Just when you thought the online gaming scene could not possibly get any more surreal, Mickey Mouse is pushing online gambling. Sort of.
Game-playing “is one of the few [Internet] content areas besides straight gambling and porn where there is real money being paid,” said Jupiter analyst Billy Pidgeon. “The problem has been how do you get Main Street to play?”
On the subscription side, much of the revenue comes from a fanatical but relatively small coterie of players who pay monthly fees averaging about $10 and log on for hours at a time to play graphically rich fantasy games against other players.
Skillgames, however, is aiming for a more casual but potentially far larger audience of people who aren’t interested in complex games but might happily pay $1 a pop for shorter, simpler games with a shot at cash prizes.
“This is a new way to look at building a business on the Web,” said Skillgames Chief Executive David F. Zucker, a 12-year Disney veteran who has held executive posts at ESPN and other subsidiaries.
Most of the prizes are in the $5-to-$500 range, but the company plans to offer grand prizes of up to $1 million.
The article goes on to helpfully note that it’s not really online gambling since, well, um, it’s not. Even though you pay money for a shot at, um, more money. It’s not gambling, damn it! This is why Michael Eisner owns a yacht and you don’t even own a yak.
Disney and Skillgames executives say the venture has passed legal muster with the federal government and 47 of the 50 states. Moreover, Skillgames has enlisted a board of advisors to address such issues as compulsive gambling.
“From Disney’s perspective, all of it has been incredibly carefully vetted,” said Dick Glover, an executive vice president in Disney’s Internet Group. “We want to be as far away from any sort of gray area as we possibly can.”
So much for Minnie Mouse’s Cybersex0r Palace.