Hasbro's Nightmare: Scrabulous Returns With New Name And (A Few) New Rules

from the bad-business-decision. dept

Well, you kind of had to see this one coming. Days after taking Scrabulous down in response to the lawsuit from Hasbro, the brothers behind the game have put up a new game called "WordScraper" that is similar, but has a few different rules as well. The idea, obviously is to be different enough to get around the lawsuit from Hasbro.

When you look this over, you begin to realize just how badly Hasbro screwed up in handling this situation. In focusing on a legal solution, it may have created the worst case scenario for the business side of the company.

When we talk about various trademark and copyright disputes, one response we often get is that a company has to react that way to "protect" its "property." This is not quite accurate. While there are some issues concerning trademark and preventing a trademark from going generic, there are almost always better business responses than suing -- and on copyright issues, there's no requirement to protect. However, in an age where lawyers all too often make business decisions based on what can be done legally, rather than what makes the most business sense, those options are all too rarely considered. In the past, there was often little that could be done for those impacted by such decisions. These days, however, things are quite different. Pissing off a large group of people, even if you have the legal right to do so, can often be a disastrous business move.

This is clearly demonstrated by Hasbro. The saga began earlier this year when Hasbro realized that Scrabulous was ridiculously popular on Facebook. Scrabulous was developed by two brothers who liked the game Scrabble and noticed that it couldn't be played online. Hasbro had done little to help put the game online, and the brothers were merely doing a much better job responding to the market need than the company that supposedly "owned" the rights.

Hasbro finally put together its own version (which got terrible reviews) and then sued Scrabulous, getting the brothers to take the game down. And, historically, that's where all this would end. Hasbro was legally in the right and had every right to push to block Scrabulous. But, as a business decision (as counterintuitive as it may seem), this reaction may be quite bad for business.

First, witness the rather loud and nearly immediate response from many Scrabulous fans, slamming Hasbro for its actions and pushing a boycott on all Hasbro products. Some will surely claim that many of these folks would probably never buy a Hasbro product in the first place and so this is a lot of noise about nothing. However, don't underestimate the reputational hit that Hasbro will take for this -- especially among younger folks who may be Hasbro's most important target audience. As Metallica is still in the process of learning, your reputation is extremely important, and damaging it by treating your fans incorrectly can do an awful lot more damage to your brand than you might expect.

Now, add in the fact that the Scrabulous guys have come back with Wordscraper, and chances are people are going to flock to it, just as vehemently as they now want to avoid Hasbro's Scrabble. That's about the worst case scenario for Hasbro, and it was entirely avoidable if they had simply realized how people would react to their decisions (which wasn't hard to guess from earlier responses prior to the lawsuit).

Update: Some folks in the comments (and via email) are pointing out the rumor that Hasbro offered to buy out Scrabulous from its creators. That's a valid point, but it doesn't really change the rest of the calculus here at all. Even given the fact that Hasbro made an effort at buying them out, that still doesn't mean that (having failed that) suing them was the proper second response -- as evidence by exactly what's happened since then.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Poster, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 3:30am

    I propose a name for this sort of thing.

    The Scrabulous Effect.

     

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  2.  
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    Twinrova, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:07am

    What online Scrabble game?

    Apparently, EA has announced a hacker has taken down their game and are working to fix the problem.

    It's amazing how reputations are commonplace now. For example, the news that a hacker did this instantly screamed "LIAR!" as I've yet to see a game made by EA that was good, let alone stable.

    What's the score for the word "Idiots" (D is tripled)?

     

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  3.  
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    Hasbro PR guy, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:10am

    Who really cares. It's a game...
    Now we have to read about this one every blog site.
    It's just a game...

     

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  4.  
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    Jayson, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:10am

    Scrabulous

    Well this is no surprise when people figure out ways to do something similar to another popular product they also figure out ways to skirt the line.

    I'm loving it.

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:11am

    Traditional solution

    The traditional solution to intrinsically abusive look&feel litigation, is to allow user customisation of software.

    Thus the developers release software which is dissimilar by default, but when a particular configuration file is loaded appears very similar.

    The developers then rely upon the users to produce and distribute the 'infringing' configuration file.

     

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  6.  
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    Christopher Shaw, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:12am

    Hasbro are such idiots...

    If they had worked with these two Indian guys on this, perhaps even endorsed "Scrabulous" and made it the official online version of Scrabble, my suspicion is that they could have sold tens of thousands of units of what is otherwise a moribund product, the physical Scrabble board game.

    As it stands now they can eat dust.

     

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  7.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:43am

    Re: Hasbro are such idiots...

    Even worse for Hasbro- Scrabbulous has sold a bunch of physical Scrabble sets for which Hasbro has pocketed the profits. Unfortunately they pulled that money out of their pockets handed it to lawyers who poisoned that well.

    It wasn't in the lawyers best interest to work out a sane and smart solution between the parties because that would have come to a solution quickly with a minimal number of billable hours.

