“If you’re going to waste your time playing games on Facebook, you might as well do it and help build a better world while you’re at it,” writes Techcrunch.com about Sojo Studios’ WeTopia, an online game launching today that’s designed to have fun while raising money for children’s charities.
It’s a free-to-play Facebook game where players build villages and help their neighbors – all for ‘joy’ currency, in-game coins for real charitable works. They're convertible to real-world non-profit donations to promote healthcare and education. WeTopia is advancing the collective notion of gaming rewards beyond points, discounts and coupon redemption.
“Each purchase results in a direct donation to a real world cause. Buying an in-game fountain, for instance, leads to the contribution of a donation of clean water,” notes Venturebeat.
WeTopia heralds the next iteration of combining social games with non-profit beneficiaries. It's backed by former Facebook employee, Path CEO Dave Morin, with digital doyenne Esther Dyson on the advisory board and an exclusive partnership with Ellen DeGeneres.
"We believe in collaborative play as a force for social good," said Lincoln Brown, founder and CEO of Sojo Studios in a release. "Players can have fun with friends and family in-game, experience the thrill of supporting projects they choose that help people around the world, and track the progress of these projects on a day-to-day basis.”
DeGeneres will offer marketing support and creative input into design of future games. "I am so proud to be involved with WeTopia,” she said. “You know when you hear about an idea and you instantly fall in love with it? That's how I felt when I heard about WeTopia spreading joy to people around the world. It's kinda the same way I felt about Pajama Jeans, only more so."
Sojo, founded in 2010 after the Haitian earthquake disaster, donates 50% percent of net profits to nonprofit groups worldwide. WeTopia’s current partner roster includes: Save the Children, buildOn, and the Children’s Health Fund. Perhaps most distinctive about Sojo’s model, players can generate a donation from a sponsored advertiser through ‘joy’ points, without any money out of their own pocket. Brand partners so far include Clorox, Mattel and (despite working though a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing) Dippin’ Dots.
"What attracted me to Sojo Studios is that it's more than a money transfer system supporting good works. It lets players understand the real-world impact of funds they donate through their game activity – and the real-world problems they address," said Dyson. "Over time, that will lead to greater accountability for NGOs and more productive allocation of funds, as well as more consciousness of the real world outside of games."
“The company is also ‘affiliated’ with Warner Bros., but it’s unclear what that means, exactly,” notes TC. As new games are created, additional causes and organizations will be considered.
As the Monitor Institute noted in its 2010 report, What’s Next for Philanthropy, “If the early signs of philanthropy’s more coordinated, more adaptive, and more impactful future are already present, it’s equally clear that the hard work of learning how to cultivate change in our newly connected world is just beginning. As the forecaster Paul Saffo is fond of saying, “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”
Here’s hoping that ‘joy’ currency proves a clearer view and longer distance for social gaming with heart.