Sony Accused of Swiping ‘Playanthropy’


     SAN MATEO, Calif. (CN) – A philanthropic gamemaker claims in court that Sony swiped its “Gaming for Good” platform to make its PlayStation Heroes game.
     The Just Game Company sued Sony Computer Entertainment America and its vice president of marketing John Keller in Superior Court on Monday, alleging fraud, breach of contract, interference, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and other charges.
     Just Game, Sony and Koller are the only parties to the lawsuit.
     Just Game claims that in 2012 philanthropic, business and technology entrepreneurs and professional athletes, including soccer player Tony Sanneh, met with Keller to discuss a tech platform to raise money for charities.
     “The philanthropic arm of this unique, technology platform – ‘Gaming for Good’ (GFG) – was laudable and provided a valuable opportunity to enhance the value, reputation, brand and goodwill, as well as the related products and services, of the gaming or other media company that might ultimately be associated with the platform,” the complaint states.
     Just Game calls itself a “playanthropist.” It claims that after Koller signed a confidentiality agreement, it disclosed its Project Hermes Deck with him, outlining a plan to develop “a large-scale gaming platform, program and process for charitable, crowd-sourced fundraising that connects celebrities and athletes that play video games to their fans who play video games.”
     In the two years that followed, Sony and Keller often commended Just Game co-founders Sanneh, Eric Stempinski and Michael Dzik for the “uniqueness and novelty” of the technology, and its marketing research and business strategies, according to the complaint.
     Koller presented the plan to senior executives at Sony headquarters in San Mateo after promising that Sony could “absolutely be trusted” to maintain confidentiality, Just Game says. It claims that in his presentation, Koller told the executives the platform would include an “application that operated on the PlayStation network, and which would generate, among other things, millions of dollars of charitable donations.”
     Just Game says it gave up other business opportunities to focus launching the PlayStation platform, which included recruiting the initial benefactors of the first few Gaming for Good games: Make-A-Wish and the Jimmy V. Foundation.
     But Sony kept finding reasons to delay or defer the launch, then terminated its relationship with Just Game just before Thanksgiving 2014, according to the complaint.
     Three months later, Sony launched PlayStation Heroes, using the concepts, plans and strategies Just Game had provided, including calling it Just-Play, and Dzik’s proposal to award gamers virtual badges for donating to a cause, with entry to a sweepstakes to play games against a celebrity.
     When Dzik proposed the virtual badge idea, Koller responded: “I like that a lot – great thinking” the complaint states.
     The PlayStation website states: “PlayStation Heroes is your chance to support important charities like USO, Make-A-Wish® Foundation, and The V Foundation for Cancer Research by purchasing this month’s PlayStation Heroes theme. Check out the video to learn more about this month’s opportunity to be a HERO!”
     During the media blitz after the launch of PlayStation Heroes, Koller said: “Two or three years ago, I came up with the germ of the idea that became PlayStation Heroes,” Just Game says in the complaint.
     Just Game seeks punitive damages. Its attorneys Christopher Micheletti and Judith Zahid did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Sony.

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