     

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  8.  
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    Cassius Seeley, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:06am

    Evil Lawyers

    Lawyers will be the downfall of our civilization. If there is no issue, they invent one, if there is an issue they inflate it. Lawyers are evil :)

     

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  9.  
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    Justin Rubio, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:12am

    Two interesting links

    http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/3/the_scrabulous_snag__money
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/bus iness/02game.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

    Just for further info on this story: Apparently the brothers were offered money in negotiations, but it fell through.

    At the end of the day (unsurprisingly) it was about cold hard cash... rather than the "fun" factor.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:34am

    Re: Two interesting links

    What do you expect? This is business, not some fairy tale story where everyone does "the right thing" unless they are "bad guys" or something.

    At the end of the day, almost all of these problems are coming from (willfully) ignorant businessmen who take their lawyer's opinion as gospel truth rather than the advice from a STRICTLY legal standpoint.

    If you look at it from a purely legal standpoint, the actions are logical. But when you look at it from a *business* standpoint, there are a lot of other factors (such as your reputation as mentioned by Mike) to consider.

    In the end of the day, my favorite quote is true: "Never attribute to malice, that which could easily be explained by incompetence."

    MOST Lawyers are not evil. They're just doing their job the way they are supposed to. Its when people ONLY listen to their lawyer and always do what they say, or even worse enabling the lawyers to act on their own, that you run into trouble.

    Just because someone is the CEO of a company doesn't always mean they are good at business. It just means they're good at climbing the ladder sometimes.

     

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    settle down, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:35am

    This is stupid. Hasboro did nothing wrong. Pause for a moment and think about the situation (what would you do if you were on either side of it) and you'll realize Hasboro did nothing you wouldn't do. Just because they are an old company doesn't mean their wrong. If someone made a knock off of snood or peggle you'd rush to defend the original programmers.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:35am

    Re: Re: Two interesting links

    Oh, and almost forgot: Some CEO's don't even know this is happening until its already in progress...

     

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    Norm, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:37am

    As Always...

    The business trying to protect itself is slammed for not buying into the blogger business model of "if it's not free it's bad"

     

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  14.  
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    Andy, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:40am

    Stupid Hasbro

    I've started boycotting their products, and unlike most of the people who are boycotting, I have a serious board-game addiction. Scores of copies of Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Uno, and others. Normally the buying habit was one game a month (or so), but I'm tired of huge companies making idiotic decisions when faced with these issues.

    How come they didn't just buy out Scrabulous?

     

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    PRMan, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:47am

    What they did wrong...

    What they did wrong is that they didn't try harder to make a deal. What if the Scrabulous team now comes out with Wordscraper board games for sale in America? They just went from a "Monopoly" on word games (no pun intended, but that was funny), to being an also ran.

    Oops.

     

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    starfarmer, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:53am

    Re: Evil Lawyers

    No, the people who *hire* lawyers and pay their bills are evil.

     

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  17.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:59am

    Only in North America

    I saw a blip on this last night on the local Fox news. They mentioned that they only shut down Scabulous in the US and Canada (where Hasbro has rights to the original game). In the rest of the world Mattel owns the Scrabble game. My wife, who is not too technically savvy, said,"Can't you just go to another countries domain and play Scrabulous still?"

     

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  18.  
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    MadJo (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:00am

    Re: As Always...

    if you read carefully, Mike did say that Hasbro was in the right to sue, but that it probably wasn't the right move with regards to the reputation of HASBRO. (which took a nose-dive)

    Do you honestly believe that the existence of Scrabulous was bad for HASBRO? That it threatened their bottom line?

    Would it have hurt HASBRO much, if they would let this one slide?

    I mean, Mattel (who owns the rights to Scrabble in the rest of the world) is so far doing nothing to stop Scrabulous.

     

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  19.  
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    tehdiplomat, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:01am

    Hasbro's Hammer

    I'd like to point out that "Some will surely claim that many of these folks would probably never buy a Hasbro product in the first place and so this is a lot of noise about nothing." Even for older people isn't going to fly. Hasbro is so huge that if you are buying any toy or game (for yourself or a niece/nephew or grandkid) it's at least a 50/50 shot of it being a Hasbro product. Avalon Hill, Coleco, Milton Bradley, Parker Brothers, Playskool, Tiger Electronics, Tonka, Wizards of the Coast are just some of the huge subsidiaries.
    Hopefully, Hasbro's Hammer will ease up a bit and they'll start working with intrepid young coders who are big fans of their products instead of forcing them off the stage.

     

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  20.  
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    hegemon13, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:02am

    Re:

    Mike did not say they were "wrong." In fact, he said they were perfectly within their legal rights. What he said is that they were stupid, and, given the results, I don't see how you can argue against that.

     

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  21.  
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    Peter Thomas, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:09am

    Re: Only in North America

    Actually, last night it was shut down here in the UK.

    We have the option of playing the official EA/Hasbro offering, called "Scrabble (R) Worldwide (Exluding USA & Canada".

