Tina K. Russell

March 2, 2008

Scrabble-Rousers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 4:11 pm

Online Scrabble Craze Leaves Game Sellers at Loss for Words – New York Times

This bugs me. Why doesn’t Hasbro just buy Scrabulous? I mean, why don’t they just buy the tiny, two-man software outlet that makes it? They’d get a bargain price, talented developers, and most importantly, a dedicated and well-developed userbase that Hasbro could never hope to manufacture. When I read that Hasbro is partnering with RealNetworks to make an official Scrabble game, which they want to have debut with Scrabulous being sued out of existence, I just get sad. People like stories, people like the idea of two Indian brothers coming up with Facebook’s most popular game. Hasbro can now choose how they will define their brand: as the corporate visionaries who these bright, plucky youngsters on board upon seeing their success, or the big meanies who took down the world’s most popular Facebook game and tried to force you to play their sterile, corporately-developed version instead.

Or, that is, found that the bright young developers had a good idea, stole it, and then sued them out of the market. Obviously you could call me a hypocrite, there; the Scrabulous developers stole the Scrabble game in the first place. Honestly, though, I feel that’s part of why Hasbro just ought to buy the company; they found a great new application for Scrabble, it’s already made, already has an established userbase, and is already bringing in lucrative advertising dollars, would not further divide the market with competing versions (thus cleansing the game of its “social” appeal), and best of all, it comes with two smart developers who could be immediately put to work on making Facebook versions of Hasbro’s other big brands. (This is not to mention, even, India’s low cost of living; how good is that? They wouldn’t even have to outsource!)

So, what’s the deal? Basically, I would imagine, it’s corporate inertia, and a gut feeling that those two did something immoral and should not be rewarded for it. I reject that argument out of hand, but I also simply do not think it’s relevant. I reject it because I think the two developers took a great game and found a great new application for it. (It’s also extremely hard to fight a copyright case over a game; I can knockoff Tetris or Super Mario Bros. all I want, but as long as people wouldn’t confuse it with the official version, I’m in the clear. This may mean Scrabulous may benefit from a more legally prudent name, but then again, I think Hasbro should just buy it and rename it “Scrabble.”) I think it’s irrelevant because buying the Scrabulous developers would simply be a great business move for Hasbro. It would probably pay for itself in about seven seconds.

Some people might say that this might lead to a swarm of people trying to find new, innovative applications for Hasbro games in hopes of getting hired. I’d say, what’s wrong with that? Clearly, Hasbro R&D never saw the success of Scrabulous coming. Who knows what other gold mines they may be sitting on? It would take a distributed effort, and shrewd business, to find out.

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1 Comment »

  1. I died a little inside when games.com shut down their Scrabble site (or started charging, I forget which). My summer diversion was ruined! I never used Scrabulous much because it was so clunky. Now my vocabulary is greatly diminished and my relationships with online friends aren’t as strong without a nightly game of Scrabble.

    Comment by Hannah — March 6, 2008 @ 10:21 pm


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