According to Venturebeat, Zynga, the company behind Farmville, Mafia Wars and other social games primarily on Facebook, has made a request for a patent on the purchasing of in-game currency. The currency would be non-refundable, and would include the poker chips used in Zynga Poker, which would potentially get around anti-gambling laws in most states.
I’m not really an expert on granting patents, but I would think there’s too much precedent for this to be granted. Virtually every MMO I can think of uses a similar system, not to mention Xbox Live. If it is granted, however, the consequences could be wide-reaching. For one, it would swing the relationship between Facebook and Zynga back in the favour of Zynga, who currently uses Facebook Credits, wihch leads to a heavy fee off the top to Facebook. If this was granted, Zynga would be able to play hardball with Facebook: either give us what we want, or we’re going solo, which would be potentially bad for Facebook as they’d lose their #1 advertiser. However, it would also potentially leave a chilling effect for other free-to-play MMOs, and possibly for Microsoft and other companies that have their own currency for buying things, be it DLC or games. It would be extremely ironic if Zynga, a company that got where it is by blatantly infringing on others’ copyrights, were granted this patent and started enforcing it stringently.
The full patent request can be read here.
Tags: facebook, farmville, zynga