     

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  22.  
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    John D (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:11am

    Re: settle down

    Hasbro did nothing "legally" wrong. This does not mean that what they did was necessarily the best business decision. What they did was annoy a whole bunch of people who liked one of their products. It was in Hasbro's best interest to have worked out some kind of deal with the Scrabulous brothers - unfortunately, much more so than it would have been in the brothers' best interest. Basically, from a public perception standpoint, Hasbro needs Scrabulous more then the brothers need Hasbro - unless Hasbro can suddenly turn their online Scrabble game into something better than Scrabulous.

     

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  23.  
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    Joe, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:16am

    Just one question

    What would be the right response for Hasbro? I thought Hasbro should either work to pay the brothers for what they put together and take ownership of it, or do nothing.

    But I am wondering what everyone else thought.

     

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  24.  
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    Overcast, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:17am

    Some will surely claim that many of these folks would probably never buy a Hasbro product in the first place and so this is a lot of noise about nothing.

    But - VERY few. After all - most people do have some younger person to buy gifts for during special occasions like Christmas, Birthdays - etc..

    It's not hard at all to buy another brand. In spite of the fact that I'm a avid video gamer, I do have a number of board games as well, as when I was young, video games didn't exist - I played board games quite frequently.

    So perhaps there are some that would never buy a Hasbro product anyway, but I suspect it's a small segment - most likely the majority of people, will buy some thing from the same market they sell in. Heck, even the single girl that sits buy me at work goes on about how she buys her Niece and Nephew stuff all the time - she probably buys more junk for them than their parents, because she has more liquid cash, lol.

     

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  25.  
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    Poomer, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:18am

    Shouldn't Hasbro offer to buy the Scrabulous? Pay the brothers for the software they wrote and marketed and made popular? (at which Hasbro has failed multiple times)

    Or they could let the brothers run the app but provide a cut in the AD revenue it generates as royalty.

     

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  26.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:26am

    Re:

    Bad: Misrepresenting a copy as the original or the work of the original producer.

    Good: Copying someone, or building upon their work.

    Legal: Suing someone for copying you.

    Subject to Opprobrium: Suing someone for doing good.

    Once you understand these things, then you recognise why Hasbro gets into trouble despite doing everything by the book. Sometimes the book is simply wrong.

     

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  27.  
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    Paul`, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:34am

    Re: Scrabulous

    McDonald's is so going to sue your ass.

     

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  28.  
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    You never know, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 6:46am

    A point made by Anonymous Coward, "Lawyers are not evil. They're just doing their job the way they are supposed to."
    Well lets see, Lawyers are out to make money, they make money by litigation. This means using any means admissible by the legal system to bring down and financially destroy someone who they deem is doing something immoral, impractical, or illegal. Win or loose, they make money and they really don't give a damn if it’s the defendant or the plaintiff! I may not be an expert on evil, but I think this qualifies..
    Hasbro may have had a case, but if some one in research and development or the administration board had done the math and they would have seen this was a new avenue for marketing strategies. Here was a couple of guys who had done the leg work and had a successful product on the web, something they as a company had little luck in doing. Had they approached the guys with an offer of employment or at the very least license, Hasbro would have a popular presence on the web, the two guys would have an income for their effort, and the customers could continue to enjoy an age old game with an opportunity to see new produces being introduced. Everyone would have been happy.
    As it stands now, the programmers just rewrite the game, the lawyers count their money, and Hasbro is left patching the hole in their foot and looking like the bad guy.. Go figure!

     

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  29.  
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    Linda, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:10am

    Scrabble HAS been available online

    Scrabble COULD be played online, despite the inaccurate statements in all the articles about Scrabulous. I have been playing on the Internet Scrabble Club server for nearly a decade. Scrabulous is a better interface, and the connections to your Facebook friends is valuable, but it's wrong to say Scrabble has been unavailable online.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:20am

    Re: Re:

    Which is implying that they are wrong. Mike and his little trolls depend too much on semantic based arguments to defend their fallacies.

     

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  31.  
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    Andy Rod, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:27am

    Interesting read

    Hasbro, let users play the game until you perfect your game http://www.millionface.com/l/hasbro-let-users-play-the-game-until-you-perfect-your-game/

     

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  32.  
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    Balthazar, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nothing semantic about it, asshat. He said they're stupid, not wrong. Here: www.dictionary.com. Go look up the two words, and then come back. Better yet, just go. Fucktard.

     

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  33.  
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    mobiGeek, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Doing something that you have a (legal) right to do does not necessarily make it The Right Thing to do. If you cannot grasp that simple "semantic based" reasoning, you are visiting the wrong website.

    If a little old lady backs her car over my kid's toy, I have a legal right to sue for damages without ever speaking to her directly about the situation. That doesn't make sicking my lawyer on her the Right Thing to do.

     

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  34.  
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    mobiGeek, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:43am

    Re: Re:

    Thing is, they didn't do it "by the book". The book gives them a bunch of options, one of which was to sue. They chose that one path.

    Nothing in the book (whichever one that is) says that it is mandatory to sue.

