Business

Lexington-based firm to launch charitable social-media game

Lincoln Brown, co-founder of Sojo Studios in Lexington, helped create WeTopia, a free Facebook game geared toward helping children.
Lincoln Brown, co-founder of Sojo Studios in Lexington, helped create WeTopia, a free Facebook game geared toward helping children.

Sojo Studios, a Lexington online entertainment company, is launching its first social-media game on Facebook with an unusual twist. In the game WeTopia, players create a perfect virtual world for children and, at the same time, aid children's charities in the real world.

A free-to-play game, WeTopia will be released in beta on Tuesday. The company, founded by Lincoln Brown, 31, has partnered with several non-profit organizations whose primary focus is serving children and families.

In WeTopia, players build an idealized children's world. As players complete tasks and activities in the game, they earn "Joy," a virtual currency that can be converted to contributions in the real world to organizations that provide assistance with education, health care and basic needs.

A patent is pending on the concept of Joy, said Mark Bunning, Sojo's chief financial officer.

Brown and Sojo's co-founder Alberto Escarlate are committed to contributing 20 percent of revenues to non-profit, partner organizations to support projects such as building a school or a medical clinic.

Sixteen non-profits have signed up as partners, including Save the Children, Action for Healthy Kids, buildOn and Heifer International. Six non-profits will be featured in WeTopia at a time, said Brook Peterson, director of strategic development.

"Social games have hundreds of millions of people who play. If we can tie making money for good causes into that, think of what we could do," Brown said.

Carolyn Miles, president and chief executive officer of Save the Children, said in a statement issued Monday: "WeTopia will help to build awareness about important social issues and give people a fun way to make a lasting difference for children in need."

Charities are committed to posting weekly images showing progress of projects so players can see where their money is going, Brown said.

Sojo's financial records will be audited by an accounting firm. A letter certifying that 20 percent of company revenues will go to the non-profits will be posted on the company's Web site, Bunning said.

Brown, son of former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. and Phyllis George, grew up in Lexington and graduated with a degree in economics from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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