Dead Pixels: Every week Ms. Pixel selects a Dead Pixel (or Loser) of the week. Check in weekly for her thoughts on the losers of gaming and social media.
Background: For those of you that missed it: “Scrabulous” is a free, online version of the classic Hasbro game that was released on Facebook earlier this year. The game was really popular on Scrabulous.com and it gained alot of traction when it was released on Facebook.
Scrabble’s persistent failure to offer up a viable alternative to Scrabulous is baffling. So let’s review how Hasbro reacted to Scrabulous and what they can do to harness the renewed excitement around Scrabble.
1) Hasbro pulled Scrabulous from Facebook
Hasbro mounted a campaign to have Scrabulous’s App on Facebook removed. Despite the application’s enormous popularity, Hasbro threatened legal action against Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla (the creators of Scrabulous). Pulling the application had an enormous effect: disrupting thousands of games that were taking place all over the world.
2) Hasbro released a sub-par Facebook application
I understand why they pulled the game. What I can’t understand is why they thought a sub-par version of Scrabulous would cut it. It’s bad for a couple of reasons (poor design and bugs) but the main reason why their version is not doing well is because they don’t allow world-wide game play. People used Scrabulous to help stay in touch with friends globally. It’s a social game.
Patrick Klepekof MTV Multiplayer reports that they restricted game play over a rights issue. “The rights on ‘Scrabble’ are split between Hasbro and Mattel,” said a company representative. “There is no licensed worldwide game. We have the rights through Hasbro so our game is for US and Canada players only — whether it’s iPhone or Facebook or any platform.”
I have a friend who played Scrabulous with his girlfriend overseas. Now that the game is banned on Facebook they can’t play anymore. This guy and his girlfriend don’t care about some rights issue. The ratings for the game on Facebook are also abysmal. It currently has less than 2 out of 5 stars. This needs to be fixed or else the Scrabble version is not going to gain any traction.
What Hasbro Should Do
I understand that people don’t aspire to make bad games. Everyone wants to produce excellent work. Budget shortfalls, management hiccups and staffing issues happen. That’s business. But what should Hasbro do now?
1) Give Up
You have to hand it to Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla – they saw an opportunity where Hasbro didn’t. They listened to Scrabble fans and gave them what they wanted. Meanwhile, Hasbro’s version is failing. Releasing a public beta of the game is not going over well because people are not in the mood to test out an incomplete version of the game. And despite Hasbro’s enormous resources they couldn’t beat a two man team of developers.
At this rate I don’t see Hasbro’s Facebook application being successful in the long term. That’s ok. They should cut the Agarwalla’s a check for their good work, acquire Scrabulous and move on.
2) Be like John McCain and Learn the Internet
The creators of Scrabulous understood that people who loved Scrabble as kids are more likely to be engaged online. They have to understand the Scrabble customer of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
If Hasbro doesn’t catch up it will quickly lose its relevance as people migrate away from board games. This is already happening. Meet WordScrapper, the Agarwalla’s answer to the Facebook ban. I like it and it has a 5-star rating on Facebook. It’s daily audience size is expected to surpass Scrabble’s version.
At the rate things are going Hasbro is going to lose to the Agarwalla’s… again.