Facebook’s ‘Scrabulous’ faces legal action

Since “Scrabulous” was added in spring of 2007 as a Facebook application, the classic game of “Scrabble” has gained numerous new fans from a generation accustomed to technology-based amusements.

The game boasts more than 700,000 daily users and three million total users, according to The New York Times.

However, in January, Hasbro, which owns the rights for the game’s North American market, and Mattel, which markets the game abroad, threatened legal action against the creators of “Scrabulous.” Denouncing “Scrabulous” for piracy, Hasbro and Mattel demanded that the application be removed completely, according to a Jan. 16 story by the BBC.

Created by brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla of Calcutta, Ind., “Scrabulous” was developed when another “Scrabble” knockoff began to charge players, according to the Times.

“Scrabulous,” one among many “Scrabble” knockoffs, has certainly become the most well-known version since its debut on Facebook. With such heavy Web traffic, online advertising brings in an estimated $25,000 a month to the brothers, a March 2 Times article said.

“I don’t think (‘Scrabulous’) should be taken off, but if it has to, I think it would be cool if they could work together, ‘Scrabble’ with ‘Scrabulous,'” Amanda Merced, junior communication studies major, said.

The Times article said the gaming company RealNetworks, which has signed a deal with Mattel, is trying to do just that by bringing the real “Scrabble” to Facebook. Mattel wants to avoid working with the brothers, however, saying it would set a bad precedent.

Hasbro plans to release a version from Electronic Arts in the upcoming spring.

However, many users of “Scrabulous” are threatening to boycott the companies if “Scrabulous” is removed from Facebook, according to numerous Facebook groups such as “Save Scrabulous” and “Save Scrabulous! Give us Scrabulous or Give us Death!” The groups have together amassed more than 60,000 members.

While in the Times article some players indicated that “Scrabulous” is the reason they purchased “Scrabble,” both Hasbro and Mattel declined to reveal how many boards they have sold since the introduction of “Scrabulous” to Facebook. The approximate number of “Scrabble” boards typically sold per year ranges from one to two million in North America according to Hasbro.

While many value the interpersonal atmosphere that the tangible board offers, playing online does have its advantages. Players can indulge in multiple games at once, compete with players worldwide, and choose whether they want their games to be quick or last more than a week.

“I think it’s easier,” Merced said. “You can find peple to play on short notice.”

“Scrabulous” provides a setting for those who want to compete at a high level and those who merely use the game as a simple means of keeping up contact between friends. The group “Scrabulous is Crack and I am a Junkie” attests to the addiction many feel toward this rendition of the classic game.

Still, some players will be satisfied as long as a Facebook version remains free.

“If (Hasbro and Mattel) decide to make their own ‘Scrabble’ for Facebook, I’d switch over,” Enrico Bruno, freshman English major, said. “As long as you get to play the game, why does it matter who is supplying the application?”