Mattel Apparently Learned Nothing From Hasbro's Scrabulous Disaster

from the doing-the-same-thing-repeatedly... dept

As you recall, Hasbro's decisions on how to deal with upstart Scrabulous backfired badly. The company first threatened Scrabulous, then tried to do a deal with them. When that failed it (finally!) built its own Facebook Scrabble and then sued Scrabulous. Rather than working to Hasbro's advantage, this backfired in a huge way -- pissing off plenty of people who swore never to use Hasbro's version of the game. And then it was just a matter of days until the Scrabulous guys came out with a new game that was close to Scrabble, but different enough to likely avoid all copyright and trademark claims.

Now, Hasbro only owns the rights to Scrabble in the US and Canada. Mattel owns the rights elsewhere. Now, seeing that Mattel had the distinct advantage of seeing how much backlash there was against Hasbro for its actions, and how poorly Hasbro's own Facebook Scrabble was received, you might think that Mattel would try a different path. Nope. Mattel has now forced Scrabulous offline outside of the US as well. To be fair, the guys from Scrabulous overplay their reaction as well. It's not that shocking. After all, this is how companies react these days. Rather than going with the faux outrage, why not just release WordScraper and get people to sign up for that, rather than any "licensed" version of Scrabble?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Subway, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    Fun and Delicious

    Now you can play Scrabble for free and win over 49 million prizes when you buy any footlong from Subway's 29,000 locations!

    *Limited time only, certain restrictions apply. Prices and participation may vary. See store for details.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 12:17pm

    smells like EA to me

    I still think ultimately EA is behind this . . .

     

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  3.  
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    another mike, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    Scrabulous Effect

    Scrabble is dead. Long live the Scrabulous Effect!
    When pursuing your legal rights is the worst possible business move you could ever possibly make. Not just a simple bad idea but some really epic fail, like signing up for a corporate Darwin Award.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 12:32pm

    Re: smells like EA to me

    EA is known more for abusing employees and pushing games out early rather than focusing on quality. They aren't known for suing someone for doing something similar to them.

    Interestingly enough, their new CEO seems to be learning from their past mistakes. He's been hands-off on Mythic as WAR has been built. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't been a Beta tester (like me) and doesn't know enough to argue.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: smells like EA to me

    "Interestingly enough, their new CEO seems to be learning from their past mistakes. He's been hands-off on Mythic as WAR has been built. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't been a Beta tester (like me) and doesn't know enough to argue."


    Really, didnt they just announced they were cutting 1/3 of thier planned content to meet a release date? Sounds like standard EA to me?

     

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  6.  
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    some old guy, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    Scabulous? What Scrabulous?

     

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  7.  
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    some old guy, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Scabulous? What Scrabulous?

    *whoosh* I totally missed on that one. I was confusing wordscraper for scrabulous. So uh.. just ignore that post.

     

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  8.  
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    Overcast, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 1:36pm

    Yet another added to the list of companies to not buy from.

    No big deal, plenty more out there.

     

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  9.  
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    Shohat, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 1:45pm

    Disaster ?!

    There was no "DISASTER"
    It played out exactly as it should, not other outcome could be better

     

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  10.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Aug 26th, 2008 @ 8:23pm

    Re: Disaster ?!

    There was no "DISASTER"

    People actively boycotting not just Hasbro's game, but all Hasbro products? People publicly denouncing Hasbro. More people signing up for Wordscraper than Scrabble. Yeah, I'd say it was a disaster.

    It played out exactly as it should, not other outcome could be better

    Really? Yikes.

    You don't think that a solution that doesn't get people to hate Hasbro, and which allowed people to remain happy with Hasbro wouldn't have been better?

     

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  11.  
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    Shohat, Aug 26th, 2008 @ 11:47pm

    Re: Re: Disaster ?!

    Facebook is a niche. A microscopic far-from-mainstream niche.

    Application monetization is a joke, and even most successful apps generate revenue in the million/month range.
    Just for reference, a single gas station generates more.

    Hasbro on the other hand has a market cap of around 5 Bil (I didn't read reports, but lets a assume revenue of ~$200 million per month)

    BUT - the amount of users the application had is quite large. And this Scraboulous thing could set a very ugly precedent of implementing a IP protected game on some market, in order to get money out of the original company sometime down the road.
    Any sort of weakness or settlement from Hasbro will send a very damaging message to other developers.

    So sometimes you have to absorb the short-term damage, absorb the ~10% "activist" consumers damage, and look at the longer term. Is Hasbro ready to cooperate/buy out any developer that implements their games ? On other platforms ? (Bebo, Hi5, Odnoclassniki, QQ, Orkut? )
    If the answer is no, then they did pretty much the only thing they could, and everything played out pretty much as it should.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 27th, 2008 @ 12:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Disaster ?!

