News: Zynga Files Patent Request For In-Game Currency

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.





4 responses to “News: Zynga Files Patent Request For In-Game Currency”

  1. wadirum Avatar

    The very first pinball game I ever played had virtual currency — a high score earned extra games. Or, how about Monopoly. I believe there was virtual currency in that game as well. How can this patent succeed? Then again, why would Zynga try it if it is as likely to fail as I think.

    Finally, can a social game company circumvent it, if granted, by enabling players to redeem vast amounts of virtual currency for a nominal amount of real $$?

    1. Christopher Bowen Avatar

      The problem with allowing virtual currency to be refundable into real world money (RWM) is that it would potentially run afoul of gambling laws in most states. Once you add real world currency into the equation, you’re no longer playing for entertainment. If you’re spending the money with no possible chance of getting it back, it’s just entertainment.

  2. Cedric Best Avatar
    Cedric Best

    This idea of in-game currency is extremely interesting. I was reading up online and i found an idea which seemed related to this which was of a virtual currency system on a social netowrking site that allows you to purchase and be compensated for valuable content you create. This idea is known as a Social Exchange by a company called MyCube

    1. Christopher Bowen Avatar

      It’s interesting if that’s what you’re into. But using your example, if Zynga gets what they want, then MyCube would be in violation of Zynga’s patent.

      I don’t think it will happen – there’s enough prior history to preclude that – but it’s something to consider.

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