Branson plays video games on big screen in Henderson


Polite tycoon Richard Branson rented out a Vegas movie screen on Friday to play video games. Sounds amazing. And apparently it was a business meeting to see if Branson will make it possible for all of us to play games on theater screens.

Here’s how the story unfolded Friday. People started calling the Review-Journal in the morning, saying Branson was walking around Green Valley Ranch Resort, handing out coupons to fly on his Virgin airplanes.

Then I found a source who described the movie-theater scene:

Branson and a group of eight to 12 people were here to rent a movie screen from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. They played a demo of a multiplayer racing game on the big screen. And they used smartphones as their gaming hand controllers.

That is a good idea, obviously. If it was fleshed out, people in theaters could play family-friendly multiplayer games — such as racing games — together.

And Branson is already in the video game business with Virgin Gaming, which runs online-gaming competitions, with big partner tie-ins from PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and UbiSoft, among other distributors.

I’m not clear on who all the players were at Friday’s screening, but Branson might have been joined by representatives from movie studios and a soft drink company, plus an entrepreneur who came up with the concept.

You see, Branson runs a “Pitch to Rich” program for entrepreneurs: If a UK-based businessperson comes up with a great idea, Branson will pursue it financially.

From what I heard, the game looked great on the screen. The graphics didn’t appear pixilated. And the sound of the racing game rang through the theater’s big speakers — the echo of tires screeching and virtual crowds cheering.

When Branson left, some people recognized him (with or without his hat and glasses). By all accounts, he was polite and friendly as usual, giving people coupons for 20 or 25 percent off airline flights.

My big question: When would people play these games in theaters? In between movie showings?

Personally, I would want to play longer than that, say, for at least two hours. I would even go to a theater at midnight and play until 6 a.m. I bet many gamers agree — the multitudes I stand in line with during midnight sales — as long as the game is great.

The only obstacle to that is: I don’t know if theaters have the political will to sign up for screening “mature”-rated shooting games, since idiot politicians are now blaming everything but the Hindenburg explosion on people who play games. Idiots.

JESUS, SWIMMING AND DATING

Well, here’s a quote you don’t hear every day.

Four-time Olympic gold-medal swimmer Missy Franklin was in Vegas last week for an event, and she told People magazine’s Mark Gray that, yes, she is single.

What is she looking for in a suitor?

“Someone who loves Jesus more than he loves me, and someone who can just laugh and always have a smile on his face.”

So if you are into Missy Franklin, there are your parameters.

Speaking of Olympic swimming heroes, Michael Phelps was back to partying with his ex-girlfriend Caz Pal on Monday at Bellagio’s Lily lounge, two nights after hanging with Pal at Mirage’s 1 Oak nightclub, where she is a server.

Doug Elfman’s column appears Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.