Digital expropriation
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 June 2013, 4:48 am
Seems that I chose a good time earlier this year to leave Facebook. Some of the biggest makers of Facebook games, including Zynga and EA, this year abandoned quite a number of previously successful games. That quite annoyed those who were still playing games like The Sims Social or SimCity Social, even if user numbers had shrunk from 65 million to 5 million.

But what I find most interesting is that everybody who bought virtual property in these games basically lost everything. Zynga and EA gave a handful of freebies in other games to people who lost their virtual property in the games that closed down. But there were no refunds, nor was the compensation is any way measuring up to the large amounts of money some of the "whales" spent.

People who hate Free2Play games anyway and consider anybody spending money on them to be stupid will just laugh, or point out that virtual property doesn't legally exist in most Western jurisdictions. But just as people believe they own the games they bought on a disc (which they don't), they also believe they own the golden cow or palace or whatever they bought in a virtual world.

The obvious risk for the game companies is that the whales are going to wisen up. If the company you gave a lot of money to for your virtual property can expropriate you at any time with no legal recourse, a lot of those purchases suddenly look a lot less attractive. Especially if they don't give an immediate benefit but were purchased more as a long-term status symbol. When the game shuts down, those status symbol at best survive only as a personal screenshot nobody cares about. If that happens to you once, you're not going to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on the next game.
Tobold's Blog



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