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Thursday
Aug142008

Learning from Scrabulous

Richard Gottlieb, a blogger at Playthings magazine, posted on Monday about the Scrabulous situation. In short, a couple guys from India created a Facebook app that's a game remarkably similar to Scrabble. It's no surprise that Hasbro, owner of Scrabble, was a little upset about the blatant infringement of their intellectual property rights. Hasbro recently took legal action that led Scrabulous' owners to change the product significantly. The fans don't like the changes and are quite irritated with Hasbro.

Gottlieb starts by saying that "Hasbro has managed the Scrabulous challenge about as well as can be expected." Well, I agree that Hasbro has every legal right to protect their IP, but to say that they handled this as well as can be expected is a bit dubious. I am not suggesting that Hasbro handled this poorly, but the reality is that their actions created a risk for their brand. As one commenter noted:

I no longer play any version of Scrabble online and I also eliminated a planned purchase of the traditional board game as I was going to introduce the game to my kids. My friends have done the same. They took a million fans of the game and thew [sic] them in the trash, hopefully it's just the beginning of more failure for this poorly managed company.

To say that Scrabulous fans will "get over it" is short sighted. Time will tell if Hasbro's attempt to "take pee out of the swimming pool" is positive or negative for their brand.

The second half of Gottlieb's post is terrific. He's absolutely right. Toy companies need to be much more in tune with the increasing number of Gen X and Gen Y moms and dads who live their lives online in ways that much of upper management just just doesn't understand.

Just think... what if Hasbro had reacted to Scrabulous by immediately introducing an official and better Scrabble Facebook app of their own? They could have trumped the imposter or at least slowed them down enough to make Scrabble appear genuine and Scrabulous as a cheap knockoff. We'll never know if the thought even crossed their minds. In fact, I wonder how long it took someone in a position of authority to even notice what was going on.

Reader Comments (1)

Thanks for your comments on my blog, "Out of the Toy Box." I made a second post about Scrabulous called "The Passion of the Scrabulous" in which I wrote about the passion and loyalty that games generate.
It's interesting though, that game inventors do not get the kind of fame and acclaim that authors do. Maybe its time for all of us to get a greater appreciation for people like Alfred Mosher Butts, the inventor of Scrabble. Butts created his elegant game by actually counting up the frequency of each letter by tediously counting how many times they appeared on a page of The New York Times.
Butts never made it to the cover of Time Magazine. when you consider how much pleasure he has given millions and millions of people, maybe he should have.
August 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Gottlieb

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