Wildlife Refuge: Sony Online release third Facebook game
Sony Online Entertainment have just released a brand new game on Facebook today titled Wildlife Refuge. The main objective to this game is around exploring while out in African safaris to rescue animals and take care of them in your own refuge. This is the third attempt at a Facebook game for SOE; their first, PoxNora has only 502 people playing each day, and their second The Agency: Covert Ops has dwindled away in traffic down to only 13,000 MAU (down from a fairly mediocre all-time high of 391,000). Wildlife Refuge appears to be poised to fair better than The Agency, as it's rooted in some successful games of its type and has a cute factor that the Agency was missing. Let's take a quick peek at this new game.Wildlife Refuge is a game that's fairly new in theme, but borrows heavily from other games in feature. In this game, you are the owner of an animal refuge. You explore out in the wilderness to find animals who are hurt and in need of assistance, and you bring them back to your refuge. After rehabilitating them for some time, you release them back out into the wild in order to gain XP and increase your Ecosystem Rating. Exploring and uncovering new animals uses a very FrontierVille or Treasure Isle-esque energy mechanic. You have to click on trees, rocks, dens, and stumps to try to uncover animals. When you find one, you actually uncover an animal track that you need to click on several times to actually reveal the animal. Once you find an animal, you place it in storage and you can take it out back on your refuge in order to click on it to 'care' for it.
The game uses an Almanac to keep track of the animals that you have discovered. Some animals require you to have reached a certain level before you can bring them home, and others require that your Ecosystem Rating be at a certain threshold. This puts an element of complexity into the game that might work for or against it depending how easily players grasp the concept. In addition to th e Almanac that gives you animal goals, there is also a quest system similar to FrontierVille that tells you what crops to plant, decor items to buy, and objectives to achieve in order to keep the player interested and knowing what to do next.
Players can breed animals and share the offspring with friends, run poachers off each other's refuges, and help each other build their buildings using the standard collaborative building feature that most games are using right now. This is where the social features come in, which appear to be done better than The Agency (where it wasn't apparent what having friends would actually do for you).
One interesting thing that Sony has done here is come out of the gate with a partnership with the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Players who purchase particular animals for the game's paid currency, Station Cash, will be donating part of the profits to a real world organization. This element of charity will undoubtedly work well for Sony, as players will be more likely to pay real world money for an item if they know that it is going to a good cause.
The game is well done, and aside from a few usability issues in the game such as the inability to click through objects which hinders finding tracks, Wildlife Refuge is poised to do decently for Sony Online. If it doesn't take off and do well, it could be because the game mechanics themselves are not innovative. Zoo/animal rescue/safari games are not new on Facebook, and neither are games with collections, quests, energy, and the same style of gameplay as Wildlife Refuge. It's not a direct clone of any other games, however, therefore it's possible that it could have the right mix of theme and gameplay elements to be the first Facebook game hit for Sony.
Play Wildlife Refuge on Facebook >