Gaming Site Finds Winning Strategy

Case Study: Air Media helps community gaming site SkillJam make successful push into the mobile space.

SkillJam Technologies Corp.s is one of the top skill-gaming-community destinations on the Web, with a base of more than 7 million users, a number that is growing monthly.

SkillJam has built its business by connecting with more than 100 partners, including America Online Inc., Microsoft Corp.s MSN and RealNetworks Inc. Scott Philp, vice president of business development at SkillJam, in Los Angeles, said he believes that as successful as the company has been on the Web, it could grow significantly faster and attract new users by moving into the mobile space, where gaming is just beginning to take off.

"As I sat back and looked at the market, I saw that we have great games and a great network right now," Philp said. "With the mobile community blowing up like it is, this is a space we should be in. When I looked at the competition and whats out there, [I concluded] we are better."

Providing a mobile solution would also give gamers multiple opportunities to access SkillJam content from any location, and this flexible access would provide a new revenue stream for the company, Philp said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about how MSN has looked to subscription gaming to bring in new revenue.

"I look to build the mobile space as a significant part of this company eventually. We are going to offer our games and provide a way to monetize the network and offer our content to people who are waiting at the bus station or dont have access to the Web," Philp said.

SkillJam offers a variety of online content, such as card games, trivia and arcade games. Participants compete for rankings and prizes. For this reason, in seeking out a vendor, SkillJam not only had to deal with the array of issues faced by any developer moving into the mobile space but also had to be particularly concerned that the solution was secure and fully integrated with the companys existing network setup.

"We are a unique customer due to the fact that skill gaming in general works off a sophisticated tournament engine, where players are competing against each other, and there are several variables within that," Philp said. "Youre not just putting a piece of software there and saying, Hey, play the game. People are actually interconnecting with one another and playing against each other."

With all this interactivity and competition, preserving the integrity of the games is particularly important to SkillJam, according to Philp. "SkillJam is a platform for users to compete and play for cash and prizes, so a general concern is that these same users will find ways to beat the system."

The company must maintain system security for the funding of accounts, for access to funding information within accounts and to ensure that users cannot find ways to spoof the system to achieve higher scores, Philp said.

SkillJam IT managers had considered developing an in-house solution, but Philp said they found that working with AIR Media made more sense on several levels.

"Initially, as we looked to enter the mobile sector, we evaluated the idea of doing it ourselves," Philp said. "We came to the conclusion it made more sense to partner with a company that had expertise in the mobile sector and could open the door to carrier relationships."

In the past, SkillJam relied on a variety of partnerships to build its business. Philp said he believed the company would need a new kind of partner to lead it into the mobile space—a technology partner that could provide the infrastructure to move SkillJam content to a mobile platform and to open doors with mobile providers.

When SkillJam initially went looking for such a partner, it found a scarcity of vendors that could meet these demanding needs. Then SkillJam executives met with AIR Media Inc., a San Francisco-based company that provides technology for moving branded assets from the Web to the mobile space. Philp said AIR Media offered everything SkillJam needed.

Next Page: Scoring big with the right partner.