WeTopia is a new Facebook game from Sojo Studios, an American company specializing in the concept of socially conscious gaming — or "Play for Good" as they term it. WeTopia is part social game, part charity drive, and is designed to raise money for a variety of good causes.
By Pete Davison From Inside Social Games
WeTopia is, at its heart, a very conventional citybuilding sim. Players are tasked with building up a community by raising its population using houses; developing income streams by building shops; cultivating supplies for businesses through growing crops; and decorating the city for additional benefit. The basic mechanics are almost identical to the many other examples of this crowded genre on Facebook, with one notable exception: the Joy system, and this is where WeTopia's charity angle comes in.
Certain buildings, actions and quests produce Joy in addition to the usual citybuilding game rewards of experience points, soft currency and supplies. Joy items, which appear in the form of hearts, are collected in the same manner and stored in their own bank. When a player has accumulated 100 or more Joy, they are able to make use of their Joy Center structure.
By clicking on this, players are presented with a variety of real-world charitable initiatives in the U.S. and Haiti (with African projects promised "soon") and invited to donate their Joy to a project that appeals to them. The player then sends a balloon filled with their sent Joy to the project in question, which spits out rewards of soft currency and additional Energy while it is on its way.
Joy benefits these real-world projects by taking 50 percent of the game's profits from advertising and premium item sales (and no less than 20 percent of revenue, according to Sojo) and sending to the non-profit partners who have signed up to benefit from WeTopia . At the time of writing, these include Save The Children, Help Heal Haiti, BuildOn, Stop Hunger Now and the Children's Health Fund. So far, the game has helped to successfully fund a "summer enhancement" program in the U.S. from Save The Children; a hot meals program from Help Heal Haiti; the construction of a school in Moline, Haiti by BuildOn; and the provision of a pharmacy to the Haitian people from Help Heal Haiti.
Social features in WeTopia include various viral promotion mechanics to encourage friends' participation. A number of special Joy-producing buildings in WeTopia require staffing by Facebook friends in order to complete construction. Players are also able to visit each others'communities to help out, and may also send gifts to one another.
WeTopia monetizes through the direct use of Facebook Credits in-game. Buildings which require staffing by friends may also be filled by spending Facebook Credits, and a variety of special structures may only be purchased through the use of Credits, also. Many of these premium structures produce considerably more Joy than those purchased using only soft currency, so paying players will be able to have a greater impact on the game's partner projects and thus raise their in-game "Joy Level" quicker, unlocking access to more and more profitable structures.
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