     

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  35.  
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    mobiGeek, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:47am

    Re: As Always...

    But the business WAS NOT trying to protect itself. For over 60 years this game has remained stagnant of innovation.

    It was only when they saw that others were being successful where they had FAILED that they decided to invoke legal action. In so doing, they have hurt both those who actually INNOVATED and themselves by bringing a piss-poor knock-off-of-a-knock-off. They have also alienated a number of possible future customers. So what is it that Hasbro was doing "right"?

     

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  36.  
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    Willton, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:48am

    Re: Stupid Hasbro

    How come they didn't just buy out Scrabulous?

    Because Scrabulous was asking for too much money, apparently.

     

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  37.  
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    Arganis, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 7:52am

    For some who have mentioned that we are all idiots for "bashing" hasbro for "doing nothing wrong" or "defending their property from being stolen" etc.,
    NO ONE is saying Hasbro has done anything "wrong", for they havn't, What we are saying is that they have made a very poor "business desision", as mentioned there are many,many ways Hasbro could have handled this, and came out ahead of the game, but instead they chose the worst possible tact, that grants them NOTHING.
    Hasbro hasn't done anything wrong period.
    They have just done the "stupidest" thing they could do, out of all the choices available to them.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 8:17am

    Lost sales

    My daughter IM'd me and asked if we had a Scrabble game because she had played Scrabulous on FaceBook and wanted to get it. I told her that was one game we didn't have. We talked about where she might be able to buy it locally (she wanted it for the weekend and didn't have time to buy online). That was right before Scrabulous was forced off FaceBook. She got mad and didn't buy the board game.

    When will companies learn to embrace free advertising?

     

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  39.  
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    bobinno Boberano, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 8:31am

    Re:

    @ Settle Down

    If I was runnign Hasbro. I woudl have flown the two guys in. Given them copies of our products, t-shirts mugs. Offered them a job, and sent them on their way.

    Compare this to teh homebrew activity at Lego? They embraced those who chose to do new thinsg with the mindstorms set, even brought them in to test their second edition.

     

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  40.  
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    Beluga, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 8:32am

    Re:

    Stop heaping all the blame on lawyers. Hasbro's problem was that it made a poor business decision. The lawyers are doing their job, but they are essentially doing what the corporate bosses tell them what to do. They're not working for them to make intelligent business decisions, they are paid to interpret their legal position. This has more to do with Hasbro not knowing their business options. I'm sure we can agree that they did know what their legal options were, but this is simply a bad business decision.

    I'm not in favor at all of what Hasbro did, damn stupid if you ask me. But all this hating on lawyers...ridiculous. A lot of people absolutely hate lawyers until they need one, suddenly they're singing a different tune. And for the record, IANAL, but I happen to have a great many friends who are lawyers...they are decent, honest people who get a bad rap because of the profession they are in because of a couple of bad apples and over-blown, out-of-proportion urban legends.

     

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  41.  
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    Evil Dude, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 9:53am

    Come on dudes

    One could argue that the smartest thing Hasbro could have done was shell out some cash to buy the rights to the Scrabulous game from the developers, then promote it under Hasbro's name. They could even have kept the name "Scrabulous," since it had built up such tremendous name recognition among tens of millions of users, and then relied on it to strengthen Hasbro's admittedly anemic offerings in the on-line space. A win-win for all, right Mike?

    But most likely, this kind of thinking didn't go very far over at Hasbro -- and for pretty good reasons. After all, Scrabulous was a blatant rip-off of Scrabble. You can't blame Hasbro for not wanting to shell out money to the people who had earned their fame only by slavishly copying Scrabble. Scrabulous would have been relegated to the same status as the dozens of other unknown games at Facebook if the developers had not ripped off a well-known board game that had been a favorite of millions of people for decades. By showing a lack of creativity, and a lack of regard for Hasbro's IP rights, the developers became famous, while ethical developers who came up with original games are relegated to anonymity. Where's the justice in that?

    But what was Hasbro to do, guys? If they paid off these two developers and entered into a "business" solution as some would suggest, where would it end? You'd have set a precedent and given developers a road map for making a quick fortune -- rip off a popular board game, down to the smallest detail, then wait for Hasbro to buy you out. You would quickly see games like Clueulous (ripoff of Clue), Parcheulous (ripoff of Parcheesi), and ripoffs of the dozens of other Hasbro games that have been around for decades. IP laws are clear that you have to enforce your rights or risk losing them, so I don't see that Hasbro had any other choice.

    I'm no fan of using IP laws to stifle innovation, particularly patent laws, but this mob-like knee-jerk reaction against Hasbro is ill-conceived and stupid. I think Hasbro's biggest mistake here was that they waited so long before choosing to go after these guys, after the game became so popular. Stepping in earlier would have allowed the developers to make changes to their game earlier, and would have avoided the undeserved PR nightmare Hasbro now faces.

