Recently, Google made the decision to kill off a number of its acquired projects; among these was Slide, a social gaming startup for which the Mountain View-based search giant paid over $200 million just last year. As a result, Slide’s games will soon go offline, a fact which has raised the ire of casual gamers all over the Internet.
Google has been in the gaming news lately for how it plans to add game features to its Facebook competitor, Google+. The new social network has a gaming-specific tab that users can use as they see fit – unlike Facebook, you can set your G+ profile to only show games when and if you want, regardless of many of your friends play them.
Instead of taking the current software offered by Slide and porting it over to G+ from its current home on Facebook, Google is planning to dissolve the company entirely. SuperPoke Pets is not the only casualty in this move; other Slide products such as Disco, a messaging app, and PhotoVine, a photo-sharing application that just launched, are also on the hit list.
No doubt that aquiring Slide gave Google some much-needed help during the preliminary stages of creating its innovative new weapon in the social media war, but now that G+ has launched, it seems that their use for the company has dwindled. Instead of trying to sell offwhat remains, or spinning it out as a new company, Google is simply dissolving it – and as mentioned in the headline, it is this fact that has players of its surprisingly popular SuperPoke Pets title…irate.
SuperPoke Pets seemed like a standard casual Facebook game – you can adopt a pet, virtually care for it, connect with others and their pets, and – this is the sticking point, here – pay real money to access extra features in the game. With the game being shut down, users are furious that they will no longer have access to something into which they funneled hard currency. Most of the time, that meant spending real money to increase in-game gold reserves, which they could then use to pay for more in-game items.
A number of complainants are banding together and investing class-action lawsuits in an attempt to regain the money they’ve spent. The profile of players is an unusual departure from the standard gamer; most of them – at least, most of those who are speaking out – are older women in their 30s and up, who used SuperPoke Pets as a means of discussion and bonding. Before traditional gamers dismiss the issue, it’s worth pointing out the parallels to other gaming products.
If Valve went out of business tomorrow, what would happen to Steam? What about OnLive, with their portfolio of streaming games that can only be played online? Rumor has it that Valve could instantly dissolve the DRM protecting their titles so that users could play them even if Steam died out. OnLive, however, has it in their Terms of Service that paying for software on their platform buys you access for as long as the title is available on their system.
Whether the blowback from SuperPoke Pets is enough to make Google reconsider their move is as yet unknown. It’s a case the industry should follow, however, since it offers some idea of the repercussion companies may face as we move increasingly to a digital-only distribution model for software and games.