Posts Tagged ‘hasbro’
as reported on news.com
So said one adamant Facebook user in the wake of the news that game manufacturers Hasbro and Mattel were trying to do something about the wildly popular, unquestionably addictive online game known as Scrabulous.
The game, which rose to fame when its creators turned it into an embeddable Facebook application, is a word game that’s a whole lot like the classic board game Scrabble. It uses a playing board with “bonus” spots just like Scrabble. In fact, the rules are identical to Scrabble‘s.
The companies in charge of the “real” Scrabble, for obvious reasons, aren’t happy.
Game companies Hasbro, which distributes Scrabble in North America, and Mattel, which is responsible for its overseas trademarks, have reportedly asked Facebook to remove the game from its application directory. And you can tell it’s a serious legal matter because nobody’s talking.
Facebook declined to confirm the report, and it said that it has not yet issued any kind of statement about Scrabulous; representatives from Hasbro did not respond to calls for comment.
The similarities between Scrabble and Scrabulous are crystal-clear, and it’s a no-brainer to see why Hasbro and Mattel are miffed. To add to that, Scrabulous serves up advertisements, which means that its creators are making money off the concept. But what the game companies really ought to do is take a step back and realize that they can use Scrabulous to their advantage–without removing the viral game from Facebook.
Fans of Scrabulous, for one, aren’t happy about the takedown news. On Facebook, an unofficial group called “Save Scrabulous” is growing fast, with more than 7,000 users at last count (and 5,000 hours before.) Its members, including the aforementioned “hunger striker,” are livid.
“Leave Scrabulous alone!” one of them posted in the group’s message board, a thinly veiled allusion to the “Leave Britney Alone” viral video.
Others were more visceral: “I’ve burnt my Scrabble board in protest!” one exclaimed.
Scrabulous is the creation of two brothers in India, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, who founded Scrabulous.com in 2006. When Facebook launched its developer platform in May, the Agarwallas soon transformed their Scrabble spin-off into an application designed for the social network, and it caught on like wildfire. More than 2 million Facebook members are active Scrabulous users, and several hundred thousand of them play the game each day.
It was a catch-22 for the Agarwallas. The “Scrabulous guys” became Facebook celebrities, but the exposure meant that they were much more visible–and so were the obvious similarities between Scrabble and Scrabulous.
“It wouldn’t be an issue if Scrabulous weren’t so popular, right?” observed Darren Herman, director of digital media for marketing firm The Media Kitchen. It’s the sheer mass of Facebook Scrabulous users that have made it a high-profile case as well as an inevitably ugly situation, if the game is indeed taken down. “We’re seeing the power of social media in its early days. Since we’re still trying to figure out the rules of the game, no pun intended, these types of issues are bound to arise.”
In other words, according to Herman, the debate over Scrabulous is indicative of the fact that the world–or at least certain mainstays of the game industry–still hasn’t quite figured out that a traditional course of action just doesn’t always work on the Web.
“I don’t think they are crazy to think this way,” Darren Herman said when asked if Hasbro and Mattel are totally off base. “Scrabble came out in a time when everyone guarded their (intellectual property) tightly.”
In the old order, a takedown notice may have been the only route. But this is the Web, and plenty of people have pointed out that Hasbro and Mattel are sitting on a marketing gold mine with Scrabulous. They have a gleefully addicted fan base, a machine for viral buzz (Facebook’s platform), and the deep pockets to offer to buy Scrabulous outright–or at least strike an innovative advertising deal.
There’s also no direct competitor. Neither Hasbro nor Mattel operates a Web-based, ad-supported version of Scrabble; video game manufacturer Electronic Arts owns the rights to electronic versions of the game, and it currently sells a PC game of Scrabble for about $20. (EA was not available for comment on the Scrabulous issue.) With Scrabulous, all three companies may be sitting on a marketing treasure trove.
Hasbro and Mattel might not get it. But the members of Save Scrabulous think that they do.
“Do these greedy fools not realize that they should be paying the creators of Scrabulous for all the damn fans of the game they created?” one angry Scrabulous fan from the United Kingdom asked on the group’s “wall.” He brought up a further point–that this is getting people excited about the musty old board game in a way they haven’t in years. “It’s like the music vids put on YouTube. It makes me buy tracks I never would have done, and frankly, before this game emerged, Scrabble was just something for rainy days in my childhood.”
Another member of the group put it more concisely. “Scrabulous brought Scrabble back in style. They should be thankful.”
Here’s Josh(business2.0 founder) writing on what seems to be a tough situation for the two Indian entrepreneurs who launched their facebook app (Scrabulous) last year and are now sitting on a web property that gets 70 Mill page views a month
Hasbro, the owner of the game scrabble, is gunning to bring down the facebook app and has reportedly summoned Facebook to bring it down….
Just wait and watch… will update here on what happens next
Their site launched in 2006 and quickly signed up 600,000 registered users. Not too shabby for a year’s worth of work. So the brothers launched a Facebook application in June, 2007 and the results were stunning: 2.3 million active users as of today. For those of you keeping score, the application generated
270 70 million pageviews in the past month. Not a bad deal for a two-man operation.
But all good things must come to an end, which is bad news for Scrabulous fans, and even worse for the Agarwalla Bros.: Hasbro’s trying to shut the site down. “They sent a notice to Facebook about two weeks ago,” Jayant confirmed to me. “The lawyers are working on it.”
As a recovering Scrabulous addict (actually, I have since moved on to Facebook’s harder stuff, Texas Hold ‘em), I’m devastated. But as a tech writer and life-long student of what passes for Internet economics, I’m baffled. Is Hasbro just a stupid Potato Head? Or is this a brilliant game of Stratego?
My calls to the company have so far gone unanswered. A spokesman for Facebook, who said she was unaware of what was in the works with Hasbro or Scrabulous, said, “we don’t typically comment on legal matters.”
If I were an evil genius running a board games company whose product line spanned everything from Monopoly to Clue, I might do this: Wait until someone comes up with an excellent implementation of my games and does the hard work of coding and debugging the thing and signing up the masses. Then, once it got to scale, I’d sweep in and take it over. Let the best pirate site win! If I were compassionate, I’d even cut in the guys who did all the work for a percentage point or two to keep the site running.
Perhaps that’s what will happen since both the Scrabulous site and Facebook app are still up and running. Indeed, Jayant told me that he was hopeful they’d find an 11th Hour solution. “We’re trying to work out some kind of deal,” he said. I hope so, too.
Jayant said that he didn’t exactly understand what all the fuss was about. Its ability to generate insane numbers of pageviews notwithstanding—he said some players play as many as 170 games at a time on Facebook—the application isn’t throwing off that much money. He declined to say exactly how much, pegging revenues at “over $25,000 a month.” Hmmmmm.
The brothers got the idea for Scrabulous after becoming Scrabble freaks a few years ago and playing at another free site, Quadplex. After it started charging users, however, they decided to build their own “without thinking through the legal aspect at the time.”
Jayant pointed out that there are a number of other Scrabble knockoffs online. “I’m not sure why Hasbro actually picked on this,” he added. Because, dude, you’re the best.