What Happens When Social Games Die

What Happens When Social Games Die

In the past few weeks, Zynga has closed down Ponzi Inc. and now Roller Coaster Kingdom. Kyle Orland has written an interesting article for Games.com pondering the implications of the closure of such games and what shutting them down means for social games as a whole.

The first point he makes is that the standards for what makes a profitable game on Facebook have skyrocketed, at least for companies like Zynga. Roller Coaster Kingdom and Ponzi have 1.2 million and 221,000 players, respectively. Those are not FarmVille numbers, but they are way larger than those possessed by the majority of games launched on Facebook this year.

If Zynga, with 1000+ employees, can’t make those numbers work, what’s the hope for the average social game developer? Either Zynga’s overhead is way too high (what have those 1000+ employees been working on lately?) or the economics behind social games have changed so that you need extremely high scale to be profitable.

His second and more interesting point is about the legal and ethical issues around closing a Facebook game with little notice. People invest time and accumulate virtual items of value in games. If you just shut down a game, that property disappears. The EULA, as Kyle Orland points out, probably covers Zynga and companies like that when they shut down and say your Ponzi points now count for some other random game. It’s bad customer relations, though. One wonders how much it really costs to just run the games on cruise control and whether they should have just let the games die their natural course than cut the cord.

Regardless of what’s in the End User License Agreements (“EULA”), there will be lawyers out there that will file a class action lawsuits if shutting down good, but not growing, social games unexpectedly becomes a trends in social games. Companies like Zynga have too much money to not be a target and the legalities behind EULA documents that can be changed without the user’s consent are not as clear cut as attorneys may say they are. My guess is that they really have never been challenged in higher court in regards to the issues of virtual items and currency. To read the full article on Games.com, you can go here.

Editor’s Note: To read more articles by Joel Brodie, be sure to visit Gamezebo.com.

About Joel Brodie
Joel Brodie is the founder of casual game reviews site Gamezebo.com, a leading online magazine which offers coverage of the latest game downloads, including news and analysis on the casual game download, social gaming and free-to-play businesses.

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