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Class Action Virtual Pet Suit Goes to Arbitration

Monday, July, 23, 2012

Slide, Inc., Developer of SuperPoke! Pets, and Google, who purchased Slide in 2010, asked a Federal judge to send a class action suit against them to arbitration recently. U.S. District Judge William Alsup listened to both sides in the dispute.


Why all the fuss over virtual pets?


To understand that, it helps to take a look at their beginning. Slide, Inc. started the SuperPoke! Pets virtual pet "experience" in 2008. Owners of these virtual pets were able to spend money to buy "virtual gold," which they then spent on pet toys, environments, etc.


All was well and good until Google came along.

Why Virtual Pet Owners Are Suing Google


In 2010, Google came along and purchased Slide. Soon after, it informed users that they would no longer be able to buy virtual gold. It also advised that virtual pet owners should spend their virtual gold to stock up on gift items for their pets.


The suit alleges that Google then told participants that while it would no longer sell VIP memberships to SuperPoke! Pets after July 31, 2011, it did tell participants that those who already had such memberships would be able to keep those memberships indefinitely and for free after that date.


The suit claims that many virtual pet owners stockpiled items for their pets prior to that date. Then, in August 2011, Google shut SuperPoke down.

Accusations Include “Unconscionable” Legal Arbitration Clause


Christalee Abreu, the lead plaintiff in the case, claimed that Google and Slide's handling of SuperPoke! Pets took away access to digital goods that cost some users hundreds "and perhaps even thousands" (her words) of dollars.


Out of seven claims, only one of them mentioned the arbitration provision of the game contract. That specific claim was that the provision was one of several of the terms of use's "unconscionable exculpatory clauses."

Does the Contract Arbitration Clause Still Hold?


Judge Alsup said that the contract arbitration provision still held, stating that the suit failed to show that it was "substantively unconscionable". He then ordered all parties to proceed to arbitration.


Time will tell the outcome of the arbitration proceeding.