    Just my $.02.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 10:13am

    What Hasbro should have done from the very beginning is just give up their rights to the creators of Scabulous. They should have just given the rights to the name Scrabble and everything else to these two creators of Scabulous. How dare Hasbro assume ownership of intellectual property? Don't they know they're facing the wrath of the net generation who've been brought up to believe that everything grows on trees and is free for the picking regardless of how it was created? What?! Pay for music? Why? What? Pay for movies? Why? Hey, it's my right to get whatever I can for free. Back in the eighties they called that generation the "me generation" this generation should be called the "gimme (for free) generation"

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re:

    op·pro·bri·um
    1: something that brings disgrace
    2 a: public disgrace or ill fame that follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious
    b: contempt, reproach

     

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  44.  
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    norma artiss, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 10:59am

    Scrabulous

    You have a NERVE getting rid of Scrabulous!!! Hasbro's had decades to make money from Scrabble- and all we want now is to be able to play it on-line. I play with my daughter in the UK every Sunday, and it's such a wonderful way for us to feel even closer than just emailing! I raised her right- we both LOVE Scrabble- and I want my Scrabulous back!!!

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 11:20am

    "You have a NERVE getting rid of Scrabulous!!! Hasbro's had decades to make money from Scrabble- and all we want now is to be able to play it on-line. I play with my daughter in the UK every Sunday, and it's such a wonderful way for us to feel even closer than just emailing! I raised her right- we both LOVE Scrabble- and I want my Scrabulous back!!!"

    This comment is a perfect example of a whining, gimme, gimme, gimme, member of our society. So now since Hasbro has made money from Scrabble for decades, they should just fold up and go away and let others use their creation to make themselves a fortune. Hey genius, maybe I should call up Bill Gates and tell him he's made plenty of money, why not turn over his company to me so I can make some of that money now.

     

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    another mike, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    i second Scrabulous Effect

    Reading through the previous posts, it looks like our working definition is: "When doing what's within your legal rights (like suing for infringement) is a boneheaded business move." And not just a little stupid, it's got to really take the cake, like a business-class Darwin Award nomination.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Scrabble HAS been available online

    Interesting. So is this website "sanctioned" by Hasbro? If not, why aren't they suing these folks too?

     

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  48.  
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    mobiGeek, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Come on dudes

    You'd have set a precedent and given developers a road map for making a quick fortune -- rip off a popular board game...

    If there market demand for an online version of a board game and the board game maker is not filling that demand then why can't someone else?

    If someone invented something 60 years ago, does that give them exclusive rights to any possible future form of that thing? If so...why?

     

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  49.  
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    mobiGeek, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 1:27pm

    Re:

    No one is asking that Hasbro give up their 60 year old format (er, actually the 60 year old thing that they have licensed). They are also welcome to come into the present and offer their own thing. But if their thing sucks, then fix it or lose to the better INNOVATOR.

    Taking their case to the courts simply to defend their ancient implementation and their market-rejected newer implementation certainly isn't helping anyone at all.

    After 60 years, why should they be allowed continued exclusivity? Doesn't this example completely highlight how ridiculous (and lack of progress-instilling) these "IP laws" are?

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 1:36pm

    Re:

    No, the above poster is indicating that Hasbro has failed her in not providing a modern incarnation of their ancient innovation. Someone else has filled that niche, and now Hasbro is using legal action to avoid competing in today's space. In fact, by eliminating Scrabulous, Hasbro has failed her yet again by providing a piss-poor alternative.

    With no competition to worry about, Hasbro can stop investing to improve the end user experience hoping that people will use their "good enough" implementation...or not. Who cares, because they've eliminated their competition.

    Some would argue this is a savvy business move. I strongly disagree with that assessment of the situation.

    BTW: I've never even seen Scrabulous. I'm simply going by the facts of this case as seen throughout the plethora of media articles.

     

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  51.  
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    Titanium Dragon, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 2:45pm

    So you're saying you shouldn't be paid to write articles

    I enjoy your hilarious sense of entitlement and lack of comprehension of the reality of IP law.

    According to your argument, we should be able to steal everything you produce, and you shouldn't sue us. Heck, why should we pay you to write articles?

    I'm sorry, but there's no basis for your false sense of entitlement. If Hasbro tried to buy it and they said no, then tough for the Scrabulous people - threatening to sue is an entirely appropriate reaction. The Scrabulous people were stealing Hasbro's IP and (very likely) profiting from it; Hasbro nuking them was the right thing to do.

    The Scrabulous people broke the law and were behaving in an immoral manner. And you defend them, and claim Hasbro is the bad guy.

    No, the Scrabulous people were the bad guys, and you are a bad person for supporting them. You're claiming that Hasbro should have just let them steal their IP.

     

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  52.  
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    Game rules are NOT protected IP, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 3:20pm

    TECHDIRT lies- what a surprise. What you 'think' is unlawful is not the same as what ***is*** unlawful. The rules of a game cannot be protected, only their expression in a particular artistic form. A name, of course, can be made a TRADEMARK.

