When MindJolt SGN abandoned their (fluff)Friends game, an entire community of players was left dazed and confused. They weren't entirely sure what to believe - they'd been lied to, subjected to half-truths and corporate spin, and certain issues were never resolved.
They'd been told that rumours about the closure of the game were merely the result of overreaction and paranoia. The reason for a lack of updates was due to a new artist, and new pets would be available for purchase and adoption the next week. Subscribers who had been waiting for their plush toy for many months to even a year were assured that they'd receive that part of their promised subscriber benefits in the near future.
Days before the impending release of new virtual pets, the announcement was made that the game was now abandoned by the developers. It would remain open so that people could spend the virtual currency that they'd purchased with real money. A global announcement was not made for a good while, and a large amount of players were unaware of this development, whilst the option to purchase virtual currency was still available. After a protest about the unfairness of purchases made without full access to the facts, some players received a refund.
The game soon crashed. Facebook was blamed, despite the fact that all game developers, including MindJolt SGN, had been made aware back in May 2011 that games would have to conform to new Facebook requirements, such as secure browsing, by October 1st. More promises were made - it would be the highest priority of the developers to get the game back up and running. After a lengthy wait, the game was closed completely but a new and "exciting" future of (fluff) was announced - Fluff Friends Rescue.
Fluff Friends Rescue is a completely different game to the original (fluff)Friends. As the name implies, in Fluff Friends Rescue players can rescue pets, nurse them back to health, look after them and find them a new home. The only thing the games have in common is that they're pet games, and some of the images of Fluff Friends Rescue pets were first created for (fluff)Friends.
That cute little calico that people purchased in the original game can now be rescued in the new one. The black cat with the red ribbon was called the Spirit of Halloween in (fluff)Friends - she was the highest prize in a Halloween event that caused players sleepless nights to complete.
MindJolt SGN were hopeful that the (fluff)Friends gaming community would be excited about their new game, but the players were unimpressed. They'd lost faith in the company. Besides, Fluff Friends Rescue is only available for iPhone and iPad. It can't be played on the Facebook platform.
This didn't stop MindJolt SGN from their next questionable move; last week they decided to migrate (fluff)Friends users over to the new game, which added tens of thousands of "likes" to their fan page.
The players of the original (fluff)Friends game were not informed about this move, nor had they given consent. Many, no doubt, are still unaware that they are now showing support for Fluff Friends Rescue. Confused and angry people who questioned the move on the Fluff Friends Rescue fan page had any and all comments removed from the page's wall. A statement was made by MindJolt SGN representatives that if players did not want to be a part of the future of (fluff), they could simply "unlike" the game, but that didn't really address the issue.
Some people did "unlike", only to find themselves showing as "liking" the game again the next day. They've been migrated to a game they never opted to install, nor share their private information with. The game they'd been moved to can't be accessed or played, because it doesn't actually work on Facebook. It is a vanity move on MindJolt SGN's part to make Fluff Friends Rescue look more popular than it actually is.
It doesn't reflect well on the company, and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who is in a partnership with MindJolt SGN, may not be pleased to learn about the tactics employed. Even though MindJolt SGN claims that "no private information was collected during this migration", former (fluff)Friends players are discovering that they are now sharing their private information with Fluff Friends Rescue.
Facebook does allow migration, but there are strict rules surrounding any move of "likes". Here's how it should work: from 1 February, Facebook will remove all Facebook Application Profile Pages. Developers can create a new fan page and request a transfer of "likes" to this page. The fan page must have the same name as the game it represents, and must be of the product/application category of the relevant game. The transfer of "likes" will allow developers to still publish updates to the users who "like" the game.
What MindJolt SGN has done differs from this in the following ways: they replaced the (fluff)Friends game users had added on Facebook and given permission to access their data to with the Fluff Friends Rescue game they'd never chosen to add. The developers did so without notifying the users and without giving them the opportunity to opt out. Therefore, users are now sharing their data with a game they've never played and never had any interest in.
The developers created a fan page with the same name as the new application, and migrated (fluff)Friends' Profile Page "likes" over to the Fluff Friends Rescue fan page. Technically, this page does have the name of the game it represents, but in practice people were moved game A to game B, not from an old page for game A to a new page for game A. This shows game B as having a lot of support, which might lure anyone interested in game B into thinking it might be a good product if tens of thousands of people have clicked that "like" button.
Though users can remedy the situation by "unliking" the page and removing the application, data has already been shared and not everyone is in the position to remove the game. Amongst those migrated over are (fluff)Friends players who, sadly, have passed away. Their pages remain intact, and their beloved virtual pets remained with them until the game ended. MindJolt SGN may well be unaware of this, but nevertheless, these people are now counted as supporting a completely different game.
Such practices lead to a loss of confidence in companies and Facebook games. People aren't numbers to move around and manipulate at will. They will speak out and they will move away from companies when they are used and are treated with disrespect. They will also share their experiences with others.
Gamers are clever. They are perfectly able to make up their own minds about what they like and what they don't. Respect has to be earned, and so does public support, including Facebook "likes".
Follow Kit Marsters on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JKMarsters