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Gamers like to brag. That’s why a lot of social networks have risen to serve their need to shout about their achievements. BringIt is going a step further by letting them place bets on their duels.
The Chicago-based company has created a portal where gamers can log in and challenge others to play networked console games on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. The winner gets cash and BringIt takes a cut. The company is coming out of its beta testing soon.
“We’re taking online gaming and giving it a little edge,” says Woody Levin, the 30-year-old chief executive who founded BringIt in May, 2008.
It sounds like gambling, but the games fall under the definition of games of skill, which are legal in most states, in contrast to games of chance, which are considered gambling. (See Eric Eldon’s piece on the distinction in social games). Instead of poker or BlackJack, the games of choice are titles such as Ultimate Fighting Championship 2009, Killzone 2, Halo 3, Madden NFL, Fifa Soccer, and Call of Duty World at War.
Where it’s allowed, BringIt extracts data from games or networks such as Xbox Live to get verified game results. Players also verify the scores themselves. If there’s a dispute, BringIt will resolve the disagreement, based on evidence such as shots of a game screen that show the results. BringIt displays results for others to see and brag about when they win.
If it sounds familiar, there is competition. Gamers Saloon has been doing something similar for a couple of years, but it hasn’t raised capital. Other companies such as Raptr have formed gamer social networks, but they haven’t made the leap into betting on games. BringIt, by contrast, isn’t really a social network. Its focus is on making betting transactions happen.
It isn’t easy to do. The original Xfire company tried to get gamers to bet against each other in matches, but it decided to end that business in favor of creating a chat tool for gamers. Now it is part of MTV Networks.
Levin said he got the idea by reaching back to his college days, when he played hockey at the University of Wisconsin. During winter break, the team stayed and played. In their downtime, they challenged each other at video games such as GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64. The winner would get a beer.
BringIt launched in November, 2008, and its user base has grown steadily. The company doesn’t release its user numbers, but Levin says it’s well over 50,000 and is growing 1 percent to 2 percent a day. Gamers have played more than 25,000 one-on-one matches. Fees run anywhere from $1 to $250 to join tournaments.
Over time, the company will add more options, such as clan-based team fights where 16 players can take on 16 rivals for money.
Players deposit money in a BringIt account, using credit cards, debit cards or paypal transfers. BringIt verifies that players are over 18 through a variety of identification means. The key to its expansion is adding lots of games that gamers want to play. Right now, there are a few dozen titles. Over time, the company could add PC games, mobile games, and even casual Flash-based web games.
BringIt raised an angel round of $1.34 million and it is looking for a first institutional round of funding now. The company has seven employees. Levin was previously founder of Riverbank Capital Management, an equity options trading firm, and InStadium, a company that put ads in restrooms in Major League Baseball and National Football League stadiums.