Playdom co-founder starts Wild Needle to focus on social mobile games (exclusive)

Rick Thompson is hoping that lightning strikes another time. Thompson was the chairman and co-founder of Playdom, the social game company that Disney bought last year for as much as $763 million. Now he has started a new game company, Wild Needle, focused on social games with a location twist.

Virtual currency transaction provider Tapjoy raises $21M

Tapjoy, a transaction provider for games and sites that use virtual currencies, announced today that it has picked up $21 million in its third round of fundraising after shedding a bit of a dirty image in its old incarnation.

From Kinect to Angry Birds — the biggest video game stories of 2010

During 2010, we wrote about 1,100 stories on the video game industry — and the year isn’t over yet. But here’s a look back at what we thought were the biggest stories of the year. For fun, here’s a link to our story from a year ago, when we deemed that the biggest story of 2009 was that the industry discovered that video games weren’t recession proof.

Zynga launches Mafia Wars Atlantic City for mobile phones

Zynga launched a mobile version of its Mafia Wars Atlantic City game today. The game is the social game company’s first designed for the mobile Web in the HTML5 format, and comes as it’s seeking to show potential investors that it has more tricks up its sleeve than just social games on Facebook’s website.

CityVille could surpass FarmVille’s 56M users in a few days

After just 18 days, Zynga’s CityVille social game has soared to more than 47.9 million monthly active users. At its current growth rate, CityVille could surpass FarmVille, currently the largest social game at 56.3 million monthly users, in a matter of three days or so.

As its CEO steps down, what’s happening at RockYou?

News broke late yesterday that Lance Tokuda is stepping down from his role as chief executive of social game- and app-maker RockYou. Coming barely more than a month after the company announced substantial layoffs, we started wondering where RockYou is headed. So I got on the phone with chief operating officer Lisa Marino to find out.

Social game company Summerlight comes out of stealth (exclusive)

Social game companies such as Zynga owe much of their success to Facebook. But they’ve learned the lesson in recent months that they should diversify beyond the fast-growing social network. Recognizing the need for diversification, they are creating their own web sites where they can launch their games.

CrowdStar says It Girl social game is raking in the revenues

CrowdStar, a fast-growing social game company, believes it has created a next-generation Facebook game with its successful It Girl title. The game makes at least three times more money per player than any other game CrowdStar has released on Facebook.

Zynga to expand social game empire to Seattle

Zynga, the fast-growing maker of social games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars, has just posted a bunch of job openings for a social game studio that it will open in Seattle.

Microsoft executive: Xbox Live is the hook that will sell Windows Phone 7

The best feature of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s mobile operating system, is one that will differentiate it from the rest of the smartphone platforms on the market: Xbox Live integration. This feature will help players carry their online persona into the real world, said Matt Thompson, general manager of developer and platform evangelism for Microsoft. Thompson made the comments at the GigaOm Mobilize conference in San Francisco today.

Is companion gaming Ubisoft’s answer to Zynga? (video)

Last night, game publisher Ubisoft unveiled its strategy to get big on social and mobile at an event in San Francisco. Ubisoft’s digital game chief, Chris Early, joined the French video game publisher six months ago to try to bring it into the age of social gaming. Many traditional video game companies are doing the same, launching small efforts one at a time. But those games aren’t getting noticed.

Zynga’s data-junkie leaders aim to improve game design for hit social games

Social game publisher Zynga has become the fastest-growing startup in the valley in part because it is run by “data junkies” who measure every click in every game. At the same time, Zynga is paying more attention to the long-term efforts of its veteran game designers, who have developed an intuition about what games will be popular.

Zynga CTO: We turn on 1,000 new servers a week for FarmVille and other games

Each day, Facebook game developer and FarmVille creator Zynga delivers about a petabyte of data — that’s 1 million gigabytes, or more than six Libraries of Congress — for its array of social games, chief technology officer Cadir Lee said at the Oracle OpenWorld  2010 conference in San Francisco today.