    All this adds up to the fact that Hasbro was skating on unbelievably thin ice. The best they had was to complain about the possible trademark infringement of 'Scrabulous', a weak complaint, and one vunerable to a simple name change. What is interesting is that Hasbro was actually relying on ignorance of IP laws by internet users/sites, to make their case seem stronger. In the courts, it doesn't matter how many internet losers think the general form of rules of games can be protected, because the law says NO!

    In general IP laws do not exist because of common sense, but because of the actions of special interest groups. For the longest time, for instance, the USA refused to create strong IP laws, because business people in the USA made a fortune from IP piracy. Only when america started to create, rather than copy, did they magically notice the 'morality' of such laws.

    Even now, the USA doesn't recognise the protection of typefaces, because historically the USA has always ripped off the typographic IP of european nations- bet few of you realised this.

    If Hasbro had an interesting claim in court, it would be over the layout of the board. Would another entity be able to use the same basic layout legally without infringing the 'artistic expression' of the original? Could the original board be made a 'trademark'? REMEMBER, YOU ARE FREE TO COPY THE FORM OF THE RULES, BUT NOT THEIR ARTISTIC EXPRESSION.

    You could copy 'Monopoly', for instance, with no legal problem, so long as everything was drawn or written differently (an alternate versions of similar characters would not be good enough to avoid infringement).

    Remember, boys and girls, what you, OR Techdirt, 'think' the law is may well be completely different from the truth. And just because big business tells you something is unfair doesn't make them correct, or even imply the law is on their side.

    After all this time, it is right that Hasbro owns NOTHING but the name 'Scrabble' itself. Anyway, the same law is exploited in reverse by companies like Hasbro all the time. DID YOU KNOW THAT THE BOARD GAME OTHELLO WAS ACTUALLY A PROPRIETARY VERSION OF AN OLD, PUBLIC DOMAIN, VICTORIAN GAME CALLED REVERSI? That's right, boys and girls, you can legally take something that isn't yours, slap a new name on in, and profit. However, afterwards ALL you can protect in law is your new name.

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    ldma, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    Game of Wordscraper anyone?

    I'm sure as hell not installing the official Scrabble now....

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Chris, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    Learn something

    Learn a little business law before you start talking about how a company should respond to legal issues. Hasbro did what was right and responsible in a business sense. Regardless of what is popular or not by "facebook users", Hasbro took the proper move by taking legal action. If everyone thought the way you did, no one would be able to even make a profit off of anything they do. It is really a pity you don't have any good business sense. The legal action isn't going to hurt them, the overreaction of all the immature facebook users won't either. Your article just spews uneducated shit.


    Hey, since you don't mind much I'm going to take everything on your site, host it somewhere else, change a few words, and then direct all possible traffic to my place to read it. Since you are so open to free use, you can't complain. /sarcasm

     

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  55.  
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    Zeeol, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 3:39pm

    cool

    They should've just sold scrabulous for the 10 million or whatever it was. Idiots.

     

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  56.  
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    Reave, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 3:53pm

    Typical

    Corporate America spends three times as much on lawyers as engineers. Just like the RIAA and MPAA, Hasbro would rather stop creativity than invest in it. *loud gasp* "Invest?!?! Are you out of your F*&^*(g mind?!?! That might cost 'money'!"

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    dude, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 3:53pm

    all companies are bottom feeding scum

    to each his own

     

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  58.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:41pm

    Re: So you're saying you shouldn't be paid to write articles

    I enjoy your hilarious sense of entitlement and lack of comprehension of the reality of IP law.

    Hmm? I've been studying and writing about IP law for about a dozen years. Which "reality" do I not understand.


    According to your argument, we should be able to steal everything you produce, and you shouldn't sue us. Heck, why should we pay you to write articles?


    Um. No. That's not what I said. First of all, you *don't* pay me to write articles. Instead, we have put in place a business model that allows me to write articles in a way that helps our business.

    As for "stealing" no one's talking about stealing anything. Just infringement. And, yes, as I have made clear repeatedly, you are free to copy anything I write around here.

    I'm sorry, but there's no basis for your false sense of entitlement

    Other than a good business sense, but why bother with things like that?

    If Hasbro tried to buy it and they said no, then tough for the Scrabulous people - threatening to sue is an entirely appropriate reaction.

    Except for what actually happened. Why is it so difficult for you to recognize that the end result here made things worse for Hasbro?

    The Scrabulous people were stealing Hasbro's IP and (very likely) profiting from it; Hasbro nuking them was the right thing to do.

    Even though it pissed off a bunch of Scrabble fans (many of them *new* Scrabble fans, brought to the game thanks to Scrabulous)?

    You HONESTLY think that it's the right business thing to do to attack the guys who made your game popular and then piss off the people who are your fans?

    I'm glad I don't work for your company.

    The Scrabulous people broke the law and were behaving in an immoral manner. And you defend them, and claim Hasbro is the bad guy.

    I didn't claim that Hasbro was "the bad guy." I just pointed out that this was a bad business decision.

    You said nothing to prove otherwise, other than some sort of false moral claims about how Hasbro should attack these guys who *made their game popular* for FREE.

