Your move, Hasbro!
The Agarwalla brothers the maverick team that brought a wildly popular Scrabble knockoff to Facebook last year, just scored another bingo against Hasbro. A day after Hasbro filed a lawsuit to force the duo based in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, to take down Scrabulous, the software developers quietly launched a new, roll-your-own version on Facebook. The move appears to cleverly sidestep legal issues while giving the 500,000 fans of Scrabulous a way to thumb their noses at the Man and play the version of Scrabble they want.
"Give it a try, you will love it. Don't follow rules, make them!" the instructions on the new Wordscraper game slyly exhort. Once a user installs the application (which, coincidentally, looks like a big, blank Scrabble board), he can create his own word game by adding special "double word" and "triple letter" tiles in any configuration he chooses. If a user happens to create a board that's identical to the original Scrabble and saves that setting a feat that takes less than two minutes he can elect to save the template and reuse it over and over again. It's a free world, after all, and what you do in the privacy of your online-gaming world is private, presumably.
In its suit, Hasbro alleged copyright infringement, pointing out that Scrabulous used the same colors as the classic Scrabble board and mimicked it in many other ways. The Agarwallas contended that many sites have knocked off Scrabble over the years and that the game is virtually in the public domain at this point.
Of course, Wordscraper isn't Scrabble. Players designing game boards can add any number of word-scoring tiles wherever they want. They can even add "quadruple word" tiles, which would be to Scrabble what arena football is to the NFL.
Tens of thousands of Scrabulous fans have joined groups and signed petitions angrily denouncing Hasbro for banning the game. Electronic Arts, which licensed Scrabble from Hasbro, launched a beta version of the classic board game last week. But most fans hated it and complained about the time-consuming animations that every move triggered. Within hours of Wordscraper's going up Wednesday night, hundreds of people began installing the game as word spread across the social network.
Hasbro officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.