Gameworld: Video games offer cash rewards to sports fans

Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:40am EST
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By John Gaudiosi

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands (Reuters Life!) - While professional athletes can earn millions of dollars, video gamers now have a chance to also take home tens of thousands of dollars in sports winnings without breaking a sweat.

Sports video game competitions, like the EA Sports Madden Challenge which held its finals in virtual American football in Turks and Caicos Islands this week, are becoming global events.

Over 180,000 gamers took part in the Madden Challenge online through Xbox Live and another 10,000 football fanatics attended one of 18 events held around the United States over two months.

Electronic Arts expanded the virtual gridiron competition to include Toronto, Mexico City and London this year as the NFL tries to expand the sport into new territories.

But this week it was Lee Green, 20, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who walked away with a $25,000 check and a $25,000 gift card from consumer electronic store Best Buy as the seventh Madden Challenge champion.

For the second year running Walt Disney Co's ESPN2 TV network is airing a one-hour special on the Madden Challenge Finals during Super Bowl Sunday on February 1 while ESPN continues its popular "Madden Nation" reality series for a fifth season this fall where elite football gamers battle for $100,000.

"I play Madden five days a week, 10 hours a day, and it's paid off," said Green, who made it to the finals of last season's "Madden Nation" show.

It has also paid off for Eric Wright from West Covina, California who earned $180,000 in cash and prizes playing Madden last year and made it to the finals again for the fourth year.   Continued...

<p>The video game 'Madden NFL '09" is projected on a wall in Los Angeles, California August 7, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>