Facebook Scrabulous vs Hasbro Scrabble

Scrabulous Hello, my name is Mike and I’m a Scrabuholic.

Yes, I’m one of them. I’m one of those people who logs on to Facebook everyday just to play Scrabulous. While I only have six games going (as opposed to hundreds by true hardcore Scrabuholics), it’s become quite an addiction. And I know I’m not alone.

Which is why I’m sad to hear that Hasbro (HAS), creator of the board game Scrabble, is trying to shut down Scrabulous. Hearing this makes me a sad panda.

In his article, “Will someone please start a Facebook group to save Scrabulous?” Josh Quittner of Fortune Magazine writes:

I can’t tell if Hasbro… is the smartest company in the world or the dumbest. Over 100 million sets of the game have been sold in 121 countries, in 29 different languages, according to everyone’s favorite source. What a cash cow. …

But all good things must come to an end, which is bad news for Scrabulous fans, and even worse for the [Scrabulous creators]: Hasbro’s trying to shut the site down. “They sent a notice to Facebook about two weeks ago,” Jayant confirmed to me. “The lawyers are working on it.” …

As a tech writer and life-long student of what passes for Internet economics, I’m baffled. Is Hasbro just a stupid Potato Head? Or is this a brilliant game of Stratego?

Jayant, of course, is part of the duo that created Scrabulous, along with his brother Rajat Agarwalla. They were just two rabid Scrabble fans who used to play on Quadplex until it started charging its users. “I’m not sure why Hasbro actually picked on this” Jayant added as he pointed out all the other free online Scrabble clones out there (like gazillions!).

“Because, dude, you’re the best,” added Quittner. Dawww.

These two brothers first built a site called Scrabulous in 2006 that earned about 600,000 registered users in a year. So when Facebook opened up its platform, the brothers launched their Facebook app in June 2007. Six months later, they earned about 2.3 million users. Holy Scrabble Batman! It’s currently the most popular Facebook game out there too (check it out under the “Most Active Users” tab).

So an obvious thought for most people in the web industry is: Why doesn’t Hasbro just purchase the Scrabulous Facebook app? Perhaps they are… “We’re trying to work out some kind of deal,” Jayant added. TechCrunch also picked up this story (“Hasbro Tries To Shut Down Scrabulous“) and one commenter suggested that “just acquiring the app might be cheaper (AND strategically [more] meaningful) than throwing their lawyers at this.”

What would Scrabulous be worth if it was for sale? Jayant said it makes “over $25,000 a month.” Adonomics, an open analytics and advertising platform for Facebook, values Scrabulous at just under $3M. Hmmm.

So say Hasbro purchased Scrabulous. They’d get a major presence on Facebook, some marketing exposure (especially among Facebook users) and a new revenue stream—though it would be a tiny one, compared to their other profit makers, like Cranium or Monopoly.

And what’s the potential downside for them? As another TechCrunch commenter wrote, “Sure, buying them would be an option, but then in some ways you’re rewarding people for stealing trademarks and brand names.” That would certainly set a precedent in the industry for other potential copycats hoping to score big by selling out. Hasbro may not even have the operational capacity or knowledge to support Facebook apps either. They have their Flash-based Monkeybar TV HasbroGames, but it may not have been built in-house. Also, perhaps they simply doesn’t see the gains in marketing and revenue worth the risks of buying Scrabulous.

Being Scrabuholic that I am really makes me hope they don’t shut down Scrabulous. Though if they did, they’d free me of my addiction and give me back oodles of free time. But then, I wouldn’t have Scrabulous. And that would make me a sad panda.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

14 thoughts on “Facebook Scrabulous vs Hasbro Scrabble”

  1. Having been a Scrabulous addict for well over a year,with over 3800 FREE games played….it is the FREE aspect that attracts so many to the site. It is also very well run,with the owners being very involved…which is not the case on other sites. Jay & Raj provide a FREE site,that is kept a safe place in which to play. They take a very strict approach to banning players who are abusive & do not follow the rules of the site.
    Perhaps if Hasbro wants to keep its wholesome,family image intact..it should keep in mind that this is what is provided on Scrabulous..as well as it being FREE.

  2. @Peter: Looks like you have an interesting game there! While I haven’t played it yet, friends have used the dreaded two-letter-words strategy to beat me in Scrabble, while I tried to be “clever” and build longer words. Since your game encourages longer words, that oughta make the game more fun!

  3. My favourite way to spend time was playing on the Scrabulous site. But they went and revamped the website and now I can’t get into the Scrabble Blitz rooms. The brothers tell me I need to update Java but I have the latest version and I have no problem accessing the regular rooms. What gives? I dunno…I keep trying.

  4. @lainey: Hmm, I’m not sure what the problem would be. I only play with their Facebook version. It’s possible that there’s a bug in their Java code for Scrabble Blitz. If you haven’t already, try emailing them with any error messages you see, so they can fix it. Good luck!

  5. I’ve emailed them several times…I can play regular scrabble though but because I hate to lose, I sort of like playing blitz…I don’t think there is a loser or winner in that game..suits me better.

  6. To set up a Scrabulous game on Facebook, you have to add the Scrabulous Facebook application. You can do that by going to:

    Once you’ve added the app, you can click on “New Game” to play against your friends, or “Join Table” to play strangers. And that’s it! Have fun playing!

  7. I sure hope they get things sorted out with Scrabulous! I love this application! As for those that think that playing on line is a waste of time…phooey on them! It is a great way for us more senior users to keep those brain cells active.
    I wonder if phooey is a legit word…I must check that!

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