Economic situation for killers

Computer players can increasingly earn good money with their skills and sponsorships in organized multiplayer tournaments

The booming growth industry of computer games is beginning to pay off for teenage masters of network games.The American Cyberathlete Professional League (CPI) and its international affiliates organize tournaments in which young players demonstrate their skills in virtual duels and win hefty prizes. There are already agents who manage particularly good players and use sponsorship contracts to ensure that their proteges earn up to six-figure annual incomes.The players should be put on an equal footing with renowned sports athletes

Concerned parents can breathe a sigh of relief: the offspring, who spends his days between school and bedtime playing baller games in front of the PC, is not necessarily a penniless brute on the way to social exclusion. Maybe he can even become rich with his passion – if he is good enough. Since June 1997, there has been an organization in the USA called "Cyberathlete Professional League", which is based in Dallas and organizes tournaments for computer gamers with ever-increasing prize money. It also organizes software and hardware exhibitions. The CPI foundation was a reaction to the worldwide triumph of online games, which had begun in 1996 with the release of the famous first-person shooter Quake by ID Software – accompanied by the accelerated expansion of the Internet. The game, which was indexed in Germany, not only set new standards graphically, but was also designed for the first time for the so-called multiplayer mode. Besides killing monsters in the traditional lonely game, the game "Single Player"-mode, you could now beat the crap out of each other in a virtual environment, either on a local network or connected to other players via a web server.

This of course makes a difference. Not only the juvenile violence aficionados, but also the computer industry, since technical development and thus sales are decisively driven by games. You have to buy an Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon with 1.3 GHz primarily to run the latest games on it, not necessarily for emails. The development of graphics and sound cards also depends on the needs of game developers. A lucrative business for the joint venture of hardware and game software manufacturers. Every serious game since then has to be designed also for the increasingly popular deathmatches. Quake III Arena from 1999 was designed by ID Software as the first 3D shooter exclusively for multiplayer mode. That – perhaps from "Duke Nukem 3D" apart from – the most popular game of all times is Half-Life from Valve and has accordingly with Team Fortrend especially Counter-Strike already two best-selling multiplayer modifications, which are based on the HL-Engine. Counter-Strike, an anti-terror scenario, is the most popular online game for deathmatch fans, followed by Unreal Tournament.

Valve shows its appreciation for CPL for instance by releasing a beta version of its new "Multicast Spectator"-software (which allows bird’s-eye view of battles) will be shown exclusively at a tournament organized by the CPL. So the booming market is yielding big money and already feeding a decent number of professional players. The British top player Sujoy Roy was signed by the alleged first ever CPL agent Roland Glover. Roy has even given up his well-paid job at the investment bank JP Morgan for telefragging and is said to have a six-figure annual income. However, the centers of the gaming scene are currently still the USA and South Korea, where an estimated 1000 professional gamers have successfully turned their hobby into a profession. An American with an artificial name "Fatality", which topped the player rankings in 2000, says it has played more than 160.000 dollars earned. With the "World Cyber Games", which will be held in Sud Korea at the end of 2001, prize money of 250 euros will be awarded.000 US dollars will be up for grabs.

In Europe, action is still being taken at a more modest level. The CPL Europe, founded in February 2000, organized the largest European tournament to date in Copenhagen in October 2000, with almost a thousand participants. The CPL European Championship will be held in London at the beginning of August this year, and a prize tournament will be held in Berlin at the end of August. Other international offshoots are CPL Asia, CPL Latin America and CPL Pacific . CPL founder Angel Munoz wants to raise the level of computer game tournaments to that of professional sports competitions (where a lot of money is at stake) and thus bring the top players general recognition as serious athletes. Analysts estimate that the worldwide market value for online games will have increased to several billion marks within a few years.

In the future, the industry will therefore be looking for smart, twentysomething advertisers with a good dose of charisma. They should help to correct the immanent image problems caused by the cliche of the pimply teen nerd who gets off on the extreme brutality of shooter games (and that’s what online tournaments are all about). Since many games of the shooter genre are still indexed in Germany, one can be curious how this can work out.

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