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Superpoke Players Sue Google 160

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the that's-my-virtual-purse dept.
mikejuk writes "SuperPoke Pets is another casualty of Google's aggressive spring cleanup... But unlike other users of Google's trashed software, Superpoke users have decided to fight back with a class action. The aim is to recover the money they spend on virtual gold used as a currency to buy clothes for their virtual pets. The total 'amount in controversy' exceeds $5,000,000 — a sum that is credible given that there were at least 7,000,000 users. So if you are considering adding a virtual currency to your app you might want to think of the future."
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Superpoke Players Sue Google

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:46PM (#38968159)
    I dont want to live on this planet anymore... But really, unless there was a 'we'll never shut down" clause in the user agreement I dont see the idiots winning this one.
    • by Ultra64 (318705) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:47PM (#38968171)

      "5 mill on virtual pet cloths?"

      averages out to less than a dollar per person.

      what's the big deal?

      • by residieu (577863)
        But the lead plaintiff spent $1000, apparently. That's a lot of fake clothes. I wonder what the numbers are like if you ignore all the users who didn't spend anything.
        • by spidercoz (947220)
          Christ on a cock, how bereft of meaning is this person's life? What, all their real pets kept committing suicide?
          • by asdf7890 (1518587)
            It depends on that person's income, assets, and other outgoings though. To a rich sad person $100 might not be much compared to the total scale of disposable income.
        • And how much is the lead plaintiff spending on legal fees? With what chance of success, given the legal team Google has on hand? Should have just eaten the $1k. Throwing good money after bad if you ask me.

      • "5 mill on virtual pet cloths?"

        averages out to less than a dollar per person.

        what's the big deal?

        So if you bought a song or an app for 99 cents and it didn't work, you'd be okay with that? They're virtual too. Just data in your computer.

      • by iamhassi (659463)

        "5 mill on virtual pet cloths?"

        averages out to less than a dollar per person.

        what's the big deal?

        Haven't you seen Superman III, Hackers or Office Space? [wikipedia.org]

        Turn in your geek card.... and everyone that modded this Insightful, shame on you!

    • And this raises another question: How much were they spending to keep this stupid shit running? I know that 5 million is pocket change for Google, but I assume they wouldn't shut it down unless it was actually losing money.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        Well it is a Facebook game. No point enriching your main competitor. I would have thought they'd try and shift it lock stock and barrel to Google+ though. That's assuming it weren't see as anti-competitive which it may well have been.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      I dont want to live on this planet anymore... But really, unless there was a 'we'll never shut down" clause in the user agreement I dont see the idiots winning this one.

      Problem is the expectations of users. Back a few years ago Google was Shiny, Fun, Friendly, doing good things, going neat places.

      Now Google is yet-another corporation, swaggering and doing the things Corporations do, which is whitewash this, discard that, trample the disires of their customers on the way to where they think the next buck (of saved buck) is.

      I find Google changing things in ways which I'm now finding, not just vexing, but utterly disruptive - it's like they don't want to leave well enough al

      • by Surt (22457)

        Somewhere in that big campus off Charleston Road, there's gotta be someone who asks the question, "Is it right for our users?"

        and is listened to.

        I'd say the evidence suggests otherwise. (Though I know you meant this as a recommendation rather than a statement of fact). ;-)

      • by wjousts (1529427)
        Really? This surprised you?
        • by lgw (121541)

          It surprised me. Google's early success came entirely from respecting its customers - no monkey punching, just text ads. They made a ton of money keeping to that theme. Departing from it seems stupid, and I fully expect them to depart from their successful track record as a result.

          • by wjousts (1529427)

            It surprised me. Google's early success came entirely from respecting its customers

            Yes. early success. Back when they weren't making money hand over fist. Back before they realized they could make much more money by not doing that.

            Also, needless to say (especially since somebody else has already replied), but you are not their customer, you are the product.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Really? This surprised you?

          Nope. Not surprised. Disappointed, certainly. I had high hopes for Google after the craptacular experience I'd been going through with Yahoo. The reason Yahoo failed after such a brilliant start was creating horrible interfaces and saturating pages with ads. People left for Google because it was simple, uncluttered, pleasant to use. Now Google isn't so simple, uncluttered or pleasant to use, particularly when it directly affects your personal interests -- and personal interests are why people gravitate

      • I find Google changing things in ways which I'm now finding, not just vexing, but utterly disruptive - it's like they don't want to leave well enough alone.

        Somewhere in that big campus off Charleston Road, there's gotta be someone who asks the question, "Is it right for our users?"

        and is listened to.

