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The Scrabble Rabble

In January, Hasbro, the North American distributor of Scrabble, announced plans to sue Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, the creators of Facebook‘s most popular application: Scrabulous. With 700,000 daily users, Scrabulous makes the Agarwalla brothers $25,000 a month in advertising revenue, the Times reported Sunday.

Scrambling for a piece of the market share, Hasbro has reportedly signed deals with gaming companies RealNetworks and Electronic Arts to create an online version of Scrabble. But the Facebook copycat version has already garnered three million fans, who have downloaded the application alongside Oregon Trail, Zombies, and SuperPoke, and they are unlikely to switch. In fact, many are beginning to revolt.

With a vague threat that Scrabulous may be taken from them any day now, zealots have created anti-Hasbro groups like “Save Scrabulous” and “Please God, I Have So Little: Don’t Take Scrabulous, Too,” whose members threaten to never buy a Scrabble board again if Hasbro proceeds against the Agarwalla brothers. Whether these users would have bought a board in the first place is questionable, but the application has done nothing but strengthen Scrabble interest among a younger demographic. Shouldn’t Hasbro and Mattel (who distributes the game outside North America) be celebrating the success of Scrabulous? From the Times piece:

“For their part, Mattel and Hasbro are trying to protect their franchise as consumers turn increasingly to the Internet for entertainment. They say they consider Scrabble a crown jewel and are working on marketing campaigns for the game’s 60th anniversary this year. The plans include adding anniversary labels to Scrabble packaging and introducing a folding edition of the deluxe Scrabble board.”

Anniversary labels and a folding-edition of the deluxe board! Wow. Office drones everywhere will surely take notice.

Instead of snuffing out Scrabulous and taking on a great deal of ill-will from the online community, why doesn’t Hasbro find a way to capitalize on the craze in a way that doesn’t enrage new fans of the game?

Hasbro might want to invest in sites that Scrabulous players visit most often while playing the game. One difference between the Facebook application and real-life Scrabble is the rampant cheating that goes on. I know some people, for instance [ahem], who visit this site and this site quite a bit while playing online. Improving Scrabble-branded cheat sites may be the best money-making strategy of all. There’s currently no advertising on the Hasbro site. Can someone tell me, though, why there’s a photo of a woman and a baby? They make family games, I get it, but a baby?