Facebook Fails To Respond To 'Scrabulous' Spat

Hasbro and Mattel have asked Facebook to remove Scrabulous, the digital version of the venerable board game Scrabble, from the social networking site.

Richard Martin, Contributor

January 17, 2008

2 Min Read

Don't play online games with Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes." That's the lesson being learned this week by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was "requested" by multi-national toymakers Hasbro and Mattel to remove Scrabulous, the digital version of the venerable board game Scrabble, from the social networking site.

As of Thursday morning, however, the game was still on Facebook and the company had not responded to the game-makers' demand.

Scrabulous was developed by pair of Indian brothers, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla. Since it was launched as a Facebook application in June 2007, it has become one of the most popular Facebook applications, drawing a few hundred thousand players daily. The application carries a disclaimer saying "Scrabulous is not a part, subsidiary, or venture of Hasbro or Mattel, and is not connected to them in any way whatsoever."

Mattel owns the rights to Scrabble, which was invented by Alfred Butts in 1948, outside North America. Hasbro owns the rights in the U.S. and Canada. The two companies demanded that the application be removed form Facebook just days after a "60 Minutes" segment showed correspondent Lesley Stahl playing the game with Zuckerberg on national TV.

"Letters have been sent to Facebook in the United States regarding the Scrabulous application," a Mattel spokeswoman in the U.K. told Reuters.

Given that as many as 2 million Facebook users are now semi-regular Scrabulous players, it's clear that Facebook has given the 60-year-old board game something of a renaissance. According to the Scrabble association, between 1 million and 2 million Scrabble board games are sold every year. There's almost certainly more player matching vocabularies on Scrabulous than there are placing physical tiles on an actual board at any given time.

That's not been lost on the dozens of Scrabulous fans who have posted outraged messages on the application's message board since Monday.

"The application allows thousands of Scrabble (tm) fans to practice their skills and interact, and should be seen as a boon to the game," wrote "Xris Kusy."It's time that corporations start to see the bigger picture. What's next, coming to house when I host a game and claiming that my friends who are using my Scrabble board are stealing from Hasbro? C'mon!"

Given that no litigation has been filed, some form of cross-licensing deal still appears possible, if not inevitable. That would be fine with the Agarwalla brothers, who have said that they're clearing around $25,000 a month from advertising associated with Scrabulous.

Video game maker Electronic Arts sells a PC game of Scrabble for around $20.

About the Author(s)

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights