A large group of people are disappointed, uh, no, actually they are absolutely incensed at Google – so much so that they brought a class action lawsuit against Google. Okay, so here’s what up:
Google is known for acquiring small businesses and startup tech companies they think can become profitable in the future. It’s definitely not the only reason to buy a smaller company – sometimes big corporations buy emerging companies to close them down before they become a real threat later on.
I have written numerous times about how Google is pretty much swimming in cash. They aren’t like most businesses because Google has billions of dollars at their immediate disposal, which comes from advertising revenue. So it’s definitely very easy for Google to produce the cash they need to purchase just about any company they want that is willing to forgo their independence and creative freedom. One of the more well-known acquisitions is the purchase of video-sharing website, YouTube, for over a billion dollars back in 2006 by Google. Some argue that since then, YouTube has become way more interested in making advertisers happy than cultivating the social community atmosphere that was there before Google came along to spoil it.
In the summer of 2010, Google bought another startup tech company called Slide for over $200 million. The company launched back in 2005 and was founded by a man named Max Levchin, who also co-founded PayPal. The company produced several social applications, including one game called SuperPoke! Pets.
Google is desperate to follow the footsteps of Facebook who has been incredibly successful in social gaming. Facebook has a very important mutually dependent relationship with a company called Zynga, which produces social gaming exclusively for Facebook. People spend hours playing games on Facebook and it’s a great way to keep people on the website. Zynga earns 93% of its revenue from the games it produces for Facebook. Facebook relies on Zynga for 12% of its revenue, based on the paperwork the company submitted to file its IPO at the start of this month. The 12% is actually quite significant and some think that it’s actually a low figure which does not include all the ads that are generated by Zynga games.
Google wants to have something like this too and has been trying to make to social gaming a big success on its social networking website called Google Plus. However, Google isn’t really having much luck and has wasted its $200 million investment by purchasing Slide. A year after Google bought the company it closed down all but one Slide product. What a waste of cash – but who cares, Google is loaded.
Anyhow, of all the products Google closed down there is one which Google should have never touched. Google’s destruction of SuperPoke! Pets is not to be forgotten any time soon because people who have spent valuable time, energy, and money on the game will not let Google get away with murder.
SuperPoke! Pets allows users to adopt, name, and care for a virtual pet. They get the opportunity to not only care for their virtual pet but they can also interact with other pet owners in the online game community. The game allows people to customize the environment of their pet, dress them up in fancy outfits, and even purchase “gold”. A whole virtual currency system developed and some people took advantage of all it could offer.
So when Google made the announcement last August that it will be closing the game down permanently in the near future, people were infuriated at Google. Users couldn’t comprehend the rationale behind closing down a popular game. There are some people who spent thousands of dollars on the game buying items and “gold”, which has now all gone to waste. They can probably eventually recoup their lost money, but something fervent gamers can never get back is the time and emotional investment they put into their pets. The pets might only exist virtually, but some argue that they still make the same connection and bonding as you would with a real pet animal.
When the announcement was made to axe the game for good, some threatened to take legal action against Google and the media waited to see if they would follow through with that threat. They did. A group of game users were shopping around for a law firm to represent them and they finally got some help. The case was transferred to federal court in San Jose late last month.
The case is Christalee Abreu V Slide Inc. and Google Inc and this will be watched by many who feel that this could have ramifications for how online currencies work and the whole online gaming industry. The lead plaintiff, Christalee Abreu, says she spent more than a thousand dollars on “gold”. The class action represents thousands of people who also say they spent money and others who say they had VIP subscriptions – they are seeking millions of dollars from Google.
Even if they do end up winning the case and monetary compensation – there will still always be that emotional loss. The social aspects of the game and the valued community will be forever gone. What’s really sad is that this game, according to Dr. John Grohol of Psych Central, appealed to adults, children and handicapped users (who only have a few games limited to them for their use).
We’ll see how things develop with the legal case. Google plans on shutting down the game March 6th, 2012. Good luck to the gamers!
Dr. John Grohol’s article can be read by clicking here