Scrabulous: Dead App Scrabbling

I’ve mentioned it before, but for those of you who weren’t aware, I’m addicted to Scrabulous, the Facebook application which allows me to play multiple games of Scrabble with several of you at the same time, and at our leisure.

Scrabulous is so fabulous, I ditched Friendster and MySpaz out of my desire for it; I had no need for such retrograde networks, not when Facebook was so superior– and the whole basis for its superiority is this stellar timesuck. If you read the message boards on the “official” Save Scrabulous group or under news articles about the game, I’m not the only one who has embraced Facebook out of my nerdier impulses, nor am I the only one who is twitching in a corner, rocking back-and-forth over this:

The saga of Scrabulous is nearing an end…[link]

I can’t bear to contemplate it. Better I edify you as to why this tragedy is occurring. Hasbro is not pleased that their game is suddenly so popular, not when they have no part in the fun. Never mind that they were stupid for not sensing the untapped desire of millions of word-nerds for protracted online Scrabbling, they’re using words like “licensing” and “stealing” to rain on our vocabulary-littered parade.

A flurry of behind the scenes deal-making has been going on between Hasbro, Scrabulous, and Electronic Arts, which has the license in the U.S. to the online version of the game. Hasbro is trying to get Scrabulous to sell itself for a song to Electronic Arts, or else shut down completely by the end of the day today. [link]

The Calcutta-based brothers behind the awesomeness, software developers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla are trying to find a way…

Scrabulous has been trying to shop itself to other buyers as well, but its legal liability is scaring away any potential white knights. Unless it gets some sort of reprieve or agrees to sell to Electronic Arts, Scrabulous will be no more, despite the more than 46,000 Facebook members who have joined the “Save Scrabulous” group. What choice does it have, really, but to sell? [link]

Lest you think this is a tiny sort of tempest, consider these numbers:

Scrabulous was started in 2006 as a standalone site operated by a pair of 20-something Calcutta, India-based brothers, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, but the game exploded when they created a Facebook application that currently boasts 2.3 million active users and soon became the workplace productivity drain du jour. It’s currently the ninth most popular application on the site. [link]

Why can’t Hasbro focus on the good, which is what would benefit me…and you…and every other Scrabbling cubicle monkey?

With no official version of Scrabble available to play online, the move to shut down Scrabulous – which has renewed interest in the board game for a generation more familiar with electronic entertainment – could be seen as counter-productive
Office worker Nastasia, 32, who plays Scrabulous at home and at work, said she bought a travel edition of the board game to take on holidays.
“We went overseas with some friends so I bought a travel version of Scrabble as I’d forgotten how fun the game was until Facebook revived it,” she said. [link]

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go finish the nine games I’m currently playing. I plan to go out in a blaze of glory, firing until there are no triple-word-scores left, TWL in my right hand, SOWPODS in my left…

25 thoughts on “Scrabulous: Dead App Scrabbling

  1. Why can’t Hasbro focus on the good, which is what would benefit me…and you…and every other Scrabbling cubicle monkey?

    You do realize this is just an exercise in brinkmanship, right ? Hasbro likes the idea of Scrabulous, which is why it wants to buy it. But then, Hasbro would also like to get Scrabulous at a really low-ball bid if it can get away with it. Ditto Mattel. Hence the threats to shut down. Let’s see who blinks first.

  2. 2 · Lekhni said

    You do realize this is just an exercise in brinkmanship, right ?…Let’s see who blinks first.

    I’m not worried about who will Malcolm Gladwell first, I am anguished at the possibility that I will not be able to kick erstwhile Mutineer Shiddhortho’s kundi! sniffle For the love of the game, let it exist, no matter who runs it. Gah.

    There used to be a free version of scrabble on yahoo games that I used to play, now they have a full version for $19.99.

    Here’s the thing–and it’s the thing for most of us affected by this drama– it’s not the same. :( This is about time, not money. I have no desire to play Scrabulous by myself or IRL with others; the former is not as fun and the latter is nearly impossible, because I don’t have time to play an entire game at once. Additionally, every person I play against lives somewhere far beyond DC.

    The genius of Scrabulous on Facebook is that we are playing with our friends and family, whenever someone is free, even if two people aren’t available simultaneously. The game waits patiently, lovingly, for our return. That convenience is so wonderful. I was sick for three days? No scrabbling. I have 30 minutes before pizza shows up? I ruthlessly work my way down my list of games, until each “your move” is erased. sigh.

  3. Scrabulous is the only thing I use Facebook for. I must have played about 45 games in the past two months, and now, with its potential demise, it looks like I’ll have no need for Facebook. Oh well…it’s been a fun run.

  4. Take away the flinging sheep! The daily horoscopes! The 9,253 walls! Anything but Scrabulous, the only respectable app on fbook…

  5. I have to take issue. The Agarwalla brothers have been pulling in $25000 a month from the app. Its not like they are victims, even if they have to sell for a “song” to EA. The Scrabulous app is my favorite pastime on facebook, too, but its not like they even tried to avoid copyright infringement. Hasbro has a very solid argument and its really quite fair. If the Agarwallas truly “love the game” then they should take whatever they are offered by EA. If they decide to go out as martyrs and shut down Scrabulous, then they are greedy bastards acting out of spite with no respect for the fans who just want to play the damn game.

