World-building game WeTopia drives real world change

Faith Merino · November 29, 2011 · Short URL:

The virtual world-building game is backed by Ellen DeGeneres, Esther Dyson, and Dave Morin

Everybody has good intentions and most want to help out where they can.  But when you hear about tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis that wipe out whole communities, you have two options: send money, or actually get out there and start cleaning up yourself.  Not the easiest choices when you’re broke and strapped for time because you’re working two or more jobs to make ends meet.  So I give mad props to startups and other organizations that look for another option that falls somewhere in between those two extremes.

In recent years, many have turned to the gaming community to find the answer—which is just what Sojo Studios has done with its new game WeTopia, which takes the casual gaming model and enhances it with real world impacts in the form of food, healthcare, or books for children in need.  And the best part is that you can do it during your usual FarmVille breaks at work—which reminds me, I’m on the clock so I need to go check on my farm.

The free-to-play Facebook game puts a new spin on the virtual world-building concept by allowing players to build their own villages.  As they do so, they earn points called “Joy,” which can be applied toward real social projects, such as buying books for a child in a developing country, or rebuilding a school in Haiti.

Current projects include the distribution of meals and medicine to children in Haiti, the construction of a school in Haiti, and a summer literacy program in the Appalachia region of Kentucky.

While the company could not be reached for comment to explain exactly how the “Joy” points convert to real currency, the company did explain in its statement that it generates revenue from advertisers and those players who choose to spend money on the game in the form of Facebook credits.  Some 50% of the net profits (never less than 20% revenue, the company insists) goes directly toward the causes WeTopia supports.

The company has some high-profile supporters, including Ellen DeGeneres, who will be providing marketing support via “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” as well as angel investor Esther Dyson and Path CEO and co-founder Dave Morin, who have signed on as advisors.

"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,” said DeGeneres, in a statement.  “It's kinda the same way I felt about Pajama Jeans, only more so."

The WeTopia concept follows a string of recent endeavors to leverage casual and social gaming to effect real world change.  Earlier this year, AOK (Acts and Observations of Kindness) launched a mobile app and Web community that rewards players for performing or taking note of real world acts of kindness.  Similar to the DoGood app, AOK is a pretty simple points-based game in which users perform and observe acts of kindness in whatever form (the app categorizes acts and observations according to whether they were for a person, an animal, or the environment) and earn points that translate directly into Cause Currency—real money that can be donated to the cause of the moment. 

And just as WeTopia has the celebrity backing of Ellen DeGeneres, AOK was co-founded by Adrian Grenier, the very tasty star of the hit HBO show “Entourage.” 


Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes