WeTopia on Facebook: Spreading joy to the globe that you can see

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Shortly after the dawn of social games, their capacity for doing good has been tested ever since. The bigger companies simply run charity events that donate a couple hundred thousand dollars to Cause A or B, never really displaying their impact. Smaller companies have built entire games around the concept, some of which more successful than others. New York-based Sojo Studios hopes to have cracked the code to social games for good that both make a difference and are fun to play.

This is WeTopia, the developer's first game designed to get players to do good, see that good in action and enjoy themselves while doing it. While the game touts some impressive artwork, it doesn't look like much more than your standard city-building game in vein of CityVille. Players are tasked with turning a sad excuse for a city of children into a thriving metropolis with homes, shops, playgrounds, schools and more. Of course, players are guided through quests and governed by energy.
WeTopia in action
Again, this is typical social game stuff. But consider the gameplay a shiny set piece to WeTopia's real goal: helping children. Nearly everything players do in the game produces Joy, a resource that can only be used in the Joy Central located in every player's WeTopia. You can (and should) then use this resource to "Give Joy" to any one of three charities through Joy Central. (We're told that Sojo Studios has already partnered with 12 charities vetted through a 20-criteria process.)

When spread to these charities, Joy increases the actual funding those charities receive through what WeTopia earns via a combination of advertising dollars and direct profits from in-game purchases using Facebook Credits. Through this, Sojo Studios will give away 50 percent of all profits (and no less than 20 percent of its revenue) to the charities it partners with. Once a charity or cause receives 100 percent Joy, that effort is fully funded. While that number will be smaller at the start, as this is a new venture for CEO Lincoln Brown, it's unprecedented nevertheless. Of course, friends can send extra Joy to one another.
WeTopia on Facebook
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WeTopia on Facebook: Spreading joy to the globe that you can see
"We really studied the psychological triggers for how people relate to giving in a way and in an interface that they can relate to and want to engage with," Brown tells us. "And you don't ever want to overwhelm people with it. It hit me at that point that [players] want the fantasy, to be able to escape and have fun while still doing good. So, the idea for WeTopia hit me, which is we come together to build a better world for children. But it's children of all backgrounds. If you've ever been to Disney World and been on the ride It's a Small World, it's kind of similar to that."

That said, WeTopia does allow players to directly purchase in-game items and boosts to energy, but they'll all soon be attached to real world items that will be given to children. For instance, if you purchase a special tree or a pair of glasses in the game with Facebook Credits, perhaps a school will have a tree planted or a child will receive a new pair of glasses, respectively. The first instance of which is similar to the Tom's Shoes movement: Players can buy a Sole Square decoration for 4 Facebook Credits, and Soles for Souls will provide one pair of shoes to a child in need.
WeTopia Joy Central
WeTopia also addresses the common disconnect between doing good and seeing the good you do take effect. At any point, players can access a world map that will, in time, show the progress of every charity WeTopia is attached to and its progress. Better yet, every charity has its own Facebook fan page that players can interact with as teams on site in locations throughout the US, Haiti and soon Africa update said pages with photos, videos and blogs detailing their progress. WeTopia has even garnered support from the celebrity world: Ellen Degeneres is on board.

"I am so proud to be involved with WeTopia," said DeGeneres in a release. "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."
Based on an early look at the game with Brown as our guide, WeTopia looks like it might just have cracked the code to social games for good that are actually fun to play. But more importantly, this social game increases the connection between the donators and those in need, displaying their impact for all to see and share. Here's to hoping WeTopia succeeds where many have failed on Facebook.

Click here to play WeTopia on Facebook Now >

Have you ever donated to charity through a social game? Do you think WeTopia looks like a sound answer to failed social games for good? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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