Social Gaming News Roundup: Lots of Zynga, Grasshopper Manufacture, Big Talk from EA and More

Showtime Pumping DEXTER Facebook Game With Sweepstakes
Showtime is promoting its new DEXTER Facebook game, Dexter Slice of Life, with a pre-launch sweepstakes that includes weekly prizes of $500 and a grand prize of an all expenses paid trip to Miami.  As we reported earlier, Dexter Slice of Life is being developed by Ecko Code with gameplay directly tied to the plot of the show’s sixth season, and fans of the show can play out the events of each episode the day after it airs. The season premiere of DEXTER is October 2nd, and Dexter Slice of Life launches on Monday, October 3rd.

Adobe Hoping Flash 11 Will Fend off HTML 5
Adobe revealed Flash 11 and the Flash-based AIR 3 to the world this week, placing a lot of emphasis on how the new software can be used by game developers, calling Flash 11 and AIR 3 the “game console for the web.” The new tools have been designed to be easier to install, more powerful and compatible with more systems, working with 64-bit on Windows, Mac and Linux. The move comes at a time when Adobe is looking up to shore up Flash as a development platform in the face of growing competition from HTML 5, the still-evolving development platform championed first by Apple, and now Microsoft, who are building their Windows 8 operating system to use HTML 5, blocking Flash entirely.

Has Facebook Added $15 Billion to the Economy?
A study conducted by the University of Maryland claims that Facebook apps have created an entire new segment of the high-tech industry, adding at least 182,000 jobs in the US alone. According to the findings, the so called “app economy” created by Facebook has lead to  53,000 new jobs specifically in companies that develop applications for the social network, and that has lead to job creation in connected sectors, which has pumped an additional $12.19 billion in wages and benefits into the U.S. economy.  While the claim seems to be good news, tech blog Gigaom is raising doubts and criticizing the report for using too many estimates and not enough hard data. For those interested in the numbers, and the methods used to obtain them, the full report can be found here.

American Express Gets into the Virtual Goods Market
American Express is following in the footsteps of rival Visa with the purchase of virtual currency company Sometrics. The deal, worth $30 million, will expand Amex’s Serve digital payments platform, giving it access to Sometrics’ existing customer base. Before the acquisition, Sometrics’ served 250 million customers. In February, Visa bought game monetization service Playspan for $190 million. According our Inside Virtual Goods Report, the virtual goods market will be worth approximately $1.2 billion in 2011.

Zynga Goes on Defensive Domain Buying Spree
While Zynga was announcing Mafia Wars 2, they were going to great lengths to protect that new IP.  Zynga purchased over 75 web addresses on September 20th, according to information uncovered by Fusible. The addresses cover almost every possible iteration of the Mafia Wars name, from insulting – mafiawars2sucks.com, to fawning – ilovemafiawars2.com, to purposely mistyped – wwwmafiawars2.com. While none of the domains seem to go anywhere yet, the complete list can be found here.

Tagged Acquires Startup WeGame to Strengthen Gaming Ties
Social networking service Tagged, which bills itself as the social network for meeting new people, has acquired social gaming service WeGame. While the announcement was short on specifics, the two services essentially serve the same purpose. Tagged allows users to make friends by browsing user profiles, playing games and sharing gifts, and adding WeGame to the mix allows Tagged to offer its user base more gaming focused social discovery tools and more monetization options. In the last year, Tagged has launched a new mobile website and beefed up its in-house game development.

Facebook to Make Big Bank off Credits in 2011
According to a report by eMarketer, Facebook’s revenue from Facebook Credits will top $470 million dollars in 2011, more than three times what it made from credits in 2010. In 2009 credits contributed to 5% of the social network’s revenue; thanks to the growth of social gaming and virtual goods, the currency now makes up 11% of Facebook’s income. According to an eMarketer interview with VentureBeat, one reason for the jump was the July 1st change that made Facebook Credits the mandatory currency for social games, standardizing the Facebook social gaming platform and giving Facebook a 30% cut of every transaction.

Grasshopper Manufacture Partners with DeNA for Social Games
Japanese studio Grasshopper Manufacture, most well known for the surreal titles its CEO Suda51 dreams up, is adding social games to its portfolio. Grasshopper is partnering with DeNA, the Japanese mobile and social gaming juggernaut to bring its games into the smartphone market. In an interview at the Tokyo Game Show, Akira Yamaoka, Grasshopper’s chief creative officer said that Japan’s game industry “absolutely cannot ignore mobile games.” The partnership seems to be a natural move for DeNA, who recently purchased ngmoco:) and Punch Entertainment’s Vietnam studio bolster its Mobage platform.