     

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  59.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:47pm

    Re:

    TECHDIRT lies- what a surprise.

    Where was the lie?

    What you 'think' is unlawful is not the same as what ***is*** unlawful. The rules of a game cannot be protected, only their expression in a particular artistic form. A name, of course, can be made a TRADEMARK.

    Hasbro's lawsuit included both copyright and trademark claims.

    All this adds up to the fact that Hasbro was skating on unbelievably thin ice.

    Yes, we agree. I'm not sure why you're accusing us of being liars when we agree with you for the most part.

    In general IP laws do not exist because of common sense, but because of the actions of special interest groups. For the longest time, for instance, the USA refused to create strong IP laws, because business people in the USA made a fortune from IP piracy. Only when america started to create, rather than copy, did they magically notice the 'morality' of such laws.

    Um, you must be new here. You're preaching to the choir.

    Again, I'm not sure why you're attacking us when we basically agree.

     

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  60.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 4:53pm

    Re: Learn something

    Learn a little business law before you start talking about how a company should respond to legal issues.

    Heh. I know plenty. Why would you assume I do not?

    Hasbro did what was right and responsible in a business sense.

    If the end result puts you in a worse off position -- as Hasbro obviously is -- then I would argue that it was NEITHER right NOR responsible from a business sense.

    Hasbro took the proper move by taking legal action.

    Other than the fact it backfired completely. But why bother with, you know, facts?

    If everyone thought the way you did, no one would be able to even make a profit off of anything they do.

    That is simply false. You clearly have no sense of economic history. You also must be new around here.

    It is really a pity you don't have any good business sense.

    Yes, that's why I've built up a successful business, in part, helping many Fortune 500 companies with their business strategy.

    Obviously, it's because of my lack of a business sense.

    The legal action isn't going to hurt them, the overreaction of all the immature facebook users won't either. Your article just spews uneducated shit.

    Clearly.

    Hey, since you don't mind much I'm going to take everything on your site, host it somewhere else, change a few words, and then direct all possible traffic to my place to read it. Since you are so open to free use, you can't complain. /sarcasm

    Why be sarcastic? You are obviously new around here. I ENCOURAGE you to do exactly what you say you would do. I've said so for years:



    http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20070412/183135#c612

    From that post:

    ---
    Yup. And as we've said repeatedly, we have no problem with people taking our content and reposting it. It's funny how many people come here, like yourself, and assume you've found some "gotcha." You haven't. There already are about 10 sites that copy Techdirt, post for post. Some of them give us credit. Some of them don't. We don't go after any of them.

    Here's why:

    1. None of those sites get any traffic. By itself, they offer nothing special.

    2. If anything, it doesn't take people long to read those sites and figure out that the content is really from Techdirt. Then they just come here to the original source. So, it tends to help drive more traffic to us. That's cool.

    3. As soon as the people realize the other sites are simply copying us, it makes those sites look really, really bad. If you want to risk your reputation like that, go ahead, but it's a big risk.

    4. A big part of the value of Techdirt is the community here. You can't just replicate that.

    5. Another big part of the value of Techdirt is that we, the writers, engage in the comments. You absolutely cannot fake that on your own site.

    So, really, what's the purpose of copying our content, other than maybe driving a little traffic our way?

    So, if you really want to, I'd suggest it's pretty dumb, but go ahead.

    ---

    So, before calling us ignorant and uneducated it might help to recognize that perhaps we've thought this through a bit more than you think, and we recognize that for every business action there is also a reaction. And rather than thinking only one-step forward, as you apparently prefer to do, we've thought this through multiple steps forward.

    Amazingly, we've found, our clients appreciate that level of depth.

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    Marnie, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:33pm

    scrabulous

    I still play scrabulous on Facebook. It doesn't seem to have been 'taken down' at all??

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 5:37pm

    Hasbro offered to buy the tech, because they already owned the game.

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    The Evil One, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 8:20pm

    Re: Re: Learn something

    Mike wrote:

    >If the end result puts you in a worse off position -- as
    >Hasbro obviously is -- then I would argue that it was
    >NEITHER right NOR responsible from a business sense.

    I still don't understand your basis for saying that Hasbro's decision was bad from a business sense. As far as I can tell, Hasbro's options were threefold: (1) allow the theft of their IP to continue unabated (unacceptable); (2) buy Scrabulous from the two developers (the Internet equivalent of having to buy back your stolen car from the thieves who stole it); or (3) take legal action. If Hasbro had any other option, Mike, what was it? And how are they in any worse of a position now than they were before? They've pissed off a bunch of knee-jerk users -- the same type of short attention-span folk who pledged to "boycott" the recording industry after it shut down Napster, only to flock in record numbers to shell out cash for songs on iTunes.

    I don't see how you can conclude that Hasbro's decision to take legal action has backfired. It's way too early to determine if there's any long term impact, beyond the knee-jerk reaction of people that even you admit wouldn't have bought a Hasbro board game in the first place.

