Berlin-based ‘social betting’ game developer Crowdpark has scored $6m from European venture capitalists betting that Facebookers are looking for alternatives to growing crops in Farmville and playing Zynga Poker. Opening up their wallets this time around were Target Partners and original investors Earlybird Venture Capital, with Target Partners’ Waldemar Jantz earning a spot on Crowdpark’s board of directors.
Crowdpark made its name this April with the launch of Bet Tycoon, which allows Facebookers to place wagers on real life events, from celebrity breakups to actual sporting events. Players can also create their own wager markets (“Will Calvin Ayre drink vodka, gin or tequila tonight?”) then invite their friends to pick a side. Bet Tycoon employs what Crowdpark calls “Dynamic Betting” technology, which shifts the odds of an event occurring much the way a stock price moves in relation to investors buying or selling shares in a company. So get in early, buy low, sell high and you’ll make a virtual killing.
To make wagers, players use Facebook Credits to purchase Bet Tycoon’s proprietary virtual currency, Crowdpark Dollars. However, in order to keep the DoJ off their backs, none of your winnings are convertible back into Facebook Credits or redeemable for real world money. Plans are afoot for Crowdpark to expand into other pretend betting sectors, such as casino games, and to offer such products across a variety of platforms, including mobile devices. The first product scheduled to hit Android and iOS devices will be a dedicated sports betting app.
Is it just us, or does this kind of virtual betting, like virtual poker and other free play sites, remove a fundamental element of what makes gambling fun? As Dr. Patrick Basham asked in his book, Gambling: A Healthy Bet, is there happiness without risk? But hold the phone. Crowdpark co-founder Ingo Hinterding recently told Benzinga that converting his outfit from Nerf-like gambling into a cash operation using a redeemable virtual currency like Bitcoin was something he’d “love to do, as I find the whole concept around Bitcoin very, very interesting.” As do we, Ingo.