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Foursquare unveils its SXSWi arsenal

In heated war with rival Gowalla for the geek seal of approval at the annual digital culture festival, Foursquare unveils new badges, new partners, and new promotions.

With only a few days to go before the annual South by Southwest Interactive, location-based mobile networking service Foursquare has unveiled its plans for the Austin, Texas digital culture festival: 16 new "badges" that users can unlock by "checking in" to certain venues, with cryptic names like "Swimmies," "Decathlon," and "Survivor."

The company says users will be able to score temporary tattoos of the badges if they show the digital badge to a member of the Foursquare team at a designated location, meaning that there will likely be many SXSWi-goers with nerdy emblems plastered on their exposed skin.

It's the second year that Foursquare has launched SXSWi-specific badges--last year, too, marked the service's relatively quiet launch. But this year's SXSWi is increasingly looking to be a showdown between Foursquare and close competitor Gowalla, which is based in Austin and has pumped quite a bit of money into event sponsorship and a flashy tiki-themed party on Monday night. It's also started to ink the same types of promotional deals that Foursquare has (with sponsored Gowalla virtual goods instead of Foursquare badges), partnering with the Travel Channel for a "Food Wars" campaign and with SXSW sponsor Chevy.

Foursquare's SXSWi page lists a number of partners for the festival, including beverage giant PepsiCo (also a sponsor of SXSW itself), film brand IFC, indie media outlet Good, music magazine Spin (which has four branded badges of its own), and PayPal, a partner for a charity campaign to support Haiti relief.

Foursquare is throwing its own SXSWi party--on the same night as Gowalla's, to boot--and has teamed up with Twitter client Brizzly and the Ashton Kutcher-founded Katalyst for it. Kutcher is himself a Foursquare user.

Also: The start-up's executives will be bringing along physical playground-style rubber balls for games of old-school foursquare.