Seeking Success in the Skill-Games Space
April, 21 2003
nteractive Gaming News 04.21.03
What started out as simple side bet between friends resulted in the formation of what could potentially be the largest skill-based games site on the Internet.
On a slow day at the office, co-workers Kenny Rosenblatt and Jessica Rovello were debating who could beat who in a game of Ms. Packman. To settle the score, they went online to find a site where they could match their Ms. Packman skills against each other.
But to the surprise of both, after hours of searching online, there was nowhere online that provided a place for the bet to be settled.
"We kind of looked at each other and said, 'Surely we aren't the only ones who would like to play Ms. Packman online,'" Rovello said.
As is often the case of successful business, the duo created a company to fill the demand for popular skill-based arcade-style games on the Internet. That company is Arkadium Inc.
This week Arkadium announced aggressive marketing partnerships that it says will create a possible player base of more than 140 million users. The company will be the supplier of games for Terra.com, the U.S. Hispanic Web site of the Terra Lycos global networks, and NYPOST.com, the content site for the popular New York Post newspaper.
Arkadium will provide Flash-based games to the sites. The service is free to both the operator and the individual player, but if the user wants to play an enhanced version of the game, he'll have the option of downloading Arkadium's software.
When a player downloads the Arkadium games he becomes part of the Arkadium game community. Members of the community can play in one-on-one real-time games for cash (where permissible by local laws), join tournament games and even chat with opponents and friends.
Through Arkadium's vast network of game rooms and chat rooms, users can search for new opponents, speak with them, research their game history and decide whether they are worthy adversaries.
Rosenblatt, who is president and CEO of the company, said this week's signings are clear signals that the company is on its way to reaching its goals.
"We are taking a global approach," he said. "We are really excited about getting a strong foothold within the Spanish-speaking market, and Terra.com is a leading portal among Hispanic Internet users."
As Rovello, chairman of the Arkadium, points out, those goals are quite ambitious.
"How does 25 million sound?" she asked. "Our scalability isn't an issue and we are hopeful that our partnerships will open up a large number of players to us."
In addition to inking the new deals, Arkadium this week rolled out seven new games, including favorites like Solitaire, Mah Jongg and Tetris, as well as some original games, such as Mr. Munch (a Ms. Packman clone if you will).
Not only does Arkadium provide a place for players to get their arcade game fixes, but a special "developers zone" on the site serves as a clearing house at which game designers and developers can get their games exposed to a mass audience.
The key to success could ultimately lie in establishing a solid gaming community. Rosenblatt said this will be an important part of making Arkadium the ultimate destination for players.
"We want to get them coming back more and more," he said. "We want them to feel the need to be on the site, checking in with their friends and seeing the status of tournaments or if anyone is challenging them to a game."
Like many in the skill-games space, Rosenblatt and Rovello see the sector eventually dominating the online gaming marketplace.
"With us, people can come on and see they are getting a fair game and don't have to worry about the software being rigged," Rovello said. "As more and more people get exposed to the concept, I think the popularity of it will soar."
Now that the two execs have seen their idea turn into a budding company with international partners, one would assume they've had plenty of chances to settle their initial bet.
But, the outcome isn't clear; just ask each of them who won.
"Well, me of course," Rovello exclaimed.
Rosenblatt, however, added, "There are still some issues there that need to be settled."