        Yeah, like the new YouTube channel layout. Its not only Google that has this problem though. The rest of the Web 2.0 companies have the same "this new and shiny interface is great, and you MUST like it and use it" mentality. To make things worse, some of the interface designs are just braindead, do these multi-million dollar companies hire anyone with a background in human-computer interaction or do any user testing?

    • In other news....an elephant farts on the savanna. Details at 6.

    • by unity100 (970058)

      so, governments spending 100+ bn/year to railguns and whatnot, is something better ?

  • by asdbffg (1902686) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:48PM (#38968175)
    but only if you promise to buy REAL clothes this time.
  • by Rone (46994) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:50PM (#38968215)

    I'm sure the SuperPoke EULA had provisions stating that all virtual currency purchased for use in-game was non-refundable, no matter what.

    In light of that, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out in court. If Google doesn't settle, and loses, we could possibly see an EULA-affecting precedent come out of this.

    • I'm sure the SuperPoke EULA had provisions stating that all virtual currency purchased for use in-game was non-refundable, no matter what.

      In light of that, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out in court. If Google doesn't settle, and loses, we could possibly see an EULA-affecting precedent come out of this.

      Like a precedent that EULAs are unenforcable? That might actually make some sense.

      • by Rone (46994)

        I've heard of some EULA-upholding precedents (no time to Google for citations at the moment, sorry), so I doubt that they would get nuked across the board.

        However, a narrowly-focused precedent barring/limiting "no refund" clauses would be quite welcome.

        Such a precedent could also be used to mandate refunds for DRM-protected materials in the event that the parent company shuts down / goes bankrupt, which is one of the biggest problems with our increasing use of digital media (books, movies, etc).

      • by 0racle (667029) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:15PM (#38968571)
        [citation needed]

        Enforceability_of_EULAs_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

        The enforceability of an EULA depends on several factors, one of them being the court in which the case is heard. Some courts that have addressed the validity of the shrinkwrap license agreements have found some EULAs to be invalid ... Other courts have determined that the shrinkwrap license agreement is valid and enforceable ... No court has ruled on the validity of EULAs generally; decisions are limited to particular provisions and terms.

    • by lostmongoose (1094523) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:58PM (#38968335)
      If Google loses, then every F2P MMO that has shut down and had cash shops will have to pay up to the users who bought items and game currency.
    • by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@g m a il.com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:11PM (#38968515) Homepage
      It would seem to me digital items are provided as a SERVICE, not a PRODUCT. If I get a contract with a cell company, and then my contract runs out (or they go under or something), I am not entitled to get my money back because I was paying for a service and not a physical product (well I may have paid for my phone but I get to keep it if my contract included paying for it). Similarly when I buy a digital item, there is no physical product. I am buying the service of using this imaginary item. The only issue here is when I buy this service for unlimited usage, should I be compensated when the service is stopped? Even if the answer is yes I doubt the full amount will be refunded, because the users got usage out of the "service".
      • by sjames (1099)

        If it is unlimited, the pro-rata portion used will be 0 since there's an infinity in the denominator.

      • Recompensate only those who got less than 3 months of service out of it. If you like interpolation or extrapolation or want to avoid the edge, recompensate those partially who got less than 6 months of service, too.
  • by mr1911 (1942298) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:54PM (#38968281)
    We are suing Google because we have no life and are stupid. We can prove, in court, we have no life and are stupid. Pay up Google.
  • Yea, one of my first thoughts was "Huh, so these women are no different from the usual angry, 14yo, console-shooter kids.". Which means Google has nothing to worry about since they're all talk and no action; and they'll have forgotten about it in a month or two anyway.

    -- AC, http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2402118&cid=37239112 [slashdot.org]

    Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

    -- William Congreve

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is why I pay the rent instead of buying fake money with real money.

    • This is why I pay the rent instead of buying fake money with real money.

      Yes, but what makes real money "real" vs "fake" money fake? Maybe they are not so much different things in reality? The courts will decide.

      But I'm with you, "get a life".

      • As far as I'm concerned, if I can take it to the grocery store and buy coke & chips, it's "real". That would include the proper green paper, various sizes of coins, and plastic cards with magnetic strips. And exclude Bitcoins, Linden bucks, and whatever this "Poke" stuff uses for money.

        • As far as I'm concerned, if I can take it to the grocery store and buy coke & chips, it's "real". That would include the proper green paper, various sizes of coins, and plastic cards with magnetic strips. And exclude Bitcoins, Linden bucks, and whatever this "Poke" stuff uses for money.

