29 July, 2008

Scrabulous bites the dust... a victory for Corporate America

Location: facebook
Mood: the usual level of oppression

Well, we have been hearing the rumors for weeks now. Hasbro/Mattel were displeased that someone had "copied" their software and offered it on Facebook for free. From a strict legal perspective, one could argue that they are justified. If there are trademarks and copyrights, then I guess you can't violate them. They were careful to use the title Scrabulous, instead of Scrabble, and perhaps that's why it took as long as it took to bring it down. Scrabble does offer an online version of the game for free. And now, they have begun an online beta version specifically for Facebook. The sad part here is that they are crashing a smooth-operating, established environment, simply for the sake of having control over it. Any argument that they were missing out on "brand-recognition" is a bunch of rubbish, because of a few factors. First, many people who are playing online already own the physical game. Second, if they do not own it, then playing Scrabulous online may have sparked people's interest enough to want to buy the game to play with friends - in which case, they will be buying the "real" Scrabble. So Hasbro/Mattel, in a sense, were getting free advertising, with none of the maintenance or overhead of managing a Facebook application.

Instead, Hasbro/Mattel have now incurred the anger of everyone who was happily playing in their little circles of friends, with their ratings, and their preserved list of "bingos" for bragging rights. These people will mostly probably pick up the Hasbro/Mattel Scrabble application, because it is the only way to keep playing on Facebook. But I don't think it helps the company. It probably would have helped the company more to make a huge press release saying that they've decided to endorse and bless Scrabulous, and perhaps work out some sort of small advertising deal so that the community could continue to exist. But they did not do this. Why? Because they don't have to do it. They're the corporation. And they're going to monopolize their product space.

So, this morning, I tried to log on to Scrabulous, and this is what I saw:

Sad... and I initially thought "Well, that's it! No way in hell I am going to do the corporate Scrabble". But then, I saw I had an invite from one of my Scrabulous friends, already, to join the new Scrabble. So I thought "Well, I guess I will take a look".

So I went to the new Scrabble, and this is what I saw:

It's nice to see that Hasbro/Mattel got all their infrastructure ready before destroying the completely functional existing Scrabble community. Not.

Thank you very much.

P.S. I love the little extra jab they include about helping Scrabble - "the best word game on Facebook"! Yes. One way you can ensure that you are "the best" is if you use the legal system to facilitate the removal of all others! Unbelievable.

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