Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Scrabulous: an upate - ZERO HOUR!

"Why are they suing facebook when it's made their tedious game cool again?"

So asked my friend Nick Wealthall (well, facebook friend anyway) - he of the impish grin and stunning Travolta-esque dance floor moves, in a message to me on facebook.

Obviously Nick had a deprived childhood and didn't grow up on Scrabble; otherwise he'd know that whether or not Scrabble is tedious is irrelevant to the long-term Scrabble player.

Childhood Scrabble maketh the man. Childhood Scrabble should be discussed almost immediately in therapy sessions 20 years later. If you grew up in a Scrabble family and were the habitual family winner, you will reach adulthood with a monstrous ego. You will be able to spell (brilliantly); you will have an unrivalled mastery over the English language; you will be - in the family mythology - the "bright one". (Not so the family Monopoly winner; they'll just make money.)

On facebook however, the desperate pleas (in the 50 or so addiction support groups that have sprung up) appear mainly to come from the newly-hooked. These people WERE deprived in childhood - they either didn't have Scrabble or they habitually lost. Now they have a chance to redress the balance - either to win at last (and not just against their poxy siblings) or to win full-stop.

Facebook may not have made Scabulous cool (debatable) but it has created a legion of new users. All hooked. Most, I'm sure, would willingly pay a small sum to keep their addiction going. Half a million daily users. 10p a day. Hasbro and Mattel - do the math!!! I had to use a calculator but anyway, the answer is £50,000 a day. Unless I've got my decimal point in the wrong place. Whatever.

The point is that H+M could make a fortune!!! If facebook Scrabulous addicts are given the chance to pay for their addiction, I'm pretty sure most of them would.

There is a bit more maths in here too. (I've been reading the business pages where the Hasbro/Mattel/Scrabulous story has now been despatched). Facebook is apparently worth $7 billion. Hasbro - as far as I can make out - is only worth $3.6 billion. Hasbro and Mattel only got upset when they heard Scrabulous boast that they were making $25,000 a month in advertising revenue. Toy company stocks are set to fall in value in 2008. Plus Mattel had a really horrible 2007 after they had to recall 18.2 million toys, the most in company history, because of lead paint and design flaws.

Also, Jayant Agarwalla (Scrabulous co-founder) says he "sent an email to Hasbro seeking permission to use their version of Scrabble online, but never got a reply". I assume Jayant forgot to mark his message with the "High importance" flag. Duh.

Anyway, according to Wired, today is D-Day for facebook Scrabulous addicts. Jayant and his brother Rajat (both family Scrabble winners, but useless at Monopoloy, Pictionary and Connect 4) have until RIGHT THIS MINUTE to decide whether to sell up to Hasbro's online games licencee Electronic Arts. Even if they do, or even if they don't, I can't see this ending well for facebook users. We're not crack cocaine addicts! We're not actually going to move neighbourhoods to get our fix!! We're Scrabble players for god's sake. We want our drug delivered safely to where we are, which is on facebook.