Online Tournament Gaming (OTG) Overview
First, let me describe how this works. Basically, the player pays an entry fee and plays a game for cash/merchandise prizes. (OTG is similar to: Multiplayer RPG, "Tournament RPG", and Coin Op "Entry Fee" tournament gaming.)
The player pays an entry fee to participate in each tournament. The moneys collected from the players entry fees are placed into a prize pool. The prize pool is split up upon completion of the tournament. 50% of the pool is paid back to the winning players. The other 50% is split up between the game's developer, publisher, and web administrator. Sponsors can be used to promote their products by adding to the prize pool. This entire structure is a symbiotic relationship between all parties involved. The players receive meaningful play, the developer and publisher can reap the benefits long after the initial sale, and the web site would thrive and be able to promote their clients properties. (I would guess that with some titles, the publisher would want to administrate the web site.)
Let me elaborate on the structure that I mentioned above. When a game is being developed, a web site (preferably specific to the title) must also be developed. It is critical to have the web site fully "up and functioning" when the title is released, so the web site development should really be done ahead of the its corresponding title. Regarding the 50% that is split up between the games creators, I would suggest the following:
16.6% to Game Developer
I would suggest that the player is given a month's worth of entry fees with the purchase of the software. This allows the player to test the waters for free. These games are standard PC software packages that the player can play as many times off-line as they want. These games use the full graphics and sounds that the player has grown accustomed to. When the player goes online to participate in the tournament, they play a monitored game. The web site sets parameters for play, then monitors their progress throughout their game, and finally enters their score upon completion. When the player's game is complete, the player is given options particular to the tournament.
The use of Credits
Coin operated games have used "credits" to tabulate "money deposited" and "replays won" since the 1930's. Using credits to keep tab of a player's account has many advantages. It makes it easy for a player to know where their account stands. Credits also allow people from different countries to participate (one US dollar buys 4 credits, one Canadian dollar buys 3 credits, two pesos buys 1 credit, etc.). Finally, credits can be awarded for accomplishing certain feats during tournament play. If it costs three credits to enter a given tournament, awarding one credit (for a difficult feat) would only be 1/3 of an entry fee. Credits should be kept separate from winnings.
Skill verses Luck
There is a "gray area" that separates gambling games from skill games. I would suggest that the main prizes for each tournament be given out for skillful accomplishments. I am not a lawyer, but I have learned during my tenure in the coin op industry, that certain jurisdictions frown on any game that could be interpreted as "gambling". This is a gray area because most games have (AND NEED) some element of luck.
Keeping the skillful play aspect in mind, now I would like to point out that having some luck elements can greatly enhance the newbie appeal of a title. In my game example below, you will see some aspects that have a luck component. There are other methods that can enhance the title's appeal for beginners, but the luck element can help. The other thing that a luck element can do is to prevent the same players from winning every week.
Readers of this article may think that I have too much of a concern for appeal to beginner players. Well, most players in the early tournaments will be beginners to tournament play. Newbies are key to the success and future of each tournament title.
When I deposit coins into an arcade game, I receive a meaningful play. I am paying to play, so completing each checkpoint (if it's a driving game) becomes very gratifying, especially when I am down to my last few tokens.
Let's look at another example. Let's say I have a recreation room full of arcade games. They are all on free play. Now the "Meaningful" play that I experienced in the arcade has been lost because I can play an unlimited times for free. "Oh, I crashed early, why not start over", or "I can just continue to buy-in (for free) until I complete the game".
Now let's say I decide to have a party. I want the guests to experience a meaningful experience. I set all of the games back on coin play and give each guest 20 tokens. When their tokens run out, their game playing is over. Now let's say that setting a high score wins 5 tokens. I guarantee that play will become a lot more intense than if all of the games were on free play! These are meaningful plays.
The tournament plays are meaningful. The player will gain more satisfaction when they excel because "Something in on the line."