Social Gaming Roundup: Xbox Updates, Gowalla Funding, Virtual Goods, and More

Christmas SweaterXbox Suits Up for the Holidays – Microsoft has laid out its holiday plans for Xbox Live, and they include a myriad of deals, including new avatar items. The specials are starting out with new holiday and tokidoki outfits for sale in the Avatar Marketplace, with some special Disney Classic items coming on Christmas Eve. Furthermore, December 18th will kick off twelve days of special holiday deals in which Microsoft will host one-day sales for Xbox Live Marketplace items including games, movies, add-ons, and themes. [image via Gaming Angels]

MOL Global Buys Friendster – While rumors about some sort of sale have been out there for awhile, Friendster has now officially been acquired by MOL Global, a division of online payments company MOL AccessPortal Berhad. The purchase price has not yet been disclosed but MOL is looking to combine its services with the existing Friendster platform to create a content distribution and e-commerce platform for the Asian market. Currently, MOL holds a network of 500,000 payment channels across 75 Asian countries, while Friendster has over 75 million users of the same demographic.

GowallaGowalla Raises $8.4 Million – Location based mobile game/app, Gowalla looks to be doing well as it has just raised $8.4 million in a Series B round led by Greylock Partners. Other investors include Shasta Ventures, Maples Investments, Ron Conway, Kevin Rose, Gary Veynerchuk, Shervin Pishevar, Jason Calacanis, and Chris Sacca. This brings the investment total for Austin-based company, Alamofire, to $10 million.

PlaySpan Releases VGMarket Digital Goods Study – PlaySpan and VGMarket recently completed its virtual goods study on user buying habits. The study surveyed 2,425 random individuals that made use of either the PlaySpan Marketplace, Spare Change, and/or the Ultimate Game Card. In a nutshell, the study noted that 80% of users make virtual goods purchases for themselves to use in game, with the other 20% gifting them. Furthermore, roughly 66% bought virtual goods once per month while 25% did so once a week. Of everyone, however, 7% made daily purchases and 12%, yearly.

Another curiosity was that most users will not purchases virtual goods from third parties. 42% refused to do so out of fear of getting their account closed while another 42% were afraid of scams. 9% just didn’t know they could.

The full report can be found here.

ConnectDingSony Offers Players Virtual Goods Rewards – Sony Online Entertainment has launched Facebook pages Twitter accounts for its three big MMORPGs, Everquest (FB, Twitter), Everquest II (FB, Twitter), and Free Realms (FB, Twitter). In order to get players involved in these new pages, they have created the program, ConecDING, that will reward users with virtual goods when the social media pages reach a certain number of fans or followers.

There will be three milestones of 5000, 10,000, and 25,000. At each one, players of each game will be eligible to receive 250 in Sony’s virtual currency, Station Cash (SC), 250 SC and a virtual good worth10,000 SC, and 500 SC and an item worth 25,000 SC respectively. For Free Realms, the goods will be a House Frog and Small Dance Floor; for Everquest they will be The Tome of Friends and The Magic Lute; and for Everquest II it will be The Cloak of Pie and an unannounced item.

GetHealthReformRightVirtual Currency Used to Fight Health Care Reform? – This past week a health insurance group called Get Health Reform Right was apparently sponsoring ad offers that were actually paying social games players in virtual currency to send letters to Congress that opposed the health care reform.

The Business Insider describes the act as “virtual astroturfing,” with astroturfing being the act of orchestrating a campaign yet disguising it as spontaneous public opinion.

YouWeb Invests into Social Gaming – YouWeb, founded by Oracle Internet executive Peter Relan, announced Friday that it is going to begin heavy investment into social gaming in 2010. The focus will be to jump start an entire “ecosystem” centered around its social gaming companies of CrowdStar, Aurora Feint/OpenFeint, and Sibblingz. All ready the “ecosystem” has many entreprenurial startups involved, but by the looks of things, they intend to concentrate the “efforts of entrepreneurs around the real opportunities using its perspective gained” from the aforementioned big three.

YouWeb also plans to host a Social Gaming Eco-System Summit at some point in the near future. It is here that it will clarify and outline these “plans” and “opportunities” for its companies.

SekaiTonchidot Gets $4 Million for Augmented Reality Virtual Goods – Augmented reality, the combination of real world objects with virtual ones, is a growing space in the mobile field, but a Japanese startup by the name of Tonchidot is taking a new perspective on the matter. The company just landed $4 million in funding from DMC and ITOCHU Technology Ventures for a very diferent monetization concept. Based on early demonstrations, the technology could allow brick and mortar locations to sell virtual goods using the “Sekai Camera System.”

Mochi Media Surveys Flash Game Developers About Monetization – Among other results, 20% of developers said they make more than $1,000 a month on games. More here.

Answer Our Inside Social Games Weekly Trivia Question, Win a Free USB Drive from Surfpin – Tell us the correct answer to the following question before anyone else, and mobile payment company Surfpin will award you an 8GB Surfpin-branded USB drive in the shape of a credit card. The question, drawn from an article we published this week, is as follows: What type of game mechanic is being favored by a large game developer these days, to the exclusion of still-popular titles? Send the answer to eric (at) insidesocialgames (dot) com.