Among Facebook’s ‘applications programs’, one of the most popular is the version of Scrabble, called Scrabulous. It has over 450,000 daily users but now, the makers of the real-life boring Scrabble have teamed up with video game giant EA to get a piece of the action.
The popular Scrabulous version of the game was created by brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla in India shortly after Facebook announced the ‘Facebook Platform’. This would allow outside developers to create games and other applications used on the social networking site. This happened in May of 2007. So now, over 1 year and 2 months later, Scrabble is wising up? More than a little late to the party, I’d say.
Scrabble has been fighting with Facebook to remove the game as an application for months, calling on copyright violations. However, Scrabulous’ fans became very outspoken and launched ‘Save Scrabulous’ campaigns all over Facebook.
Now EA is teaming up with Scrabble to make a legit version with a bunch of restrictions. Because of copyright laws in different countries, this new version of the game will only be available for gameplay between two players residing in the same country. Bogus! And this took a team of EA designers over 6 months of development to create! Those two Indian brothers created a much more efficient version of the game in a matter of weeks.
The reason Facebook’s Scrabulous is popular is because of its ease of use and casual gameplay. In the spirit of transatlantic chess matches, this ‘pirated’ version of Scrabble allowed players to make a move and wait for their opponent to make the next move when he or she signed on. Now with extra gizmos and precise adherence to the board game, it looks like the new Scrabble will slow things down.
EA spokespeople cite ‘international linguistic variances’ as a reason for why globalized Scrabble games would be a non-factor. But this new version won’t let me play and make friends with a Facebook buddy living in Siberia? Yeah, well good luck with this whole thing, EA and legit Scrabble. I have a feeling the majority of people will stick with the illegal Scrabulous version of the game, void of any restrictions.
The AP article also explains how the Scrabble makers are trying to make this a big profit machine:
EA is trying to generate interest for Scrabble on other computing platforms. EA recently made it available on its ad-supported Pogo.com site, and it sells versions for Apple Inc.’s iPods for about $5 and for various mobile devices starting at $4. EA has rights to offer it on digital devices like Nintendo Co.’s Wii game console as well.
A Nintendo Wii version of Scrabble? I have a feeling that will be the least fun Wii game ever created.
AP: Game maker tries to legitimize Facebook Scrabble, July 8, 2008