Breakfast of Champions 7/29: Facebook shuts down Scrabulous

Every morning before I write this post, I check my messages from assorted e-mail accounts and on the social networking site Facebook. A lifelong Scrabble junkie, I often take a few seconds to make a move on Facebook's knockoff application, Scrabulous.

But not today. Today, this message greets me.
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Just this morning, Facebook has agreed to shut down Scrabulous for American and Canadian users. Apparently not making enough off of Transformer and G.I. Joe licensing, owner Hasbro has been suing the application's developers. Which translates into users like me being struck dumb before our first sips of hot caffeine.

I'll offer this crumb of praise for Hasbro. At least they developed an official Facebook Scrabble application before shutting down the pirates. The first priority in situations like this should be ensuring your potential customers access to your game; then try to shut down the copycats. A lot of companies fail to understand this reality of the Internet age, where making products and information available to users is almost always the right policy.

On the other hand, they were way late to the dance. If Hasbro had spent half the lawsuit's resources on outreach, telling fans of Scrabble that they could play the popular game online for free legally, I suspect the shift would have occurred naturally. You can see this failure in the numbers. Scrabulous has 509505 daily users on Facebook; the official version checks in at just under 15,000.

To date Hasbro's application gets just 1.7 out of 5 stars from users (Scrabulous gets 4.2 stars). Whether this negative rating is simply spamming by vengeful Scrabulous devotees or is actually related to the gameplay remains to be seen.

But a lot of people -- including me -- are going to be trying it out now. We'll see.

UPDATE: Tried to log in to the Hasbro application. Got the following message. Way to capitalize on your legal victory, folks.
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