Germany's GameDuell raises round for skill-based games

German skill-games site GameDuell has raised $17 million in a second round of funding from Wellington Partners.

The Berlin-based company has more than 10 million registered members and claims to be the No. 1 game community in Germany. It plans to use the money for an international expansion, including a move into the U.S. which is already under way.

Kai Bolik, chief executive, said in a statement that results in France and Spain show that the company’s marketing strategy is working.

GameDuell creates skill-based online games, which include solitaire, Mahjong, Sudoku, pool and darts. Players can log into the site and play against real players for prizes. But since the games involve skill and not luck, they aren’t considered gambling. Thus, they aren’t restricted in many territories. The site says more than 200,000 games are played each day.

But the market is competitive, since the games are simple and they’re not so hard to clone. Of GameDuell’s competitors, the toughest is WorldWinner, which has the backing of Liberty Media’s TV properties to push users to its site. In the U.S., WorldWinner has been around since 2000. In 2006, it was acquired by FUN Technologies, the owner of SkillJam, for $23 million, and media giant LibertyMedia bought WorldWinner in December.

WorldWinner says it has tens of millions of registered players. It has 100 employees, mostly in Newton, Mass. Peter Blacklow, president of WorldWinner, said on a panel in May that gamers typically spend $400 a month playing the company’s contests. WorldWinner’s commission is 15 percent to 20 percent of that.

GameDuell said it has more than 200 media partners and is Germany’s third-largest online advertiser. It has 80 employees and plans to double its workforce in the coming months. Founded in 2003, the company is run by Bolik and fellow internet entrepreneurs Michael Kalkowski and Boris Wasmuth.

GameDuell received a first round of funding from Holtzbrinck Ventures and Burda Digital Ventures in 2004. Wellington just added LinkedIn cofounder Eric Ly as a partner.