Social Gaming Roundup: Mergers, Funding, Azure Toolkit, PlayPhone, & More

Amazon Moves Into Social Games — IndustryGamers reports that RPG game designer Jonathan Tweet has been hired by Amazon for what could be the social games job they wanted to fill back in May. Details aren’t immediately clear, nor has there been any announcement of a Google-developed social game.

Azure Toolkit for Social Games — A preview of the Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games has been made available this week. Through the new toolkit, developers will be able to more easily build social games on the Windows Azure platform, and includes accelerators, libraries, developer tools, and samples tailored to .NET and HTML5 games. It also supports leaderboards, user profiles, and in-app purchases.

Unilever Enters Social Gaming Through FarmVille — Unilever has entered the social gaming space with its LUX brand via the Chinese version of FarmVille this week. Through the social game, they have launched a limited-edition event dubbed “LUX Fantastical Manor,” which was created by advertising agency JWT and Zynga for Unilever. The one-month event will allow users to decorate their farms with various LUX-branded beauty items.

PlayPhone Signs Top Chinese Mobile Developers — Mobile entertainment content distributor PlayPhone announced at the Casual Connect conference this week that it has signed a deal with two of the largest Chinese mobile game developers, China Wireless Arts and Magic Universe. Through the partnership, the former will bring their title “Journey to Egypt” to Android for the PlayPhone Social patform. The latter is to incorporate the MMOG “Latent Dragon” for Android as well.

Social Gamers Plant 25,000 Trees — Talkie CEO Chris Swain issued the “Plant a Real Forest Challenge,” in association with Conservation International and Trees for the Future to Ecotopia players last month. The challenge had players planing 25,000 trees, in-game, in 25 days. For each in-game tree, Talkie committed to planting a real life within the Guaranta, Promissão Reunidas, Promissão Dandara and Arco Iris communities in São Paulo, Brazil.

[Launch] Pet Society Vacations Hits iOS — Playfish has expanded its Pet Society title into iOS with the launch of Pet Society Vacations. The new title is free-to-play and allows users to take their virtual pets off to island paradises, customizing their very own houseboat.

Playdom’s Next Title: Galaxy of Wonder — It looks like Playdom is expanding into the stars with its City of Wonder IP. Earlier this week, the company posted a teaser trailer on YouTube entitled Galaxy of Wonder. The developer’s newest game, City of Might, is expected to launch in the coming weeks.

Diversion Raises Series B Funding, Signs $1M deal with Sony Pictures — In a press release sent out today, L.A.-based social gaming startup Diversion has raised a second round of funding from TomorrowVentures, Hearst Corporation, and The Tornante Company. The amount of the funding has not been disclosed, but the Fame Town developer also signed a $1 million advertising deal with Sony Pictures. Its newest game, The A-List, just launched last week.

Quepasa & myYearbook Merge — Social games developer and social network owner Quepasa Corporation announced a merger with social mobile platform myYearbook. The $100 million deal ($82 million in Quepasa common stock and $18 million cash) will effectively double the pair’s user base with over 70 million registered users for the web, 2.2 million mobile instalss, 11.5 million mobile game installs, 2.1 million social game installs, and a consolidated TTM revenue and EBITDA of $33.6 million and $5.9 million respectively.

[Announcement] Double Down Adds Social Slot Tournaments to Facebook Game — Social and casual games developer Double Down Interactive has announced the introduction of “Social Slot Tournaments” within its Facebook title DoubleDown Casino. The new feature is available on all 10 of the slot machines in the social game, allowing 100 players to compete against each other with the top 10 earning virtual currency prizes.

[Announcement] Arkadium Opens Mobile Gaming Headquarters in Toronto — Casual games developer Arkadium has announced that it is expanding once again, this time opening a new mobile gaming studio in Toronto, Canada. Focusing on HTML5 and iOS titles, the new studio is slated to bring ten new games to market over the next year.

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