My sympathies to the people who will be loosing their virtual estate here -- it is never fun when you invest time and/or money in an activity just to see it disappear.
On the other hand, I must admit there is a tiny cynic on my shoulder, who thinks that if you invest more time and/or money on pixels than you are comfortable loosing, in a free-to-play, and worst of all on facebook, then perhaps you have been steering towards a disappointment that was not entirely impossible to predict .
I can agree with you to a certain point.
The problem is when a company allows their players to spend money on virtual currency in their games, knowing that they will be shutting the game down, and not offering those players a refund on unspent credits or an opportunity to transfer those credits to another of their games. What about those players that spent money only hours before the announcement? What about those players that hadn't seen the announcement yet, and EA gladly took their cash? What about the holders of the gift cards purchased at local retailers? They will still take your cash right now
, if you try to buy game credits.
In the Sims Social, they released a castle recently, with tons of premium stuff available to furnish it. Many players haven't even finished the quest yet, associated with fully unlocking that castle. They purchased credits to spend on decorations, in anticipation of finishing it. I am pretty sure EA knew they would be shutting down the game when they released the castle. It wasn't like a typical quest where you do things in a building that will only be around for a limited time, like Cupid's Garden, the Titanic ship, and some of the other temporary quest locations. Knowing they were going to shut the game down, it would have made sense to make the castle a temporary location, too. But no, this one the players were supposed to get to keep, which doesn't happen very often.
And we are not talking about one small developer that has one crappy facebook game that fails 6 months after launch. That's usually pretty easy to predict and supporting those games with your cash is usually a rather noble act, not much unlike donating to individual developers of tiny desktop apps.
We are talking about a big company with multiple highly successful games based on successful, popular, classic game titles, that could easily be spun off of facebook and stand on their own website for many years to come.
I have played both of these games. They are awesome games with a lot of money making potential and not just from players spending money on virtual game currencies. There is commercial sponsorship with branded items from some pretty big name companies, like Toyota, Dunkin Donuts (one of their biggest sponsors in both games), Proctor & Gamble, Mercedes Benz, Lowes, Progressive insurance, American Express, etc.
I saw the advertising potential from Day 1 in SimCity Social, when I thought to myself "wouldn't it be great if you could stick a McDonalds or Burger King in your city instead of a generic burger shop?" Within a couple of weeks I had my first sponsored building (a Mercedes Benz dealership), so EA knew and planned for that, from the start.
This is advertising that gets around ad blockers, that players are more than happy to do whatever they have to do to get the sponsored items, including watching commercials, visiting the sponsor's site, sign up for the sponsor's newsletter, like their facebook page, hand over personal info to receive coupons in the mail (which lead to purchases), etc. Not to mention the free game credits that can come from making purchases at various websites, like Walmart, Target, Yves Rocher, Walgreens, etc. (I took advantage of a couple of those offers, for things I actually needed, instead of buying from Amazon) What would you pay for a couple million players to eagerly interact with your brand in those ways? There is probably more profit potential from ad revenue in these games than EA could ever hope to get from sales of their latest release of the PC version of SimCity.
So, no, the loss and disappointment was not that easy to predict. It was far easier to predict the shutting down of Google Reader.