Social Gaming Roundup: Square-Enix, Zynga and Haiti, and More

Square Enix May Go Social: With Japanese developer, Square Enix, this week, raising $400 million in funding, a recent analysis by Screen Digest suggests that a major acquisition may be in the company’s future. The belief is that the mainstream developer will be following in the footsteps of Electronic Arts, in reference to its recent purchase of social developer Playfish. At the moment, the speculations are all merely rumors, but based on past confirmations from President and CEO Yoichi Wada, the company has looked into social gaming before, and according to analyst Ed Barton of Screen Digest, Square also has a total of $880 million, on hand, and ready to spend.

Zynga Players Help Haiti: Though it is not possible for everyone to head to Haiti and help out, Zynga game players are doing their part, having raised $1.5 million in five days. More than 300,000 individuals contributed to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) by purchasing limited edition virtual goods within FarmVille, FishVille, Mafia Wars, and Zynga Poker. 100% of all proceeds went directly to WFP, with $1 million coming from FarmVille alone.

TAITO Chooses OpenFeint for Social iPhone Apps: TAITO Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix and major Japanese mobile game developer, has chosen Aurora Feint’s OpenFeint platform to empower its mobile titles with social capabilities. TAITO is also a major partner to one of Japan’s mobile social network operators, DeNA– creator of Mobage-Town – with whom Aurora Feint also partnered with last October.

$1.38 Billion Invested into Online Game and Virtual Goods Firms: The downtrodden economy didn’t hurt everyone as a recent report, the 2009 Virtual Goods Investment Report by Engage Digital Media, is stating that the past year tallied somewhere around and over, $1.38 billion in investments for online games and virtual goods-based businesses. The number of companies said to have received investment is at 87, but of that total, 29 did not disclose the amount of money involved. These values were not actually included in the $1.38 billion estimate.

gWallet Launches Early-Stage Venture Fund: Another announcement this past week came from virtual currency monetization company, gWallet. The company will be launching a new, early-stage venture fund called gWallet Ventures to invest in social gaming companies as well as attempt to drive new innovations within the social gaming realm. Currently, investments are said to range from $100,000 to $1 million per company and will also be tied with the monetization options gWallet already provides.

ISN Virtual Worlds Announces Oasis Foundation Virtual World Project: Thursday, ISN Virtual Worlds announced the first steps in rolling out the Oasis Foundation Virtual World Project (the Oasis Foundation is an Italian nonprofit organization focused on the medial care of the elderly and disabled). The virtual world will be built on top of the Second Life Grid and will be intended to provide the elderly with a form of community interaction.

According to ISN CEO, Mattia Crespi, the project already has $3.5 million in funding, which will not only pay for the development, but management as well that will consist of staff from ISN, Oasis, and even the community. Furthermore, the world will contain learning sessions for the “Oasis Virtual University” and will hold content such as producing virtual goods, culture and releigion, machinima, and even family assistance and help from psychologists.

AppStoreHQ Uses Twitter for App Discovery: With over 100,000 applications, AppStoreHQ is looking to help people discovery new and interesting iPhone applications. via Twitter. By looking at Twitter’s public stream, it will actually make recommendations based on who is tweeting about what in regards to iPhone applications. In a nutshell, every time anyone links (in a positive light) to an app it is treated like a vote, thus the more apps are tweeted about, the more recommended they become. Unfortunately, for the system to work properly, keywords such as “iPhone” or “AppStoreHQ” must be within the actual tweet to find it.

To further prune down recommendations, the system also looks to see what games you might be tweeting about. Based on how many apps you tweet about, the recommendations become more specific to what it determines as something you might like. Moreover, clicking app links as well as favoriting them on AppStoreHQ will also affect  how recommendations are made.

CrowdFlower Raises $5 Million: CrowdFlower, a provider of “labor-on-demand,” announced that it has closed a $5 million Series A round led by Trinity Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners. The company makes use of what it calls “machine learning algorithms” to provide quality control to crowdsourcing, making it easier and less expensive for companies to find online labor. With the new funding, the company is looking to expand its repertoire of client solutions as well as provide its services worldwide.

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