17 January 2008 |

Did Word-gamers shoot themselves in the foot?

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few days, you’ll no doubt have noticed the furore developing over the potential removal of Scrabulous from Facebook. It seems that the folk at Hasbro / Mattel (joint copyright owners of Scrabble) have finally woken up and realised that they’re missing a piece of the pie, and have demanded that the makers of the 9th-most-popular application on Facebook take it down. But Hasbro haven’t actually stated whether they’re going to develop their own version, or simply run off in a huff, clutching their virtual scrabble board and hiding in the corner crying, sobbing “why don’t people play Scrabble in the real world anymore?!”. Surely the sensible move would be for Hasbro to come to some arrangement with the Scrabulous dudes that benefits everybody – not least of all the 500,000 Facebook users who regularly use the application to stretch their cranial matter.

As many people in the various “Save Scrabulous” groups are pointing out, Scrabulous seems to have brought the famous word-game to a whole new audience, and actually encouraged a lot of people (myself included!) to buy another real-life copy of the game. The biggest of the groups, “Save Scrabulous“, has 14,665 members as of this morning, with membership increasing at a respectable rate.

Latest word on the stand-off is that Hasbro, having failed to get the application’s developers to voluntarily remove the application, are now demanding Facebook themselves remove it. It’s still up now, but only time will tell how long it stays that way. You’d hope that, having had over 6 months to prepare, the boys would have been expecting Hasbro to come knocking eventually and would have come up with a plan…?

Anyway, back to the point of my post. It came to my attention the other day that not only is this story about Scrabulous, the lawsuit also covers any other Hasbro / Mattel games, including the 5 or 6 Boggle-insprired apps. The biggest of those, Bogglific (currently down for redesign!) only really became popular a month or so before Christmas – is this what finally alerted Hasbro to the situation? And if this is the case, have word-game-hungry players shot themselves in the foot by demanding more and more word games?!?

Henry Elliss

Managing Director at Tamar, I've also headed-up the Search team for 7 years.

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  • http://www.hayesthompson.blogspot.com Ben

    Some very interesting points here, Neil.
    Not least of which is the one about Scrabulous causing people to buy the actual board game.
    You did. I did. And we can’t be the only ones.
    You’d have thought Hasbro and Mattel would be able to notice a leap in orders.
    And if that’s true, you’d think they’d be a little more predisposed to wanting to come to some kind of arrangement. One that, as you point out, benefits everybody.
    It’s a pretty strange way for a brand to behave. But then, thinking about it, the fuss has probably all been kickstarted by lawyers who, after all, love to litigate.
    Scrabble – every penny counts