News Ltd moving into MMOs and online fantasy games

News Limited wants to begin charging for massively multiplayer online (MMO) sporting games

News Limited has flagged that it is to make a push into massively multiplayer online (MMO) games and ‘online fantasy games’ as part of an effort to capture a slice of the growing online gaming market.

In its submission to the Federal Government’s Interactive Gambling Act 2001 review, the company argued for a clarification of the ‘interactive gambling’ term to allow it to begin charging users to play.

The company already offers online fantasy sports games in which users can construct sports ‘dream teams’ but these are run as “free to enter trade promotion lotteries" in order to remain compliant under Interactive Gambling Act 2001 and various state legislations. However, News Limited argues that the nature and scope of the competitions are not akin to gambling services, and hence should not fall under the Act.

According to the submission, the fee charged for entry would be based on a “relatively small fixed annual payment” in return for News administering and providing the gaming service.

“There would be no continual investment from the participants as is required to play poker machines, online poker or sports betting where there is always a chance to take or event to bet on,” the submission reads.

“This scenario differs markedly from the issue of problem gambling which is what the Act was designed to control by limiting the provision of gambling services to Australians through interactive technologies such as the internet.”

In clarifying the Act’s definition of an interactive gambling service to allow the company to charge for its online games and “allow News Limited to adequately compete in what is becoming a largely international market in terms of interactive online games.”

Detailing its plans for massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, News said it intended to allow users to take their dream sports teams and allow them to compete against other players online.

“Entry to the MMOs would be free with participants at a later stage being afforded the non-mandatory opportunity to purchase better skills to improve performance,” the submission reads.

According to the submission, with each user win the difficulty of the game increases, thus increasing the need for users to purchase new players, skills, coaches, and equipment via ‘cards’.

“The upper limit to the number of cards one player can purchase ensure that the games requires a fixed payment which would not be comparable to regular and continual monetary injections required to play online poker or wagering on sporting events,” the submission reads.

News’ submission follows those made by a number of online gaming companies. In its submission Sportsbet called for a relaxation in the Interactive Gambling Act to allow it to compete with offshore companies.

In its submission Internet Industry Association (IIA) called on the government not to make internet service providers responsible for regulating online problem gambling.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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