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Leave Scrabulous Alone

by Sachin Balagopalan on January 20, 2008 · Comments

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As I write this Scrabulous is still up on FaceBook but perhaps not for long if Hasbro and Mattel have anything to do with it. The toy makers are asking FaceBook to shut down the popular online game because they feel that Scrabulous is infringing on their copyright. Mattel and Hasbro jointly own the trademark for Scrabble, Hasbro in the US and Mattel the rest of the world.

In a weird sort of way it seems like deja vous all over again - big and old companies do not comprehend technology and the opportunities that go along with it. Nor do they want to take the time to understand it. It was not too long ago the fat execs at the movie studios and record companies were kicking and screaming at the idea of downloadable content only to acquiesce in the end . We’re now seeing a similar sort of pattern emerging with Mattel and Hasbro who seem to be so hung up on the fact that the board game is their trademark that they can’t seem to see beyond that. Lets face it scrabble isn’t exactly a hip or cool board game, in fact it has geek written all over it. However after Scrabulous was put on FaceBook around 300,000+ FaceBookers play it everyday. Those are some astounding numbers and it is one of the top ten FaceBook applications. The irony is there are quite a few users who are actually going out and buying the real thing - the actual scrabble board game thus benefiting the toy makers. The popularity of the game has risen drastically since it made it’s debut on FaceBook in June 2007.

IMO Mattel and Hasbro need to work with the founders of Scrabulous. The Agarwalla brothers, Jayant 21 and Rajat 26 from India are the founders and developed Scrabulous on their website first - because they love the game and the site they were playing on previously began charging a fee. It was only after a friend convinced them to adapt the game to FaceBook (after FaceBook opened to third party developers) that it took off and became popular. I spoke to Jayant Agarwalla recently and asked him what their future plans are. “We have already been in the IT business for a few years now…I will graduate this year and my brother has already graduated.” implying that they intend to continue what they started while they were in college. It would be in Mattel/Hasbro’s interest to work with these guys rather than fight them. They have the resources to add more value and the Agarwalla’s are obviously full of ideas. Offer them some kind of deal that’s lucrative and let them run away with it. It will beneficial to both the parties

In the mean time I’m hooked on Scrabulous so I hope they don’t take it down.

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