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Game over: Scrabulous exits Facebook in North America

July 29, 2008 | 10:28 am
Scrabulous

UPDATED: Electronic Arts says the official version of Scrabble isn't working because it's fallen victim to a "malicious attack." Read this post about the Scrabble attack for more information.

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A minimum 13-point word that might signal game over for Scrabulous: N-I-X-E-D.

Hasbro scored big in its legal match against the popular but unauthorized version of Scrabble that's played online by millions of Facebook members. The creators of Scrabulous today shut down the game to players in the United States and Canada, where Hasbro owns the rights to Scrabble.

Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble elsewhere, has filed suit in India, where the two brothers behind Scrabulous, Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, reside.

The shutdown came a week after Hasbro sued the Agarwallas and their company, RJ Softwares, for copyright infringement in New York federal court.

In a statement issued this morning, the Agarwallas said:

In deference to Facebook’s concerns and without prejudice to our legal rights, we have had to restrict our fans in USA and Canada from accessing the Scrabulous application on Facebook until further notice. This is an unfortunate event and not something that we are very pleased about, especially as Mattel has been pursuing the matter in Indian courts for the past few months. We will sincerely hope to bring to our fans brighter news in the days to come.

Scrabulous had half-a-million active players daily on Facebook, making it one of the most popular applications on the social networking site. Hasbro last month introduced a beta version of its official Scrabble game for Facebook. Initially scheduled for release to all users in July, Hasbro's version, developed by Electronic Arts, has been pushed out to mid-August, presumably to iron out issues spotted by players, including an inability to log on and delays in loading the game.

Hasbro, in a statement issued this morning, said it was aware of the problems and cited concern for players in its decision to wait several months before filing a lawsuit to shut down Scrabulous:

In deference to the fans, we waited in pursuing legal action until Electronic Arts had a legitimate alternative available.  We invite SCRABBLE fans in the U.S. and Canada to log onto Facebook and try out the authentic SCRABBLE application, now in open beta.  Both EA and Hasbro are monitoring feedback from fans, and we are already in the process of making changes that will result in a variety of improvements, including faster game play, leading up to the official launch scheduled for the first half of August.

That didn't go over well with Amber Loranger, a 24-year-old Scrabulous player in Portland, Ore. who woke up this morning to find that her games had been yanked. "I definitely think Hasbro lost some goodwill with people," said Loranger, who typically had 8 Scrabulous matches going at any one time, including a couple with her parents. "I'm trying to be an adult about it, but it's still sad. I wish they hadn't done that." 

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Screen shot of the Scrabulous game on Scrabulous.com

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