Olivier Comte, president and CEO of 52 Entertainment – the group which owns the U.S.-based Bridge Base Online (BBO) and the European-based Funbridge – is in San Francisco to promote two large online events.
First, Comte announced a free, 20-board robot individual tournament to celebrate the newly minted World Bridge Day to take place on Dec. 12. The contest will be hosted on the BBO and Funbridge platforms.
“We want to show that we can drive a significant number of players to play online. Our goal is to have at least 20,000 players participate, but we believe the actual number will be much higher, likely in the 35,000 to 50,000 range,” Comte said.
With a chance to play in the largest online bridge event in history, Comte is encouraging players to sign up for the contest, which will also feature small prizes for the top scorers.
“You can be part of the biggest online game ever,” he said.
The contest is also drawing some high-profile participants – such as Hall of Famer Zia Mahmood – giving players a chance to compare their results with some of the top experts in the world.
Comte’s second project is a proposed world robot individual championship to be played on BBO and Funbridge in 2020. The details for the online contest are still in the planning phase, but Comte is aiming for a qualifying round that will begin the spring of next year, with the idea of holding a 500-player final sometime in November. The plan is for the finalists to all play from one location.
“We will conduct this event in partnership with the World Bridge Federation and, hopefully, the ACBL,” Comte said.
His rationale for hosting the large, online contests is raise awareness of the game, using modern, online game platforms to drive participation.
“Our model for this type of contest comes from other e-sports. Many bridge players think of online gamers as kids who play, say, World of Warcraft, without realizing that online bridge enthusiasts are very much gamers in their own right who spend hours and hours online with their favorite hobby. There is room in the bridge ecosystem for various types of bridge play, and they all help support the popularity of the traditional versions of the game. We need to embrace these new forms of the game to attract the next generation of players,” he said.
If Comte is able to finesse the technical and legal hurdles for running the online world championships, details for the contest may be announced early next year.