WorldWinner Helps Keep Boston in the Game of Casual Games

3/14/08Follow @wroush

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they found the right model that wasn’t ad-dependent,” says CTO Michael Enright, who left Westwood, MA-based MMO company Turbine for WorldWinner last summer. “The company survived and grew—not wildly, but it persisted, which gave us time to work on refining the entertainment experience, which is now very sophisticated.”

One of the keys to WorldWinner’s success, according to Enright, is “skillification”—algorithms that make sure each player in tournament games like Spades, Royal Flush, or Cubis is confronted with a roughly equal challenge, reducing the chances of one player winning just because they happen to be dealt the equivalent of an inside straight. “It ensures that the results are based on the skill of the player, and less on chance,” says Enright. “For any given game, there is an appropriate way to create a tournament that’s equal and fair.”

Scrabble CubesWorldWinner also works to make its games easy to grasp, yet challenging. Certain games are based on familiar classics, but with a twist that “infuses them with emotional electricity,” to uses Meyer’s words. Scrabble Cubes, for example, is like a combination of Scrabble, Rubik’s Cube, and Tetris; the “board” consists of lettered tiles on a 3-by-3-by-3 cube, and as players click on the tiles to form complete words, the faces dissolve to reveal more letters inside the cube. Getting started is easy. The tricky part, as I’ve learned, is building words longer than three or four letters, and saving letters for high-scoring words before they disappear. (So far, I’m a rank amateur, scoring in the site’s 4th percentile.) “Part of the model of a casual game is that it has to be easy to learn,” says Enright. “But the mechanics should be sophisticated enough to have a lifetime of mastering the subtleties.”

Scrabble Cubes is also a good example of a WorldWinner game that’s been deliberately designed to prevent fraud and tampering—which, as you might imagine, is an ever-present threat in an environment where millions of dollars are changing hands every week. “If the game were just flat and 2-D, bots could scrape it and solve it,” says Meyer. “But when we make games 3-D, we reduce that threat.”

“We create a safe place where people know it’s fair,” adds Enright. “It’s a continually evolving process and a struggle, but happily we’ve been able to stay ahead of it.”

In 2006, SkillJam Technologies, a subsidiary of Toronto-based FUN Technologies, bought WorldWinner for $23 million and folded its own games into the WorldWinner platform. At the time, more than half of FUN’s shares were held by Liberty Media, the media and entertainment conglomerate that owns QVC, Expedia, IAC/Interactive, and large stakes in News Corporation, Time Warner, Starz, and the Atlanta Braves. Liberty acquired the remainder of FUN’s shares last November, making WorldWinner into a Liberty Media subsidiary. The acquisition has been “very beneficial” for WorldWinner, according to Meyer—particularly because … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • Jay Gaines

    Diner Dash has possibly cost me fourteen thousand dollars in lost productivity.

  • http://worldwinner/8-ball locklear s codey

    the school is blocking your websight and you websight is my favorite. im wondering if you could do something about it. much love

  • http://www.cashgamers.net Ikaruga

    Worldwinner is a great gaming site…probably the only skill gaming site where you can actually earn a living off winning from their games!

    BTW, check out Worldwinner’s unofficial fansite & forum at http://www.cashgamers.net . Lots of tutorials and guides on many of the games featured on Worldwinner.

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