As of today, Scrabulous, the wildly popular Facebook Scrabble game, is no more. If you try to login to the app now you'll get the message "Scrabulous is disabled for U.S. and Canadian users until further notice." You have the option of entering your email address to receive further information about developments in the matter. While Scrabulous fans are certainly angered over the app's shutdown, the unanswered question still looms: did Hasbro have to do this?
The Troubled History of Scrabulous
Last week, Hasbro filed suit against Rajat and Jayant Agarwall, the brothers who created the app two years ago. The game, as you may know, doesn't just take inspiration from Scrabble, but rips it off entirely and transports it to the web...triple word scores and all.
On the one hand, the brothers should be congratulated for having the foresight to see how popular an online version of this game could be - it quickly rose to become one of the all-time favorite games on Facebook's social network with over 500,000 daily users. On the other, you have to wonder what other result the Agarwall brothers could have hoped for at this point.
Although Hasbro sent a takedown notice back in January to Rajat and Jayant Agarwall, they later tried to come to an agreement with the brothers over the rights to the game. In fact, Electronic Arts, RealNetworks, Mattel, and Hasbro - the four U.S. companies that each have some of the rights of Scrabble - came together to offer the brothers a large sum of money which would have allowed them to keep a version of the game up and running.
According to this New York Times article, Jayant Agarwalla said that he and his brother did not create Scrabulous to make money - they just wanted to play Scrabble on their computers. So why didn't they accept the big check then? The brothers decided to turn down the check, rumored to be around the $10 million mark; apparently, they were holding out for more money. How much more? A multiple of several times $10 million by some accounts. Even though the game, by all fair estimates, was probably only worth around $3-6 million, the brothers felt they deserved more.
Was This A Big Mistake?
While some are calling the Scrabulous shutdown a great blunder on Hasbro's part, we wonder what other solutions could the company have taken to protect their brand? Or is it time for companies to give up trying to protect their brand altogether and just learn how to better compete with those that counterfeit their copyright? This question is truly the basis for all the arguments surrounding the piracy issue - that is, whether it's worthwhile to go after pirates, thieves, and copyright-infringers, or whether it's better to simply let them be and consider it free advertising.
Image Credit: Scrabulous by BobbyProm