An official Scrabble application, developed by RealNetworks' Gamehouse division, recently launched on Facebook's developer platform. Will it be a Zombies-caliber success? Probably not.
It's been clear for a while that the copyright holders on the classic board game Scrabble have been none too pleased with the wildly popular Scrabulous, a developer-created Facebook application that mimics the design and rules of the original. So it seemed that, after months of legal threats, the companies behind Scrabble would be taking a step in the right direction to actually launch an official Facebook app to offer users a legal alternative to Scrabulous on the popular social-networking site.
Except not really. The Scrabble app is only available to Facebook users outside the U.S. and Canada, because the rights to Scrabble are owned by Hasbro in those two countries and by Mattel elsewhere around the world. It was Mattel that negotiated the Scrabble Facebook app with RealNetworks. Only users who list their location as outside the U.S. and Canada can play the game.
A New York Times article Monday wrote that RealNetworks had, oddly enough, made a pledge to help save the Scrabulous game back in March. Yet a company representative told the Times that the Mattel negotiations had been going on for several months.
All corporate bickering aside, it looks like the Scrabble game, which is in beta, just might not be that awesome. "Facebook Scrabble takes a long time to load, does not always quickly update to show recent moves," the Times article by Heather Timmons related, "and the words the game will accept do not reflect standard Scrabble dictionaries, or even the English language."
Sounds like the "Save Scrabulous" crowd has reason to keep up its cause.