Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hasbro Aims for its Own Foot

Hasbro--the American toys and games corporation which purchased Wizards of the Coast and then closed all their hobby stores, the company which purchased Avalon Hill and then produced a less legible version of Diplomacy in crappy cardboard, the company which had to spin off its Interactive division because they could not make money in online gaming--has now set its ruinous sights on Scrabulous, Facebook's free Scrabble game with a half-million daily users (by far the most of any application on Facebook).

Hasbro's own venture into the Facebook Scrabble market (still in beta release) has only a few thousand users. Electronic Arts has produced an expensive and useless dinosaur of a product. Having tested them both, there is no doubt Scrabulous is simpler, faster, easier to use, provides more options, and even matches the visual appearance of the Scrabble board game more closely. That being said, it seems obvious that Scrabulous is a violation of the Scrabble copyright owned by Hasbro, and their lawsuit will probably succeed.

And that is sad, because Hasbro's ongoing appetite for destruction is another blunder of SUV proportions. Instead of working with the creators of Scrabulous, or just demanding a cut of the advertising royalties--or even simply purchasing Scrabulous outright, as Hasbro has bought practically every other game company out there, from Parker Brothers to Cranium--Hasbro has instead taken a page from Microsoft's browser battle playbook and aims to kill the golden goose, replacing it with something big, bulky, and blah.

A quick glance at Hasbro's wretchedly ugly website tells you everything you need to know about why they cannot make money with the internet. Spread the word that Hasbro should get smart and invest in Scrabulous instead of killing it. The title of one Facebook user group says it all: “Please God, I Have So Little: Don’t Take Scrabulous Too.”


Anonymous said...

The American toy industry really, really annoys me. And their attitude towards physical toys is almost as bad as their view of online games.

First off, nearly every toy is made in China, which means it falls apart within a few months and may or may not contain lead paint.

Besides just being ugly, a lot of it is very poorly designed. (Case in point: Law Talking Baby's bouncy chair. Why is it almost impossible to get the activity bar off of the damn thing so you can actually put the baby in the chair?) And don't even get me started on the useless, tiny-type warning labels that cover every available inch of space on any toy larger than a breadbox.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at the price of some German-made wooden toys I bought last week. Sure, $50 could buy a lot of plastic crap, but considering the beating the toys got from a pair of visiting preschoolers, I'm sure those rattles will survive childhood. Perhaps several childhoods.

-Seventh Sister

Bob said...

It's worth pointing out that games can't be copyrighted, though text and `pictorial matter' associated with the game might be.

To this naive nonlawyer, that would suggest that Scrabulous's adoption of the Scrabble board might be infringing (and easily remedied), but their adoption of the Scrabble rules isn't.

However, in our crazy mixed-up world, games can be patented (Richard Garfield owns a patent on "trading card games"). Richard Garfield's a bright guy who deserves to earn money from his clever games, but this is emblematic of how unreasonable "IP" law has become.

But back to the main point: I agree with Dr. S.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The creators of Scrabulous should have sought a license or, at least, legal advice. To the extent it is making money through ads, it is a source of revenue Hasbro should expect to retain. I do not like the way our intellectual property rights have become outsized and outright harmful to creativity, whereas the constitutional purpose of intellectual property rights is to "promote the useful arts." But the law is as it is. Hasbro should consider cutting a deal for practical reasons - why kill the golden goose if you can get every other egg?

USwest said...

Stick with those German toys, 7th Sister. Let's teach our kids bout fewer things of value being better than crappy things of non-value. I remember when I was small that I loved the wooden toys in preschool because all I had was plastic at home. I liked their weight and solidity. If I got my finger banged with a wooden toy hammer, it only had to happen once for me to learn better!

Hasbro's site is truely bad. Once these companies move away from greed as the main motivator, we will all be better off.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Scrabulous is now suspended on Facebook for US and Canadian users (covered by the lawsuit). Hasbro sucks.