise the online potential of a game that’s been on home consoles for 5 years now in various iterations. And that’s something all SF4 fans should be grateful for, that their game continues to grow and with the upcoming release of Ultra the game might reach a new peak.