Social Gaming News Roundup: Google+, Rovio and Toyota

Google Narrows Social Focus – Google is now a little less social after axing Google Buzz, Jaiku and the social features on iGoogle. The move, according to an official post by Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of product, is in order to allow the company to focus on Google+.

Social and Mobile Pushing up Gaming Investment –  According to a report issued by British investment bank Digi-Capital, games investment has shifted to online and mobile companies thanks to the prospects of high revenue growth and healthy profit margins. The report also found that due to the growth of social and mobile gaming, investment in the industry is increasing, with funding nearly doubling between 2010 and 2011.

Matsuyama: I Dislike Social Games – In a candid interview with Gamasutra, Hiroshi Matsuyama, CEO of Japanese developer CyberConnnect 2 heavily criticized social games, saying most social titles are “not fun at all” and that he only plays them for business reasons.

John Belushi Comes Back to Life in Social Game – Entertainment Games has signed a deal to bring John Belushi to their as yet, unannounced social game. The Pennsylvania based company has acquired the rights to use Belushi’s likeness in the game and in virtual goods, according to Entertainment Games president, Gene Mauro.

Wizardia to Make Social Games More Social – Lithuanian developer Yummi Apps is hoping that their upcoming game Wizardia, a GPS based game for both Facebook and smartphones will bridge the gap between the social and real worlds. In Wizardia, users build their kingdom on Facebook, but will also need to complete quests and track down opponents for battle in the real world using the game’s mobile app.

Fake Names OK on Google+In a presentation at the Web 2.0 Summit, Google+  boss Vic Gundotra said the social network will soon allow users to go by their online handles if they choose, but did not give a firm timeline as to when pseudonyms would be integrated into the network.

Angry Birds Even More Popular – TechCrunch is reporting that during the Web 2.0 Summit, Rovio’s North American general manager Andrew Stalbow updated the audience as to just how popular the franchise is now. According to Stalbow, Angry Birds is now up to 400 million cumulative downloads, 120 million MAU and 30 million DAU.

Black Rock Becomes West Pier – Five former employees of Black Rock, a studio closed by Disney Interactive Studios have reformed under the banner of West Pier Studio. According to studio’s website, the team will be focusing on online and mobile titles.

Egyptian Social Startup Gets $1 Million in Funding – Egyptian developer Nezal Entertainment has received $1 million in series A funding from Arab firms Ideavelopers and Tamkeen Capital to develop games for the growing Middle East and North African market. Nezal has released one game for Facebook thus far, tower defense title Defender of Arabia.

House of Fun Proves Popular – Earlier this week Pacific Interactive touted that over a million people had already tried its new Facebook game House of Fun. According to a press release from the developer, the game has attracted almost 700,000 MAU since its debut on September 13th. Our full review of House of Fun can be found here.

[Launch] Toyota Promotes Car with Social Game – Toyota is drumming up interest for its latest concept car with a social game on Facebook according to All Things Facebook. Social Network Racer turns a user’s Facebook page into a 3D race course, and users can compete with their friends to become the fastest racer on the social network. The promotion runs until the Tokyo Motor Show opens on December 31st and the winner receives a free trip to Japan.

[Launch] Woodland Heroes Debuts on Facebook – Florida based startup developer Row Sham Bow launched its debut game this week, action/strategy title Woodland Heroes. Row Sham Bow was founded by a group of former EA executives.