With "SimCity Social," "The Sims Social" and "Pet Society," game publisher Electronic Arts succeeded in creating three accessible, addictive Facebook games that both core and casual gamers enjoyed. Gamers now have about two more months to enjoy them. On June 14, EA will put the games out to pasture, along with any in-game purchases that players made.
While the games boasted up to 10 million daily active users in 2011, these numbers have fallen to about 500,000 in recent months.
Online games do shut down now and then, and one of the thorniest issues is what happens to players' in-game purchases. Some games require a subscription cost, making endgame costs easy: The subscription fee simply stops. In free-to-play games, where players have paid for unused items and in-game currency, the situation is not quite as clear.
"Players are encouraged to redeem and spend their remaining [in-game money] before the game is retired on June 14," EA community specialist Beverly Myshrall wrote in a post. "After that date, you will need to contact customer service regarding your [in-game] cash cards." She does not specify what, if anything, customer service can do at that point to assist. We reached out to EA, but the company did not respond to our query.
The forums for these games will be shut down as well. EA plans to roll out new Facebook games to fill the void and will reward veteran players, but offers no further information at present. [See also: Top 10 Most Trusted Facebook Apps ]
Two months is more than enough time for users to spend their remaining in-game money, but many forum commenters wonder what the point is.
"I will not put any more money, time or effort into playing a game that is ending," wrote Patty Switzer, a fan of "The Sims Social," on the official forums.
If the games had narratives to explore or complex gameplay systems to master, rushing through their content in two months might make sense. However, social games thrive on social interaction, repetition and the slow accumulation of assets over time (like buildings in a city, furniture in a house or animals on a farm). With no predetermined end-goal, spending additional time or money in these games seems counterintuitive.
If three popular games from EA can shut down, smaller titles are by no means immortal. Over the next few years, a number of free-to-play social games will sunset, and players will, inevitably, feel ripped off. The days of simply buying a boxed game and owning it forever may be coming to a close, with all of their associated upsides and downsides.
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