     

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  64.  
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    Mike (profile), Jul 31st, 2008 @ 10:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Learn something

    I still don't understand your basis for saying that Hasbro's decision was bad from a business sense. As far as I can tell, Hasbro's options were threefold: (1) allow the theft of their IP to continue unabated (unacceptable); (2) buy Scrabulous from the two developers (the Internet equivalent of having to buy back your stolen car from the thieves who stole it); or (3) take legal action. If Hasbro had any other option, Mike, what was it?

    Easy: let Scrabulous be, but compete with it by offering something better that people want to play instead of Scrabulous.

    Since when have we become a nation so allergic to competition? It's scary.

     

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  65.  
    identicon
    cram, Jul 31st, 2008 @ 11:43pm

    compete?

    Hi Mike

    "Easy: let Scrabulous be, but compete with it by offering something better that people want to play instead of Scrabulous. Since when have we become a nation so allergic to competition? It's scary."

    I still can't understand your definition of competition. I find it strange you insist companies should allow others to compete with them using their own IP-protected product.

    Companies are willing to compete with each other alright; for instance, Penguin will compete with any other publisher, but no one can say: hey, there's a market need for a cheaper or online version of your books - if you guys aren't meeting it, I will.

    The Scrabulous brothers were doing more or less the same: there was a market (albeit a huge one) for a good online Scrabble option, but because Hasbro didn't meet it they decided to do so (infringing copyright, violating trademark...well, almost).

    I agree that this is probably Hasbro's biggest PR blunder ever, but I don't buy your competition argument.

     

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  66.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:15am

    Re: compete?

    I still can't understand your definition of competition. I find it strange you insist companies should allow others to compete with them using their own IP-protected product.

    Why not? What better way to get someone to develop a *better* version?

    Do we say that only one restaurant in a town can sell pizza? Of course not.

     

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  67.  
    identicon
    mike, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 12:47am

    Ingenius

    A brilliant move by the Scrabulous creators! Hasbro suck it!

     

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  68.  
    identicon
    cram, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 1:21am

    Re: Re: compete?

    See, that's the whole problem. Pizza is generic, Scrabble is not.

     

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  69.  
    identicon
    Tyler, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 3:03am

    Copying something that's already on the market and slapping a new name on it isn't called competition. Competition means innovation.

     

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  70.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 1st, 2008 @ 3:27am

    Re:

    Copying something that's already on the market and slapping a new name on it isn't called competition. Competition means innovation.

    Yup, and Scrabulous *did* innovate. They provided the game in a format that people wanted it, and where it was not previously available.

     

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  71.  
    identicon
    Willton, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 7:54am

    Re: Re:

    Yup, and Scrabulous *did* innovate. They provided the game in a format that people wanted it, and where it was not previously available.

    But they did so by leeching off of the good will of Scrabble. How is that fair?

     

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  72.  
    identicon
    Willton, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 7:56am

    Re: Re: compete?

    Do we say that only one restaurant in a town can sell pizza? Of course not.

    No, but we don't let a second-comer call themselves "Domino's," "Dominolicious," or some other derivation thereof.

     

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  73.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 1st, 2008 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    But they did so by leeching off of the good will of Scrabble. How is that fair?

    And now Hasbro is leeching off of the good will and effort of the Scrabulous guys to establish a market in Facebook. How is *that* fair?

    You see? The point is that both sides were benefiting off of each other. It's only folks who think in artificial terms of "ownership" who fail to get the two way equation here and only look at it one way.

     

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  74.  
    identicon
    Rob, Aug 1st, 2008 @ 6:26pm

    Someone said that Hasbro only had 3 options: do nothin, buy or sue...

    That's not entirely true. The wisest move (in hindsight anyway) would have been to work closely with the Scrabolous guys, allowing them to use the Scrabble logo and so on if they wanted to. This would probably encourage lots of new people to buy scrabble in real life, one could even imagine giveing the Scrabolous guys money for making such a great viral marketing campain..

    suing them is just silly, now the scrabulous (sorry 'Wordscraper') guys will probably end up releasing Wordscraper the board game just in time for Christmas.. ;-)

     

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  75.  
    identicon
    Mr. Spore, Aug 3rd, 2008 @ 8:33pm

    Buy them out at all costs

    Hasbro messed up big time with this one. They should of did whatever it took to buy these guys out. These guys are like the record and movie industry with old school thinking.

     

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  76.  
    identicon
    dave, Aug 5th, 2008 @ 4:39am

    reinvigorating an old game

    I dont like scrabble and I never thought I would purchase it. BUT my girlfriend likes it and we started playing scrabulous. Eventually, we ended up purchasing scrabble so that we could play together face to face. Scrabulous is reinvigorating and old game and introducing it to new players, some who will eventually purchase the old offline version.

     

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  77.  
    identicon
    dorothy, Sep 28th, 2008 @ 9:33am

    I am a big fan of scrabulous and I really enjoyed seeing the young kids playing a game that was good for their brains.thank you scrabulous

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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