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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK
UK gamers shoot for a million
By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent

One of the UK's top gaming teams is competing for prizes worth more than $1m over the next six months.

Screenshot from Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Activision
Wolfenstein is all about teamplay
The 4Kings team, or clan, is taking part in six separate gaming events in Europe and US all of which reward winners and runners-up with cash prizes.

The clan regularly features among the top teams in the world for the various games it plays and hopes to walk off with a significant share of all the cash on offer.

The lucrative prizes show how online, multiplayer gaming is slowly evolving into a professional sport.

Frags mean prizes

4Kings is one of the few in the UK that has a sponsor and two of its members now work full-time for the clan and are paid a salary for their time.

Toby Aldridge, 4Kings captain, said it was about to celebrate its first anniversary as a sponsored clan and would not be enjoying its current success without the backing of chip giant Intel.

Screenshot from Unreal Tournament, Atari
$156,000 - Electronic Sports World Cup
$200,000 - Cyberathlete Professional League (Dallas)
$125,000 - QuakeCon
$40,000 - Cyberathlete Professional League (Europe)
$350,000 - World Cyber Games Korea
$600,000 - Cyber X Games
The cash injection and some of the teams winnings are helping to send team members to prestigious tournaments in the US and Europe that offer the big prizes.

Increasingly, he said, gaming was dominated by teams that had cash to finance the time they spend playing and practising.

"A lot of teams have the professional attitude but don't have the professional backing," he said. "Organising teams, arranging travel and running a clan is a very time-consuming job."

He said 4Kings had about 25 members, with squads arranged around the games they play.

Team members compete professionally in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Quake III, Warcraft III, Unreal Tournament and CounterStrike.

Like any other team the players train together for several hours per day, have coaches and refine strategies and tactics for the different maps that the games are played on.

""We like to keep our teams small, we find it helps to strengthen our teamplay," he said.

Global platform

Already this year the clan has won around $50,000 in prize money. Winnings are shared between the squad members that win it.

Concept art for Warcraft III, Vivendi
The winsome and mystical meet in Warcraft III
These winnings could get a huge boost if 4Kings proves successful at upcoming tournaments.

Team members have qualified for QuakeCon in Dallas and the Electronic Sports World Cup in Poitiers, France. Almost all big tournaments are now televised and are closely followed online by gaming fans.

Mr Aldridge said he hoped the team would make it through qualifiers for the World Cyber Games due to be held in South Korea in October.

The other events were open to anyone that pays the entrance fee and reward those that beat all others. The richest purse is being offered by the new Cyber X Gaming organisation which is putting up $600,000 for its January 2004 tournament.

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