Real money invested into in-game virtual currency irredeemable and not transferable to other titles

PopCap axes game played by 750,000 people

750,000 customers have been left in the dark after EA PopCap dropped ZipZapPlay’s Facebook game Baking Life.

The game will officially go offline on January 31st, with customers told to spend their remaining virtual currency before then, as it will not be redeemable nor transferable to other titles after that date.

Money already invested on in-game items will also not be transferable to other titles either, with the entire game and user profiles being affectively deleted.

The removal comes despite the Facebook title having more than 760,000 monthly average users and 100,000 daily active users.

The move exposes the high level of authority online developers can have over their customers in the social and online games space.

Customers may invest their time but, as is only made explicitly clear when games close down, they technically do not have ownership of browser games which are serviced to them.

The developer said on its Facebook page that it was upset to drop the game, but recommended users move to other PopCap titles such as Bejeweled Blitz and Zuma Blitz – two titles unrelated to Baking Life’s genre.

“Unfortunately, we had to make a very difficult decision to shut down the game,” said PopCap’s VP of communications Garth Chouteau to Inside Social Games.

“The Baking Life player numbers have dropped in such a way that Baking Life is no longer performing well enough to justify continued support. As such, we are reallocating resources to games that we are developing for future release.”

Chouteau did not clarify whether the game was still profitable at 750,000 users.

In July 2010, Zynga made a similar move by shutting down online game Street Racing, despite customers having invested real money into the Facebook game.

The social games giant then also directed users to other unrelated games such as FrontierVille, in a move to shift its userbase.

A petition was published on the Zynga forums, with many fans outraged at the game’s closure and refusing to play titles from the company in future, but the company did not reverse its decision.

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