IBM isn’t a company you’d expect to see at the Game Developers Conference. But Big Blue has been making games for a while now and is showing off Innov8 v.2, a new version of a business simulation game that helps students and professionals hone their business skills.

The game is a so-called Serious Game, or one that has goals beyond entertainment. The Serious Game Summit at the GDC is highlighting a bunch of these games in areas of business, government and education. By 2012, an estimated 100 to 135 of the Fortune 500 are likely to be using games for learning, according to the Apply Group. The IBM game is available at no cost to businesses and academic institutions.

“Think of it as SimCity, which was the inspiration for the game,” said Phaedra Boinodiris, Serious Games manager at IBM. “You change the nodes and watch how the business reacts to events.”

The game features puzzles and tasks that challenge players to take on real-world challenges, work with team mates, and work their way through a variety of business scenarios. Scenarios include building a green supply chain, making traffic flow more efficiently, and improving call-center responses. The scenarios use real-world case studies such as improving traffic in Singapore.

The game uses a first-person shooting engine to immerse players in the environment of a company. A study last year by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation showed that a great lecture can improve learning outcomes by 17 percent, but delivering the same information through a serious game can improve learning outcomes by 108 percent.

The first version of the game came out in November 2007, and more than 100 universities have begun using it. The idea for the game came from an annual IBM-sponsored competition among graduate business students at Duke University and the University of North Carolina.

Innov8 v.2 will be available in May. Here’s a video of the first version.