  6. One month away from Facebook and they shut Scrabbulous down? :( Excuse me while I go and play my turn on all my unfinished games.

  7. 7 · Aziz said

    The Agarwalla brothers have been pulling in $25000 a month from the app. Its not like they are victims, even if they have to sell for a “song” to EA.

    I didn’t know they were making THAT much. Look, I get it, if I were Hasbro I would probably be pissed, too, but I’m not them and I am blinded by a single, overwhelming thought: I just want to playyyyy. ;)

    Wait a second– so there’s the possibility that the game could remain on FB if they sell? This is the first I’m hearing about that. I thought it was just going to get shut down no matter what, all of us be damned. I’m an addict, baby, I don’t give a rodent’s kundi who owns it, licenses it or gets paneer off o’ it. Just don’t kill it!

  8. The genius of Scrabulous on Facebook is that we are playing with our friends and family, whenever someone is free, even if two people aren’t available simultaneously.

    so true. i can kick my friends’ asses (or be kicked) despite different time zones and work/life schedules! i’m sure if the app goes down, many of the users won’t be going to another scrabble app on facebook or otherwise.

  9. “The Agarwalla brothers have been pulling in $25000 a month from the app. Its not like they are victims, even if they have to sell for a “song” to EA.”

    i thought it was £25,000 a month. its pretty cool what these desi brother did, real punk sticking it to the MAN!!

  10. I was into Scrabulous briefly last summer when I was working with a bunch of youngsters… but then I think I’d tick them off because I’d forget to check to see if it was my turn for days on end. It’s definitely fun and fabulous… another time waster for multitasking cube farm prisoners.

    My question: How old does one have to be for it to be completely ridiculous to be a Facebooker? I’m severely pushing the envelope…

  11. Not familiar with Facebook, but if all you want is a free and legal word game, you can try Quackle. It’s exactly like Scrabble, except that it does not claim to be a Scrabble clone for precisely the legal reasons outlined in this post. As far as I know, it does not have multiplayer ability, but it’s pretty damned strong at its game in the higher levels.

  12. 13 · pingpong said

    It’s exactly like Scrabble, except that it does not claim to be a Scrabble clone for precisely the legal reasons outlined in this post.

    No laws please, we are Indian.

  13. Addendum to my previous comment:

    Quackle is reasonably useful as a move simulator when you’re playing a slow game with another human, like one where the moves are sent by email. I suppose it would be perfect to help you win at Facebook-style apps?

  14. 16 · Dasichist said

    So is this why we haven’t seen nanofiction Fridays in so long?? ;)

    Lack of bloody interest, yaar. If mutineers are wanting, I will be the doing, this Friday.

  15. I never found the scrabulous app compelling because I encountered multiple bugs in it, and I dislike games going on for days on end. There are other apps which are much more fun, you know…

  16. The yahoo version is a not-so-close clone of the real thing. I was amazed when I ran into Scrabulous, that it was an exact replica of the original game. It’s no surprise that it’s being shut down. If EA or Hasbro wants the app, then they should pay for the momentum it has generated. If they don’t and the game is shut down, I will not buy another Hasbro toy again! Well, I will try.

  17. anna, i have seen the $25k figure quoted widely but cant find an original source, but its definitely making the agarwalla brothers somr serious cash. that hasbro is pressuring them to sell to EA for a “song” was mentioned in the story you linked, its pretty clear that scrabulous is not doomed, only the agarwalla’s revenue stream.

  18. What a great post. So lighthearted and very well written. Thanks for the afternoon picker-upper!

  19. anna, as you know ;0) i’m addicted as well, winding up the 16 games i’m currently playing..

    down with the damn corporations, they are lessening my timesucks..

  20. It appears as if you’ve just spoken any scrabulous fan’s mind. I’ve played with people from all over the world and almost went to the verge of buying the board game (self restraint on splurge saved me from buying) to play when I’m not online. My productivity at work has sunk to its lowest. I hope Mattel guys see where their real customers are. In fact they should gift the board game for people with maximum games or the highest points. Just as I was about to get concerned about the “pick up” point that it had threatened to become, this bigger problem emerges!

    and yeah, you should read this

  21. Aziz

    I have to take issue. The Agarwalla brothers have been pulling in $25000 a month . … but its not like they even tried to avoid copyright infringement

    Scrabble according to Wiki is 70 years old. The people profitting from it today are not the people who invented it, or even made it popular. I see no reason why they should profit.

    Anna

    No laws please, we are Indian.

    As per Indian copyright laws the laws of most sane countries, the copyright of scrabble should have expired a long time ago. It only violates the evil US copyright law (Google the infamous Mickey Mouse protection act of 1998 for background). Morally I see nothing wrong in a couple of people making use of something that should be public domain by now. I hope the brothers move it to a non – US based server and give Hasbro a big middle finger.(even if it moves off facebook)