Beyond Gaming Turns Video Game Competitions Into Cash

How would you like to get paid to play video games? Beyond Gaming LLC co-founders Gabe Rubin and Noah Krugel have found a way of doing exactly that. In fact, they've been able to turn their hobby into a living, launching a successful company that not only pays its employees but also its customers. 
 
Seven years ago, Rubin was here in metro Detroit playing a game of NHL 2005 on his PlayStation 2 against his brother in California. 
 
"Video games have always been a passion of mine," he says. "My brothers and I would always battle it out, sometimes for money. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be awesome to create a website or portal that would allow people to play head-to-head in multi-player tournament against each other for cash prizes?'" 
 
As Rubin would later find, lots of other people out there also thought that would in fact be awesome.
 
He started doing his due diligence and learned there weren't any other companies at the time doing what he intended to do. He realized this was an opportunity he could capitalize on. He delved into more in-depth research, put together a business plan, and started to raise money for initial funding. Beyond Gaming, located in Royal Oak, was formed at the end of 2005, and Gamer Saloon - the web-based portal for connecting competitive gamers playing for cash prizes - launched in November of 2006.
 
"We have been growing ever since," says Rubin. "Gamer Saloon is one of the largest websites that offers online video game players the opportunity to play head-to-head in tournaments for cash prizes." 
 
The site does not host the video game tournaments itself. Instead, it acts as a portal to connect those who wish to participate and a mediator to collect and pay out the money. Kind of like web bookies, but totally legit. (Rubin describes the role as being akin to an escrow agent.) The gaming action still happens through independent console systems (Xbox 360, PS3, etc.). A player posts his desired challenge - say, a game of Madden 360 for $10 - then another player accepts the terms. The game is played off-site and both players report back once it is complete. Once the outcome of the game has been verified by both players, the money is credited to the winner's account.
 
One of the more marketable aspects of Gamer Saloon is that it is totally free to sign up. The company makes its money from the 14% service fee it charges both players. Players set their own challenge amounts, playing for as little or as much as they want.
 
Since 2006, the company has awarded over $13.8 million in prizes. The site has over 600,000 registered players and is legally allowed to operate in 41 states. It is a totally legal outlet for playing video games against other people for money.  
 
Their most popular titles are the sports titles - Madden and the NBA games on both Xbox 360 and PS3. They also offer first-person "shooter" games like Call of Duty, and hope to build up the audience for those games more. 
 
"The critical mass is the sports titles," says Rubin. "Our next focus is to create a critical mass for these other segments within video game industry, such as first person shooters."
 
Rubin says they are constantly looking for new titles to create a critical mass on the Gamer Saloon website, as well as ways to expand their offerings and keep the site fresh and exciting for users. They are currently in the process of a complete redesign and will soon sport a new look and approach. They also just debuted their new daily and weekly fantasy sports leagues feature hosted on the website itself. 
 
Gamer Saloon also has a feature called the Gamer Saloon Arcade, which hosts licensed Flash games embedded into their website. If a member doesn't want to play a console game but still wants to play for cash prizes, this allows him to play directly through the site so there is no need to go off-site onto a third-party server. The scores are automatically recorded, sidestepping the need for the verification process. 
 
Rubin and Krugel continue to look for innovative ways to promote their brand. A recent free tournament sponsored by Birmingham-based On Go Energy provided a lot of cross-branded promotion for both companies. Rubin says that they are looking to do more of these free sponsored tournaments. 
 
"There has been a significant amount of people signing up to these tournaments … [This is a great feature that allows companies] to market their brand to our demographic, which is 18-35-year-old males. On Go is getting great brand recognition through these sponsored tournaments, and because of its success we plan on going out to thousands of different companies to offer this service."

Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer, regular contributor to Metromode and popular Metro Detroit food blogger. Read her blog at Eat It Detroit.

All Photos by David Lewinski Photography