By guest blogger Catherine Nutter
Tuesday July 29 — “Black Tuesday” to the half a million or so active daily users of Facebook’s monster popular application known as Scrabulous. Office workers and computer nerds all over North America sat quivering and bewildered staring at a screen bearing the error message “Scrabulous is disabled for US and Canadian users until further notice. If you would like to stay informed about developments in this matter, click here.”
Darn right. I clicked. Not that my clicking was really going to bring any joy. Hasbro Inc., owner of the North American rights to the original version of Scrabble, is suing Scrabulous creators Rajat and Jayat Agarwalla for copyright infringement. While the Agarwalla brothers may have totally ripped off the original details of the stone-age version of Scrabble, they also designed an absolutely fabulous online application that transcended the summer cottage, dog-chewed tile and cardboard version of the game. Hasbro is definitely not making any friends with this action, I assure you. I’ll never again purchase anything that bears the Hasbro monicker. It was like Hasbro’s creepy lawyers came marching into my cubicle and started going all “intervention” on my ass. Extremely unpleasant.
I suspect that I was not the only Scrabulous fan who started twitching and hitting the refresh button in disbelief. Like a crack-head forced to substitute truck stop coffee for my preferred morning fix, I cast around to the alternative — the crappy Scrabble Beta application, launched just two weeks before the lawsuit. I knew it was going to suck, and it does. From the annoyingly bright and irritating graphics — “Scrabble on Facebook Spells Fun!” (yeah right) to the irritating clicking sounds it makes when you move tiles, this app completely bites the qat. (Scrabulous players will know that word.) Yesterday the site crashed because of all the Scrabulous junkies who tried this less than ideal substitute — and today (I’m embarrassed to admit) I got a game going, only to have it crash three moves in, just when I was going to place “moshing” on a triple word score. Not cool.
To be fair, offices all over North America no doubt saw a huge jump in productivity, with workers turning to the inbox in despair, but come on. I was on the verge of winning at least three of the games I had on the go. Honest.
I think Hasbro has made a huge public relations blunder with this one. Scrabulous had half a million daily users, and over two million players worldwide. It was one of Facebook’s most popular applications — that’s quite a lot of new “Hasbro haters.” I’m sure, like most things in the business world, this decision came down to the dollars and cents. They figured it was cheaper to sue the Agarwalla brothers than it was to buy them out. I guess time will tell whether it was the right financial decision to make — ie., will it cost Hasbro more to alienate Scrabulous junkies than it would to buy back a game they already “owned”?
This article first appeared on bobalicious, our social network.