MMORPG publisher Sony Online Entertainment has launched its first social game for Facebook based on an original IP, Wildlife Refuge.  (As of this writing, the game appears to be offline.) This is a zoo-themed virtual pet theme meant to help educate players about endangered African animals and contribute to certain conservation charities. Players assume the role of wildlife researchers who must set up and customize a refuge for wild animals, caring for them and their offspring until the animals can be released back into the wild.

Players in the game can buy a Cheetah Statue to donate to the Cheetah Conservation Fund and purchase Baby Cheetah pets to donate to the education charity Cheetah Kids. While there’s no shortage of zoo-themed social games on Facebook or even social games supporting charitable causes on Facebook, Sony Online Entertainment moving into the social game space with an original IP is unprecedented. Prior SOE projects for Facebook have been tie-ins to support client-based and browser-based projects, like the Free Realms item trading app.

Sony Online Entertainment was once known primarily a publisher of traditional subscription-based MMORPGs.  Recently the company began launching freemium virtual worlds for kids like Free Realms and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures. It’s also experimenting with freemium MMORPGs like Pirates of the Burning Sea and EverQuest II Extended. It’s not clear if SOE’s foray into Facebook publishing indicates that the company is repositioning. Other upcoming SOE projects like DC Universe Online are much more traditional fare.

[via Inside Social Games]

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