Friday, April 5, 2013

WWE's "Superfan Showdown" on Facebook

WWE recently advertised a new Facebook game on Monday Night Raw, promising trivia, games, videos, and puzzles. And to be sure, the new, free app has all of that, plus lots and lots of mindless repetition. I know this because, to hype myself up for Wrestlemania, I started using the app.

The main attraction for me was the trivia contests, where I would get to compete against other "members" of the "WWE Universe," which I hadn't done since 2001 on a dial-up connection on However, you can't simply dive right into the trivia, as each contest costs 500 WWE coins to enter. That means that you must first earn the coins, which can be done easily by taking part in polls.

You can actually earn lots of coins by simply answering poll question after poll question, which, if they weren't mindless enough, are often out of date...

...referencing events from who-knows-when about who-knows-what...

...have no correct answer...

No, WWE will do a bait-and-switch and he won't even try
to cash it in.

...or have no good answer...

Once you've gotten enough coins, you can pay your way into the trivia contests; there are three options for trivia, which vary only by the number of participants: Barber Shop, with 5 participants, and Boiler Room and Death Valley, which each require 10 participants. They all cost the same and yield the same number of coins as a reward, so really, the only reason to compete in the larger contests is pride, which probably isn't worth the time you have to wait for ten people to sign onto the contest.

When it comes time to actually answer the trivia questions, it's extremely disappointing. I don't know if this is just a temporary thing, but as of this writing, almost all of the questions are about King of the Ring, which is strange considering that it hasn't been a pay-per-view in 11 years and there hasn't been such a tournament in three years. And these questions repeat frequently. Even if you have no idea who scored the winning pinfall in the 1993 King of the Ring eight-man tag match, you won't have to play too many times to figure out the answer (Billy Gunn), as you could easily see the same question pop up four times in a single sitting.

If that weren't bad enough, some of the questions are factually wrong. For instance, the Pat Patterson-Gerald Brisco negative-star classic did not take place at King of the Ring 2002, but at KOTR 2000. Still, the only possible answer is "Evening Gown Match," as none of the other match stipulations ever happened with those two stooges.

Even that could be forgiven, but some answers are impossible to know for sure because of how badly the questions are written. For instance, who won the King of the Ring 1997 Undertaker-Mankind match, and how? Trick question, as there was no such match. However, there was a match between the two at 1996's event, and again at 1998's event. So the answer is going to be either Mankind by TKO or The Undertaker by pinfall. If you're not psychic, you might incorrectly provide the latter answer, not knowing that by "1997," the author meant "1996," not "1998."

Okay, so you've played the trivia contests and you've started racking up coins. So what? Well, you can use those points to buy things. Not real, tangible objects like t-shirts or DVDs, but rather "virtual" items like autographs, badges, "virtual superstars," and foreign objects. None of these items have any purpose other than filling out your collections of digital knick-knacks. 

Oh, and do you see all those items that you can't buy with "WWE coins," but instead cost "WWE cash"? WWE cash can only be gained by paying real money at an exchange rate of $1 for 10 WWE cash dollars. That means that a picture of John Cena's autograph costs $3 in real money.

Alright, so you'll just buy the stuff that doesn't cost real money. Sure, you're limited to Great Khali autographs and fake brass knuckles, but who cares? It's not like your level of fandom is being judged by your willingness to pay real money for useless in-game trinkets.

If you are at all familiar with my writing, or that of, or online humor sites in general, you will of course know that the answer is, "actually, yes it is." See, besides WWE coins (earned in-game) and WWE cash (earned by foolishly spending real money on a Facebook app), there is another stat being tracked by the app: experience points.  Gaining enough experience points makes you "level up" and improves your ranking among users of the game.

Although you can earn experience points (or XP) by taking poll after poll, or playing game after game, or basically doing anything in the game besides the trivia contests, the biggest XP-earners in the game are the "quests." Sound adventurous and exciting? Not until you hear what "quests" consist of: lots of repetition and lots of buying. 

Pictured: An $88.50 investment.

And sure, you might find it slightly annoying to have to sit through 30-second ads for Airwick before watching a 5-minute recap of a week's worth of WWE TV, but it gets even more absurd when you try for the later "quests" which require you to use WWE cash. Cash that you can't have unless you shell out real dollars.

Oh, and about those ads, you can't block them, because the app literally will not continue until you have watched the complete ad and will prompt you to turn off any ad-blocker before you can play any of the videos or games. You do have the option to skip the ad, but only if you pay for that privilege.

"FREE" covers the first 5 skips before you they charge you.

Among those games are the concentration games, which are pretty straightforward: there are cards that you must turn over, two at a time, hoping to flip over two identical cards at the same time. The only thing this has to do with wrestling is the pictures of WWE superstars. The downside is that in order to advance to more challenging rounds, you have to, you guessed it, repeat an awful lot. Five wins in one wrestler's "level 1" memory game unlocks "level 2," which features more cards and is therefore more difficult. However, to unlock "level 3," you must beat level 2 25 times!

The other kind of game is the puzzle, which is the kind of thing that can literally be solved by a three-year-old and more resembles a childhood test for mental disability than a game. All you do is drag a piece of a photo on top of the matching section of the photo.

All in all, the app serves three purposes: to get you interested in WWE, to get you to watch ads to earn WWE ad revenue, and to get you to give WWE money for the pride of being able to call yourself the "#1 fan." Basically, it's standard fare for the genre of "free" internet games that still milk you for money and force players to repeat actions well past the point of enjoyment (e.g.: FarmVille).

It is kind of a strange business model when you consider that anybody willing to spend hundred of dollars to complete their collection of Miz buttons and pictures of the spinner belt is either too young or not mentally competent enough to have a credit card in the first place.

Play the game if you wish to prove yourself a master of (King of the Ring) trivia, as long as you don't mind being ranked the worst fan on earth while the #1 spot is occupied by some eight-year-old who stole his parents' MasterCard.

...or who hacked his dad's Facebook profile.

Oh, and before I forget, the upside of this WWE Superfan Showdown? Well...

Please read article 5 more times to unlock concluding paragraph.

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