Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Facebook Shuts Down Scrabulous: How To Not Win Friends And Influence People

Facebook has shut down access from The U.S. and Canada to Scrabulous, a Scrabble clone that has turned out to be an insanely popular feature with Facebook users, myself included.

If you've been following this story at all, you'll know that this is a matter of copyright infringement, and that in North America "Scrabble" is owned by Hasbro. Hasbro has, of course, known about Scrabulous for some time, and could in theory have shut it down earlier.

I assumed (ha!) that one of the reasons Hasbro held off on taking this action was because they knew that Scrabulous is popular with hundreds of thousands of users. Since Hasbro was working on a Facebook-friendly online version of the game, it would make sense to wait until their application was ready to roll before pulling the plug on the clone. Whether or not Hasbro was losing money because of Scrabulous is debatable. But if you are going to yank a product that a lot of people really like for purely legal reasons in order to replace it... the replacement should work.


Users attempting to install the Official Scrabble application are getting this message today:

We're working on some tech problems and Scrabble will be ready to play as soon as possible!

We appreciate all the great feedback we've received over the past week and as a result we're making changes to Scrabble for its official launch in mid-August, including a streamlined app with the option to turn-off animations for faster gameplay and full keyboard functionality for those who prefer this way to play.

Please continue to let us know how we can make Scrabble - the best word game on Facebook - even better!

"The best word game on Facebook"? You mean, the other word games don't work at all, either?

As it stands, the games are off. And I couldn't help but notice that the "official" application is called Scrabble Beta. As in, "it's unlikely this thing is going to work nearly as well as a completed product should."

Besides... I was about to play "sequoias" on one of my games. Do you have any idea how many points that would have been worth?

So, despite months to plan ahead, Hasbro has resoundingly dropped the PR ball. But I'm willing to forgive you for now, Hasbro... just like I forgave you for selling me that copy of Cranium Cadoo that was covered in deadly Chinese lead-based paint. And don't even get me started on that Easy-Bake Oven problem with the third degree burns and the partial finger amputations on five-year-old girls.

Oops. Guess that was kind of cheeky of me to mention that. "Cheeky"...that's an 18-point word. A shame I can't use it now...

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