          So what *YOU* use for money is money, but what *OTHER PEOPLE* use for money is not?

          YOU can not take Korean Won or whatever they use in Kurdistan for money to the local 7/11. Does that mean it isn't money?

          These morons trade pooka shells for fluffy goat sex options, thus pooka shells are demonstrably MONEY.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          So you have a dollar in your hand, and you buy a coke, that's real money.

          But you use that same dollar to buy a digital item, and suddenly it's not money?
          WTF?, over.

          I mean, you DID read the article and understood they spend actual government backed green backs to buy the gold in the game, right? I mean, you wouldn't be one of those douche bags that spouts off without getting informed, correct?

    • by Shompol (1690084)

      This is why I pay real money for a temporary permission to squat on somebody's property instead of buying fake money with real money.

  • by Riceballsan (816702) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @12:57PM (#38968325)
    The one thing I don't really get, superpoke had a rabbid insanely loyal fanbase... why didn't they just port it to G+, leave it in the games tab just like all of their other games that can't annoy people who don't use it, and basically have millions of people with a reason to sign into g+ on a regular basis? That being said, I also don't see a single way that the users can even expect to have a shot in a million at this, games with microtransactions shut down, it is a fact of life. That is what you get when you buy image files on someone else's server.
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      Maybe they were so rabidly insane that any change brought out the worst in all of them? There is such a thing as a customer that isn't worth having. Perhaps there were ~7 million of them on this game.

      • True, but G+'s design is rather on the nice side, things/people you like are easy to view, things/people you dislike are easy to filter out. 7 million people joining, and getting some of their friends/familly to join etc... even if the 7 million are all jerks, it sounds like they lack the one trait that people complain about on G+, inactivity.
    • by Anonymus (2267354)

      Google seems to be doing everything they can to tank G+ for some reason. The "accidental" deletion of email when closing a G+ account at the beginning, requiring real names and 18+ years old, censoring photos, and, as you mentioned, buying beloved companies every month just to shut them down (a la Microsoft?) rather than integrating... someone over there needs to be sacked.

      • Google seems to be doing everything they can to tank G+ for some reason. The "accidental" deletion of email when closing a G+ account at the beginning, requiring real names and 18+ years old, censoring photos, and, as you mentioned, buying beloved companies every month just to shut them down (a la Microsoft?) rather than integrating... someone over there needs to be sacked.

        So, your virtual Chihuahua is running around naked, is it?

      • by swillden (191260)

        The "accidental" deletion of email when closing a G+ account at the beginning

        Never happened. Shutdowns of G+ accounts got conflated with the case of a guy who got all his Google services shut off due to using them to trade kiddie porn. Mix that with a bunch of Google hatred and the meme got started, but it never actually happened.

        requiring real names and 18+ years old

        I suppose. The real name requirement was to make it easier to connect with people you know and to keep spam down. Lots of people liked it, and still do. Not everyone, obviously. The 18+ requirement was just to minimize legal and privacy risks early on

    • by jittles (1613415)

      The one thing I don't really get, superpoke had a rabbid insanely loyal fanbase... why didn't they just port it to G+, leave it in the games tab just like all of their other games that can't annoy people who don't use it, and basically have millions of people with a reason to sign into g+ on a regular basis? That being said, I also don't see a single way that the users can even expect to have a shot in a million at this, games with microtransactions shut down, it is a fact of life. That is what you get when you buy image files on someone else's server.

      They may be suing for virtual currency that they had bought, but not spent. If that is the case, then I hope they win. It would be very shady to sell people millions of dollars in in game currency, and then just cut the cord on the game and keep the money. If I paid for a year of WoW service and Blizzard shut that down before I used it, I'd want it back. I don't think this is terribly different (though admittedly they could have consumed the in-game currency at any time, and didn't have to hold on to it

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      I'm not seeing an intersection of these virtual animal people and people with the skills to do such a port. OK, sure maybe they could, but I'm going with the 'highly unlikely' category.