    Facebook is a niche. A microscopic far-from-mainstream niche.

    100 million members is quite a big niche.

    BUT - the amount of users the application had is quite large. And this Scraboulous thing could set a very ugly precedent of implementing a IP protected game on some market, in order to get money out of the original company sometime down the road.

    Exactly what kind of precedent? One that says our fans can help us promote our games?

    You're correct that there isn't that much money to be made on Facebook apps, so why bother having Hasbro build their own? Why NOT let fans build it for them and then rake it in when it INCREASES sales of the physical board game?

    You're simply incorrect if you think Hasbro's situation represented the best possible solution. That makes no sense.

    Don't underestimate pissing off millions of your fans.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 3:22am

    Re: Disaster ?!

    Shohat wrote:

    So sometimes you have to absorb the short-term damage, absorb the ~10% "activist" consumers damage, and look at the longer term.

    Except that when you look at other companies that have tried the same strategy (e.g. the RIAA), you discover that the longer term is just like the short term, only the damage just keeps getting worse and worse.

    It's a road best avoided by sensible people.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 5:21am

    Not sure the RIAA is such a failure . . .

    "Except that when you look at other companies that have tried the same strategy (e.g. the RIAA), you discover that the longer term is just like the short term, only the damage just keeps getting worse and worse."

    You guys keep saying this and while I detest the RIAA and "most" of what they stand for, I am not sure I see them as the giant failures you guys do. Napster was murdered, horrible DRM schemes are the norm today and the RIAA continues to go after and get almost anything they ask for from nearly anyone they care to.

    While its great to come here and see the rare exceptions the truth is, the RIAA continues to do what it does and contiues to be copied by other organizations not becuase they are morons, but becuase it works. The fact that the RIAA model has actually been and continues to be successful is the "real" problem.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 27th, 2008 @ 7:12am

    Re: Not sure the RIAA is such a failure . . .

    You guys keep saying this and while I detest the RIAA and "most" of what they stand for, I am not sure I see them as the giant failures you guys do. Napster was murdered, horrible DRM schemes are the norm today and the RIAA continues to go after and get almost anything they ask for from nearly anyone they care to.

    You're living in a different world. Napster was murdered, but from its ashes came Gnutella, Kazaa, Grokster, Morpheus, Limewire, Bittorrent and the Pirate Bay.

    More file sharing goes on today than at any time during the Napster heydey.

    DRM is hardly "the norm." Notice the success of Amazon's DRM-free music downloads. eMusic is a huge success. Most of the major labels have stopped requiring DRM.

    As for the RIAA, its member labels are all in financial trouble, and are selling significantly less than in the past.

    How can you not see that as a disaster?

     

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  16.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Aug 27th, 2008 @ 7:39am

    Re: Not sure the RIAA is such a failure . . .

    Meanwhile, outside of Bizarro world...

    Seriously, I don't think there was a single correct statement in that collection of words. For example:

    "I am not sure I see them as the giant failures you guys do"

    CD sales are plummeting and download sales are not increasing fast enough to take up`the slack. File sharing is much more prevalent now than when they started suing customers. Many people (myself included) are boycotting the RIAA members' products and major artists are jumping ship as soon as their contracts expire. How is that not a giant failure?

    "Napster was murdered, horrible DRM schemes are the norm today"

    What incredible bullshit. Napster was replaced by Kazaa, Morpheus and Limewire before the court cases had even begun. File sharing is vastly more prevalent than ever before and each new service is immune to the tactics used to defeat the last one.

    As for DRM - do you pay attention to the industry at all? iTunes is constantly increasing its DRM-free library. The next 2 biggest online music retailers - Amazon and eMusic - do not sell a single DRM-infected track. Napster have recently gone DRM-free for bought tracks and most other retailers are in the process of dumping Microsoft DRM in order to cater to the iPod market that DRM blocked them from selling to. DRM on music is dead.

    "the RIAA continues to do what it does and contiues to be copied by other organizations not becuase they are morons, but becuase it works"

    Except, again, it doesn't. We are constantly seeing new ways of selling music that do not involve the RIAA or its members, from the Radiohead / NIN model to the pre-paid model used by some new artists to new store concepts like WE7 and AmieStreet. More and more artists are leaving RIAA labels to either do it alone or go to a non-RIAA organisation like LiveNation. They are losing money hand over fist, and because they are morons they don't realise it. They fight the spectre of piracy without realising that it's not piracy that's killing them, but their own actions.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    cram, Aug 27th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    :-)

    "DRM-infected track"

    that was sweet:-) makes DRM out to be some kind of a virus.

     

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