Oprah wants to thank you for playing her new Facebook game

Plenty of celebrities have lent their name or talents to video games, but few seem as odd a fit as Oprah Winfrey.

Nevertheless, the talk show queen and media maven has teamed with Jane McGonigal, the leader in the ‘gamification’ movement, to create Oprah’s Thank You Game, a Facebook game that lets players, well, thank people.

Really.

Read more at Yahoo! Games

Zynga’s in the black – but for how long?

While the gaming world was busy watching THQ implode last week, a funny thing happened in the background. Zynga began trading in positive territory.

Boosted by Facebook’s IPO filing, the social games maker finally escaped the mire of mediocrity it had been stuck in since its first day as a public company and began to grow. The question is: Is it a short-term surge or the start of a true growth curve?

Read more at Gamasutra

‘Godfather’ social game bypasses Facebook

It takes a lot of guts for a social game to turn its back on Facebook, but you probably would expect nothing less of a game based on the Godfather franchise.

The Godfather: Five Families has decided to bypass the largest social networking site and launch exclusively on Google+.

Read more at Variety’s Technotainment blog

Spotify hits the quarter-million mark

Less than three months after formally bursting onto the scene in the United States, streaming music service Spotify has established an impressive foothold.

Reuters reports the company has signed up more than 250,000 paying customers here since its launch. The company revealed last month that its worldwide paying customer base has topped 2 million.

Read more at Variety’s Technotainment blog

Rhapsody buys Napster

The long-awaited consolidation in the music streaming space is underway.

Rhapsody has acquired Napster from electronics giant Best Buy for an undisclosed price. The deal will combine two of the largest streaming services in the U.S. and could roughly double the number of Rhapsody subscribers.

Read more at Variety.com

Facebook introduces media apps

(Note: This story was co-written with Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein)

At its f8 conference Thursday, Facebook introduced a new class of apps that will allow viewing and sharing of content on its massive social platform via partners including Netflix, Hulu and Spotify.

The apps allow Facebook users to see which songs, movies, TV shows, news and games are being consumed by friends and to sample that content as part of a reformatted Facebook page layout.

Read more at Daily Variety

The Money Making Game #12: The Social Network

We certainly have no problem getting caught up in the fun of playing games, but the people who create them have their pocketbooks to worry about, too. In this column, finance expert and GameSpy contributor Chris Morris guides you through the tricky corridors the gaming industry’s financial side, touching on big-time business decisions and how they matter to the common gamer.

Not too long ago, publishers tended to turn their noses up at social games. Mafia Wars? Poker? Sure, they were mild distractions to entertain people in-between status updates… but a viable economic force? No way! Then FarmVille took off — and the bubble began growing. Big-name developers and executives began defecting. And publishers began investing. Flash-forward to today: No one’s foolish enough to say social (or mobile) games are going to replace console releases anytime in the foreseeable future, but at the same time, no one’s foolish enough to consider the field an afterthought anymore, either.

Electronic Arts, of course, is the biggest publisher to immerse itself in the social network gaming waters. Between its 2009 acquisition of Playfish (which consisted of a $300 million offer with an additional $100 million earnout) and its buyout of PopCap earlier this year (for $750 million and additional earnouts that could ultimately push the price over $1 billion), EA’s not taking the new casual gaming movement lightly.

Read more at Gamespy

Why Hollywood needs to focus more on Facebook

Facebook’s a great way to waste 10-15 minutes. You can catch up with friends. You can let everyone know about the mundane details of your day. And you can learn more about your favorite brands and entertainment content.

Unfortunately, that 10-15 minutes often ends up being a lot longer per day – and, as a result, social media has grown into a viable threat to entertainment companies who are alredy fighting for viewers’ attention.

Read more at Variety’s Technotainment blog

Google+ launches games section, takes on Facebook

The social war between Facebook and Google just got a lot more fun.

Google+, the search giant’s fast-rising social network, has added games to its offerings, encroaching on the most profitable and popular part of Facebook’s empire. And it’s boasting some big titles, too.

Read more at Yahoo! Games

Game Review: Words With Friends (Facebook)

Phone app fans of word games likely already knows about Words With Friends — but adding the popular Scrabble-like game to Facebook should make dwell times on the site soar. You can play multiple opponents simultaneously. And the more games you have going, the more likely you are to stick around. At its heart, the Facebook version is basically the same as the mobile version, but adds a couple new features like Brag Feeds (letting you gloat about triple word scores) and the ability to challenge friends directly through their news feeds.  For word aficionados, this is one Facebook that will be hard to resist.

Read more at Common Sense Media