  • Somewhere a TF2 player sporting a $1500 Unusual hat is chuckling about how cute this is.
  • I think the judge should first remove all money spent on one use items that were then used. The players got benifit from the item so there is no reason to get a refund. Next all items that were purchased prior to the last month of play whose value is less than $100 should be excluded. If you had a item for a month then you got your use out of it. Google should refund the rest.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @01:27PM (#38968711)
    Superpoke Pets was a game that Google acquired when they acquired Slide. Users can purchase virtual items like clothes with real money. Google has decided to end the game (various reasons). Google has created an export tool but users complain it doesn't work quite right. So now a class action lawsuit to refund users' real money to the amount of $5M for all 7 M users. The main plaintiff personally spent thousands herself. Am I the only one that thinks there is no basis here?
  • Some sad people have spent a lot of money on virtual goods, believe the service should be run in perpetuity and have failed to read the terms and conditions which doubtless say otherwise.
  • Then when I get kicked out of my flat, I can sue the landlord for all my rent back.
  • Wait, so Google managed to collect $5M in revenue in exchange for "virtual" goods (basically, nothing) and still couldn't manage to make Superpoke profitable? Hey Mit Romney, what was that you were saying about about how the Government is so inefficient but private enterprise does a better job?

    • Wait, so Google managed to collect $5M in revenue in exchange for "virtual" goods (basically, nothing) and still couldn't manage to make Superpoke profitable? Hey Mit Romney, what was that you were saying about about how the Government is so inefficient but private enterprise does a better job?

      How long did they run the service for? Did they have big teams working on content / improving the service? At 1$ per player over the lifetime of the service it's not exactly huge revenue, it's not like it was run from somebodies basement...

  • Spending thousands of dollars on a virtual pet? Please. That's more than a dog or cat costs to operate, and is getting into the range for horse owners. Arguably, though, if Google marketing materials encouraged people to invest money in virtual pets, they may have some responsibility for devaluing the asset.

    (Social networking for people with no life is profoundly depressing. I'm currently doing some analysis of spam on Twitter. So I have to look at Twitter's feed of randomly selected public tweets. The

  • This will hopefully be a few more people that will learn the lesson not to buy imaginary shit.
    • This will hopefully be a few more people that will learn the lesson not to buy imaginary shit.

      What's not imaginary these days? I don't know about this service as I never heard about it until today, but how is spending 10$ on a movie ticket different from spending 1$ while playing a game online for days? At the end you got an experience from both of them, and that's all you are left with afterwards.

      • I'm not really going to argue that but then again I don't go to the movie theatre and buy DVDs instead which I do get to keep.

        But that said no one is expecting to own the movie. The problem is with stuff like this (or hats in TF2) is that I don't think they make it clear that you aren't buying a hat like you're buying a real hat. Unfortunately people aren't that bright so that's why they get upset over this but not their theatre ticket.

        With physical games though I do think it's worse. Some does get to
  • Crappy Title (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fnord666 (889225) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:47PM (#38971023) Journal
    Just to be clear, this is about SuperPoke! Pets [superpokepets.com].

    SuperPoke! [wikipedia.org] was a social media application that was made by independent developers and was later acquired by a company called Slide. It allowed social media users to do such things as hurl virtual sheep at their friends instead of just "poking" them. SuperPoke! Pets evolved from this, taking the same artwork and building a virtual pet environment.

    Superpokepets.com [wikipedia.org] was created as a stand alone web application. People could migrate their pets from the social media sites if they wanted. All of this, plus several other social media applications, were owned by Slide when it was acquired by Google. Google allowed Slide to continue to operate semi-autonomously for some time, but has since decided to dissolve/disband it. Employees will be assimilated into the Googleplex and the apps will be shut down. If Google were to continue to support this application, they would have to fund enough servers, databases, support desk, etc. for a 7M+ userbase. Apparently it was not worth it to Google to keep it running.

    I don't believe that the social media versions of this application ever had a virtual currency, but I might be wrong. From what I read, currency was added after the web application was created and I suspect that it was only available there.

    Interestingly, Google did go so far as to create a standalone version of the environment that users could migrate their pets to if they wished to keep playing with them. Apparently this is a bit buggy, and does not support interacting with other users, but it was a good idea. Might be nice if they were to open source either the standalone application, the web application, or even both. From the sound of things it doesn't seem like they are looking to sell it off. My kids loved to play in these sorts of virtual worlds when they were younger, and if I had the code I would have been willing to stand up a small version for my children and their friends.

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      According to the article:

      Soon afterwards it was acquired by Slide and new features, including the ability to buy virtual gold bars with real money were added by the time it launched on its own website in December 2008.

