I don’t know if you guys have ever heard of this Web site called Facebook, but it’s like a miracle of awesomeness wrapped up in a delicate crepe of creamy sunshine with joy sprinkles. For one thing, it’s the best place in the universe to see how fat all the hot girls you went to high school with have gotten. For another thing… OK I can’t really think of another thing.
Actually, there used to be this awesome little game on Facebook where you could play your friends in Scrabble. You played a word, then when your friend went to check on how fat his high school classmates have gotten, he played his word. Even better, you could play multiple Scrabble games against a bunch of your friends.
Of course it wasn’t actually Scrabble. It was the same game, but Hasbro and Mattel own the licensing rights to the name “Scrabble” so the two awesome guys who came up with the application called it Scrabulous.
Then Hasbro and Mattel got all pissed and was like “If anyone is going to put Scrabble on Facebook it’s going to be us you douchebags now knock it off.”
The two guys who created the Facebook game offered to sell it to Hasbro, and Hasbro was all like “Yeah sounds good here’s $6 now take it or we’ll sue you.”
Eventually Hasbro and Mattel were able to force Facebook to take Scrabulous down and replace it with their “official” versions of Scrabble.
What happens next will defy your imagination, provided you have absolutely no imagination whatsoever. Neither of the official versions have reached the same number of users, meaning Hasbro and Mattel basically scuttled the good marketing they were getting for free (Scrabble saw a boost in sales during Scrabulous’ heyday). Here’s how Venture Beat puts it:
Was killing Scrabulous really worth it? The app was a hit because it was a game many people know how to play — and it was an easy way for friends to stay in touch via Facebook, from anywhere in the world. More than 100 million copies of the board game have been sold in more than 121 countries, in 29 languages — it’s the world’s best selling word game.
But Hasbro and Mattel’s versions of Scrabble are separate. If you’re playing Scrabble on Facebook in the U.S., you can’t play with a friend anywhere else but in Canada. In other words, if Hasbro and Mattel had struck a licensing or revenue-sharing deal with Scrabulous, everyone could have benefited from the additional traffic that a single, worldwide app would generate.
I guess the trick to creating a popular Facebook game is to take an established game that everyone knows and tweak it for the audience. That’s why my new game is a sure-fire winner. It’s a board game in which you play a rampaging viking who storms through the Internet swinging a battle axe at zombies. You advance by landing on squares with ladders that move you up a level. One mistep and you fall down a chute into a room full of fat girls you went to high school with. I call it “Chutes and Laddersulous.”