Wipe away those tears, put down that handkerchief / gun, because the social roundup is back, friends. What's that? "Damn part-timer," I hear you say? The cheek!

The reason for the feature's absence last week was predominantly due to the sheer number of social gaming related emails arriving in my inbox, causing Google to crash, and my allowance for email storage to be exceeded.

Okay, that's a complete untruth, but to make up for it this edition does include a more hefty bout of social gaming news than usual, including Microsoft looking to get in on the action, FarmVille being played on Google's Nexus One phone, and, of course, a few other bits and pieces.

So sit back, relax, put the pitchfork away and enjoy this week's social gaming fix.

Microsoft getting into social gaming

MicrosoftAccording to US news agency Bloomberg, Microsoft is looking at purchasing the social gaming developer, CrowdStar, allegedly for $200 million. CrowdStar is the company responsible for Happy Aquarium, which enjoys over 50 million users on Facebook.

Other companies have also shown interest, according to Bloomberg's sources, and there is also the chance the developer will opt for private finance to remain independent.

Whether Microsoft acquires CrowdStar or not, it's a big indicator of just how much potential there is in social networking and gaming, and the software giant will no doubt make its way into the industry one way, or another.

Zynga looking to take over India

ZyngaLast week, Zynga announced it would be opening an office in India to develop social games. As the first office outside the US for the maker of FarmVille, is Zynga looking to cut costs with cheaper labour or does it reflect India's growing importance in the world economy?

Mainly the latter I'd imagine, though there is no denying the 81 million internet users coupled with cheaper overheads is a wise move.

In fact, India is expected to become the third largest online market by 2013, behind China and the US, respectively, so if anything this will further cement Zynga as the largest social game developer.

The office is expected to hire around 100 staff, on top of the current 800.

OpenFeint X to bring a Facebook/Xbox Live type service to mobile

OpenFeintRecently, Aurora Feint launched private beta testing for the new service, OpenFeint X. Feint, what?

Essentially, the service will act like Facebook and Xbox Live in terms of allowing developers to add games, with a load of core services thrown in – like the ability to chat, news feed, incentivised invites when friends sign up and more.

Aurora Feint will also let developers view detailed analytics, implementation of in game-specific currency and allow access to a cloud infrastructure. An easy and unified way to play free games with micro-transactions, in short.

“OpenFeint X is the culmination of bringing the best of Xbox Live and Facebook’s App Platform to the iPhone, and extending the multi-billion dollar virtual goods social gaming economy to mobile," said Peter Relan, Executive Chairman of Aurora Feint. “OpenFeint X is the platform on which the next big social gaming companies will be created."

OpenFeint, the existing free service, tracks player achievements and statistics from over 1,000 App Store applications. Over 12 million people use the service, with growth of over 25 per cent a month.

FarmVille hits 80 million users, pay to play quashed

Yes, that constant badgering from friends to get you to join must be working. Zynga's insanely popular FarmVille game has hit over 80 million users. It was rumoured recently that the farm simulation would also be leaving its beta phase, and would be charging users to play.

However, the email allegedly sent to FarmVilleFreak.com said the expanded service would start on March 31st, meaning the first day would be on April Fools. Also, Zynga denied the rumour in a recent conversation with CNET.

Panic over, perhaps, but considering a recent survey showed only a third of avid social game players pay real world money for virtual goods, an adjustment may still be made when the farming behemoth finally loses its beta tag.

But the simple fact is, if a third of 80 million pay with real world money, and this figure continues to grow as it has, it's hardly pittance. And I doubt many would keep playing if a subscription based service came into fruition. Would you?

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Rounding off FarmVille news is the revelation that Flash 10.1 (Flash is what's needed to run FarmVille) will be released to various mobile devices later in the year. Above is a video of the game running on Google's Nexus One smartphone.

It appears to run okay, but with a 24x24 farm it could prove slightly troubling to have to scroll everywhere. It's annoying enough on a small monitor, let alone on a 3.2-inch screen.

Still, there are ways to get round that and considering the Snapdragon processor coped with the game, that's a big head start for getting FarmVille on the move. Besides, no longer will you have the worry of not farming your crops when away from the computer.

Playfish launches Pet Society Movie Awards

If you happen to play Pet Society, or someone in your family does, now is the time to get creative. Playfish, the developer behind the game, recently launched a competition challenging players to recreate famous movie scenes using their virtual pet avatars.

Avatar entryFor the younger player, this could be great fun and a chance to win Playfish cash to further pimp your pet, as well as the Golden Mayor Award. There are ten categories in which you can win, including best comedy, best action, best musical, best thriller and an overall award so the Golden Mayor Award does enable strong bragging rights.

I'm not sure my reenactment of the final scene from Scarface I envisioned would go down too well amongst the younger players, if it's even possible, but it's food for thought.

If interested, follow the link to the Facebook page.

Harry Potter In other news

* In the coming weeks, we will have access to beta testing for Brave Arms, developed by 3G Studios. If you didn't know, it's a promising looking Facebook first-person shooter we covered here.
* According to Gamasutra, Social network hi5 has purchased social games developer Big Six. "This acquisition brings both great technology and great talent into our company," said Alex St John, hi5 president and CTO.

Data Club

More statistics from App Data, looking at the top ten games based on the number of daily active users (DAU), taken on the February 26th.

1. Farmville 28,497,011
2. Café World 9,331,910
3. Mafia Wars 6,258,344
4. Texas Hold'Em Texas Hold Em Poker 6,034,693
5. FishVille Fishville 5,573,209
6. Happy Aquarium Happy Aquarium 4,751,699
7. PetVille Petville 4,522,487
8. Pet Society Pet Society 4,115,530
9. Restaurant City Restaurant City 3,425,399
10. Happy Island Happy Island 3,150,537

In case you're curious, here are the top ten social developers, based on the number of users. The plus or minus indicates an increase or decrease in the number from last week's data, while 'n' indicates a new entry.

1. Zynga - 241,429,667 (+)
2. RockYou! - 90,695,513 (+)
3. Facebook - 73,187,618 (+)
4. Electronic Arts (Playfish) - 52,257,167 (+)
5. CrowdStar - 50,556,592 (-)
6. Slide, Inc - 38,977,322 (n)
7. Six Waves - 32,867,950 (+)
8. Mmkay - 25,910,540 (+)
9. Playdom - 24,911,822 (n)
10. Causes - 23,770,010 (+)