A fight over Scrabble has Web fans fuming

A fight over Scrabble has Web fans fuming
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First Published: Thu, Jul 31 2008. 12 30 AM IST
Updated: Thu, Jul 31 2008. 09 55 AM IST
New Delhi: Boycott Hasbro!”
The rallying cry started early Tuesday after fans of Scrabulous, an online knockoff of the classic board game Scrabble, woke up to find that their game had been abruptly removed from Facebook.com, the social networking site.
To make matters worse, people who tried to download the official Hasbro Inc. version of Scrabble found that it did not work either. The authorized game had been the victim of “a malicious attack” Tuesday morning, its developer said—an attack that came right on the heels of the disappearance of Scrabulous.
Electronic Arts Inc., the video game company that wrote the online Scrabble programme for Hasbro, said it was investigating the apparent hacking of its application, and pointed no fingers for the moment.
The demise of Scrabulous was sudden but not wholly unexpected. The game, a favourite time-waster among cubicle dwellers, was created by two brothers in Kolkata. On 24 July, Hasbro, which owns the North American rights to Scrabble, sued them for copyright infringement. On Tuesday, the brothers made Scrabulous unavailable to Facebook users in Canada and the US, citing legal pressure.
The backlash was instant. Bloggers denounced Hasbro, howls of protest flooded message boards, and new Facebook groups were created with names like “Down with Hasbro.” Although some people spoke up to defend Hasbro’s rights, most people jeered at the company, calling it everything from “short-sighted” to “technologically in the dark” to “despicable.”
“You didn’t have the smarts or initiative to come up with as good a product at the boys did, so your alternative is to mess with the superior product?” said one typical comment on Facebook. “Do you think that the thousands of folks who were enjoying this superior application will now come running to your inferior product?”
Hasbro, for its part, was keeping a stiff upper lip. It issued a statement Tuesday inviting fans to try out the “authentic” game of online Scrabble, introduced this month by Electronic Arts.
But on Tuesday, people who downloaded Electronic Arts’ “Scrabble Beta” were greeted with a message that said, “We’ll be back up shortly.” On Tuesday afternoon, Electronic Arts said technical problems had caused the crash; by early evening the company said its game had “experienced a malicious attack this morning, resulting in the disabling of Scrabble on Facebook.”
Scrabble Beta had attracted about 15,000 daily users and mixed reviews, including criticism from Facebook reviewers for its “pathetic” upload time. The companies said they were trying to address such issues.
Scrabulous, created by the Indian software developers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, had attracted more than half a million players a day worldwide on Facebook. But Hasbro sued the brothers last week in New York for “clear and blatant infringement” of its intellectual property, so they decided to pull the plug.
© 2008/ International Herald Tribune
Brad Stone contributed to this story.
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First Published: Thu, Jul 31 2008. 12 30 AM IST