Sony Unveils a New, Much More Social Home
Sony has unveiled the new look for its integrated social network PlayStation Home. Originally created as a virtual world for hardcore gamers, the new Home, which is currently in closed beta, will have distinct districts that showcase different genres of games, making it easier for Home users to quickly navigate to the kinds of games they want to play. The games will be lighter, more casual and free to play, but supported through virtual goods transactions. Currently 30 developers are creating games for the new version of Home.

EA Aiming to Be the Social Kings in Three Years
According to a speech by CEO John Riccitiello, EA has set a $3 billion goal for online revenue in the next two to three years, with the ultimate goal of surpassing reigning champion Zynga as the biggest social gaming company in the world. Currently the majority of the 100 million people playing EA’s social games are from The Sims Social, which now boasts more than 51 million users. In related news, EA announced that it is creating a spin-off of its NHL franchise for Facebook called NHL Superstars that will launch in October. Meanwhile the gaming giant has signed a distribution agreement with Aeria Games to bring games from its Play4Free division (such as Battlefield Heroes and Need for Speed World) to the 23 million strong gaming network.

MapleStory Adventures Already at Three Million Players
The Facebook version may not be out of beta, but that hasn’t put off fans of the MapleStory franchise. According to Nexon, their first Facebook app MapleStory Adventures has already attracted more than three million users.

Angry Birds + Starbucks = BBFs?
According to report uncovered by Edge, Rovio is in talks to bring Angry Birds to the one of the most ubiquitous franchises in the world, Starbucks. While few details are known, Rovio may be bringing Angry Birds leaderboards into Starbucks as way to encourage people to play the game while they’re getting their daily caffeine fix.

Social Games Can be Hardcore Too
It turns out hardcore social gamers are a lot like regular gamers, according to a study funded by Kabam. In a national research survey, statistics showed that a growing number of young men are “hardcore social gamers” – i.e., they are playing social games from “hardcore” genres like FPS, strategy, RPG or MMO. 82% of hardcore social gamers are also console gamers, and according the study, the lure of the social game experience is siphoning time from consoles. 27% of those surveyed reported a decline in their gameplay on other platforms. The study also showed that the social gaming demographic is growing quickly – 41% of U.S. Internet users reported having played a social game. A full breakdown of the statistics can be found here.

Social Gaming Network Face Up Gaming Goes into Beta
Developer Game Face Gaming is hoping there’s room in the crowded social games landscape for its new online gaming platform, Face Up Gaming. The platform is a non-wagering poker site that combines social networking elements with competitive online gaming. According to CEO Felix Elinson, the goal is to create a global gaming platform that supports cross language play that’s accessible from any internet device. Players will be able to log on, play a game and maintain connections they make with fellow players after the game is over. Face Up Gaming just went into limited beta, with plans to move forward into an expanded beta by October.

GetGlue Adding Social and Game Elements
GetGlue, the check-in based social network for media, has updated its iPhone app and website to incorporate more social elements. Users now have a conversation stream that shows them check ins from their friends and the general user community. GetGlue has also added leaderboards, which show users which of their friends are checking into the service’s most popular content. GetGlue currently has 1.5 million users.

Hanging With Friends Comes to Android
Zynga has brought the latest offering in its With Friends franchise to Android. Hanging With Friends made its Android debut on September 20th as a free download. As a result of the launch, the game is now cross-platform, allowing users on both iOS and Android to challenge one another in the word guessing game.

Capital One Comes to CityVille
On September 20th Capital One launched a major three-game promotion, adding Capital One branded content to CityVille, FarmVille andPioneer Trail.  This is not the first time Zynga has teamed with Capital One, but it is the first time a company has launched a promotion across multiple Zynga games simultaneously.

[Launch] Big Bang Theory Comes to Facebook with Mystic Warlords of Ka’a
The hit CBS show The Big Bang Theory celebrated the debut of its fifth season with the launch of a new Facebook game called The Big Bang Theory: The Mystic Warlords of Ka’a. Based on the character’s favorite game in the show, The Mystic Warlords of Ka’a is a digital collectible card game, where fans can collect and trade cards with one another, play with characters from the series and challenge their friends to matches. The game was developed for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment by Dire Wolf Digital.