PopCap killing off Baking Life, not offering refunds or exchanges for customers' money

Owen Hill at

Baking life - Baking lady is sad

Are you one of the 100,000 daily users who enjoy creating recipes, baking goods, hiring your friends, and serving customers each day?

Probably not, but that's not the point. PopCap are closing down Baking Life at the end of January, and any "Zip Cash" bought with real-life money will be erased from existence.

I've never baked a virtual cake via the Baking Life app, but that PopCap aren't offering any exchange or refund option sets an ugly precedent for the value of microtransactions and gamer's rights. As pointed out in the screenshot below, PopCap seem keen to redirect players to alternative Facebook titles, but don't seem so keen on converting player's funds.

Those 100,000 daily players seems like a lot, especially when the most popular game on Steam right now is Counter-Strike, with 56, 776 active users. But when you compare those figures to the 8.6 million players who log into Cityville every day, you begin to understand the monstrous scale of Facebook gaming.

There's also a huge cost involved in running these games, from operating the game's servers to providing customer support. But that's very little comfort to gamers whose money is about to vanish.

I visited the Baking Life Terms and Conditions page for clarity. Handily, the relevant parts were capitalised:

"ZIPZAPPLAY RESERVES THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE IN ITS SOLE DISCRETION THE PAYMENT METHODS WHICH MAY BE USED BY YOU TO PURCHASE VIRTUAL ITEMS AND VIRTUAL CURRENCY, AND HOW, WHEN AND FOR WHAT PRODUCTS OR SERVICES VIRTUAL ITEMS AND VIRTUAL CURRENCY MAY BE REDEEMED. IN ADDITION, ZIPZAPPLAY MAY MODIFY, ELIMINATE OR DISCONTINUE VIRTUAL ITEMS, VIRTUAL CURRENCY OR OTHER BAKING LIFE APP SPECIAL FEATURES ENTIRELY AS IT SEES FIT."

EA's general terms and conditions reads similarly, abeit a bit less shouty:

"We do not guarantee that any Content or Entitlement will be available at all times, in all countries and/or geographic locations, or at any given time or that we will continue to offer particular Content or Entitlements for any particular length of time. We reserve the right to change and update Content and Entitlements without notice to you. Once you have redeemed your Entitlements, that content is not returnable, exchangeable, or refundable for other Entitlements or for cash, or other goods or services."

It's worth noting that other game's terms and conditions have the same clause, including League of Legend's Terms of Use, but this is the first time we've heard of a company using these condiitions to delete player's money. PopCap were bought by EA late last year.