      So the timeline might be a bit in question. However, from the article comes this tidbit (this appears immediately before the "total amount in controversy..." quote in the summary, which is word for word from the article):

      class action represents thousands of people across the who purchased gold and/or subscribed to a $4.95/month VIP subscription

      So it's not only about people buying clothes for their pets. Furthermore, the article claims users were:

      misled about how long the game would continue

      It also was apparently a game that was accessible to and enjoyed by handicapped users. Given that handicapped users often can't play a lot of other games, and by

  • by Sentrion (964745) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:09PM (#38971319)

    There are countless examples of services people pay for that could leave them high and dry if they are not careful:

    1. Gift Cards. Often have expiration dates or monthly service fees that eat away the value of the card even though the card has been paid for with real cash and the company keeps, and usually reinvests, this cash. And the card is no longer redeemable if the company goes bankrupt.
    2. Overpayments on credit card balances. Just before the banking crisis and TARP bailout, a group of executives at one of the largest banks debated on whether overpayments on credit cards would be a monetary asset belonging to the individual, or free cash for the bank. The executives concluded that they had the full legal right to re-appropriate any overpayments to the corporate asset sheet, but backed away from this plan just before it was about to go forward because of fears about public backlash.
    3. Obsolete products. Think about the 1.3 million customers who bought HD-DVD players and drives. They cannot play their HD-DVD movies on Blu-Ray players and they cannot play Blu-Ray discs on their HD-DVD players. So many of them are stuck with two players and a movie collection divided into two completely different incompatible formats. Over the span of a single lifetime a movie aficionado might have to buy the same movies in five or six different formats just to be able to view their favorite movies with current technology. And support for obsolete technology (such as media, spare parts, repair services) fades quickly.
    4. Legal tender. Want to talk about fake money? How about the US Dollar, which is a FIAT currency backed up with no physical or practical value other than the "full faith and credit" of the US Government. Same can be said as well for most government bonds, certificates of deposit, and other instruments. The potential for a collapse in "real" currency value or a default on government bonds is just as real as the discontinuation of SuperPoke gold.
    5. Coupon books and discount memberships. Do I need to elaborate?
    6. Insurance. Even though there are some government regulations in place and most insurance companies are insured by an even bigger company, like AIG, there is no absolute guarantee that insurance will be available to bail you out when you really need it. If they don't find some way to categorize your claim into one of their many and ambiguous exclusions, there is still the potential that an insurance company and it's backer could both go bankrupt at the same time, leaving you on your own without compensation for your losses. Government may bail you out, as happens with some natural disasters, but this has not always been the case.
    7. Warranties, guarantees, service contracts, and other contractual provisions. Again, if the company goes out of business none of these "fake" products are likely to be available to you. In some cases, even your contractual rights can be violated. If the company you buy from has agreed by contract not to share your personal information with outside parties, that contact can be (and in some instances has been) nullified in bankruptcy. In one recent case the personal information collected under such terms was sold to another company for top dollar in a corporate bankruptcy auction.
    8. Your rights in general. There are no guarantees that your rights, statutory or constitutional, cannot be revoked at any time, either by the legal procedures that already exist, or by illegal actions taken by powerful dictators, corrupt bureaucrats, or foreign invaders. Your rights in a court of law are also hindered by the practical reality that holding your ground and defending your rights in court involves court costs, attorney's fees, legal services (such as process servers or expert witnesses), and potentially a truck load of office supplies, stamps, and clerical services, not to mention your limited time that you might need to earn a living to support a family. Getting help from law enforcement or an attorney general is apparently possible fo

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      1. Gift Cards. Often have expiration dates or monthly service fees that eat away the value of the card even though the card has been paid for with real cash and the company keeps, and usually reinvests, this cash. And the card is no longer redeemable if the company goes bankrupt.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_CARD_Act_of_2009 [wikipedia.org]
      The rules were changed for gift and credit cards because of the abusive industry practices you describe.

      • by swillden (191260)

        1. Gift Cards. Often have expiration dates or monthly service fees that eat away the value of the card even though the card has been paid for with real cash and the company keeps, and usually reinvests, this cash. And the card is no longer redeemable if the company goes bankrupt.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_CARD_Act_of_2009 [wikipedia.org] The rules were changed for gift and credit cards because of the abusive industry practices you describe.

        Somewhat. Dormancy fees can't kick in unless the card is unused for 12 months and expiration dates have to be at least five years out. All of the money still evaporates in a bankruptcy.

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      So basically go be a survivalist in the deep woods somewhere. Check.

    • by wrook (134116)

      Gold's real value as a physical object isn't really tremendously better than paper money. It has a few uses, but far and away it's major value comes from scarcity in comparison to demand. While it is very true that gold has a much longer tradition than strips of cotton/paper/rubber/plastic as a currency, it's intrinsic value is dwarfed by the value placed on it by society. It isn't particularly more or less suited to being a currency than other traditional physical currency. They all depend on tradition

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