Skype wants to get into the lucrative casual gaming business and is aggressively courting game developers to generate a diverse range of content for the VoIP service. Skype's Paul Amery announced the partnership with Easybits Software to create the Skype Game Channel and the Game Developer Program at the TMC Communications Developer Conference yesterday, pointing out that users are increasingly using Skype for purposes other than just making voice calls and that the company was looking for more ways to enhance the Skype experience.
"People are increasingly using Skype to interact with one another, with many choosing to play simple games like checkers or backgammon," Amery said at the keynote. "However, the tremendous size of Skype's user base makes it an ideal environment for multi-player and community-based games in which people can play against or collaborate with one another."
Skype 3.0 for Windows already has a few games available as "extras" through the program's Extras Manager. The company claims that among the 18 million extras that have been downloaded since the Extras Manager became available, about 5 million of those have been games. However, there was not an exclusive channel for games until now, and the Game Developer Program will help get more developers on board to market their games through Skype.
The program will give third-party developers access to Skype's vast installed user base of 196 million, and the company says that it will supply devs with all the SDKs, APIs, tools, information, and support they need in order to make their games Skype-compatible. Once a game is developed and approved, Skype says that it will handle all of the distribution, marketing, billing, and DRM for the games.
Billing? DRM? That's right, developers will be able to charge for their games, which will only be playable through Skype. It's unclear whether the developers will be able to determine game prices themselves or whether Skype will have a say in how much users are charged to play, but Skype is sure to get a cut of the fees. For now, it's safe to assume that the Skype's games will be Windows-only as well, but the possibility of Skype releasing a game-compatible version of the software for Mac probably isn't out of the question—the Mac version of the software often lags behind the Windows version by several point releases.
"We hope the Skype Game Channel becomes a popular entertainment destination within the Skype community," Avery said. "Our goal is to make it as easy and profitable as possible for the developers while keeping it simple and fun for consumers to use."
FCC Rules VOIP Not Subject to State Rules (big win for Vonage)
In what amounts to a big win for Vonage Holdings Corp., the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday ruled that the broadband phone company's service was exempt from state and local regulation and tariffs.
In a narrow 3-2 vote, the FCC backed a petition from the Edison, N.J.-based Vonage that its IP-to-PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) communications business was "interstate" in nature and therefore insulates the company from regulation by individual states.
"This is an incredibly important victory. Without this ruling, our industry would be stuck in litigation for the foreseeable future," Vonage chief executive Jeffrey Citron told eWEEK.com just moments after receiving word of the FCC's ruling.
The FCC vote could provide a boost to Vonage, which is locked in legal battles with some states that want to regulate the rates, terms and conditions of its telephony service.
Minnesota, for example, has appealed a ruling that Vonage's service was not subject to laws regarding traditional telephone carriers. That case is scheduled to start on November 17, but Citron said it was unclear how the latest FCC ruling would affect that litigation.
Click here to read about Vonage's recent victory in a U.S. District Court in New York.
"We have taken a pause in the last eight months in terms of investing in new markets. Now that we have clarity [from the FCC], we'll aggressively enter new markets again," he said.
It is not yet clear if the FCC ruling applies to VOIP (voice over IP) services offered by companies such as AT&T Corp., Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.
The ruling is the third in a series of IP-enabled services petitions that establish the role of the FCC in the regulation of the changing telecommunications landscape.
Pointer Check out eWEEK.com's VOIP & Telephony Center for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.