Posted 3/15/11 : The online social gaming giant Zynga was much in evidence at the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Texas this week, punting its forthcoming inaugural live poker tournament in Las Vegas later this week, and revealing that the generosity of Facebook players on its games has enabled it to raise a million dollars in a remarkably short time for Japanese earthquake victims.
The development power behind hit online social games like Farmville, Zynga Poker, and Mafia Wars also unveiled a new rewards program for its titles, which have over 250 million users on major social sites. Dubbed Rewardville.com, the new program makes it possible for players to shift winnings such as virtual goods, status or money between different games and use rewards to help out friends playing other Zynga games.
"With RewardVille, our aim is to delight players by rewarding them with new Zynga-level points and exclusive limited edition virtual items," said Zynga vice president Roy Sehgal.
Zynga Poker general manager Laurence Toney was on hand to push the live tournament poker event, which starts March 16 and will enable internet poker fans to test their mettle in a live environment.
"The goal of our first live poker event and tournament is to bring Zynga Poker fans from Facebook to the felt," said Laurence.
Zynga was founded in July 2007 in San Francisco by Mark Pincus, who named the startup after his late American bulldog Zinga. The company is known for combining philanthropy and business, having raised more than $5 million for charitable causes through game play.
In the latest humanitarian crisis in Japan, Zynga is offering digital donation channels and has taken only 36 hours (and counting) to raise $1 million for Save the Children Japan relief efforts, asking users to donate through the purchase of virtual goods in FarmVille, CityVille, FrontierVille and other games.