Look out Scrabulous – EA and Hasbro to launch legit Facebook Scrabble in North America

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This week, Electronic Arts and Hasbro announced plans to launch the first licensed Facebook Scrabble game in North America. The licensed version will become available in mid to late July and will be free and without adverts, at least for the start.

Facebook users will no doubt be aware that there’s another profoundly Scrabble-like Facebook application that has proved somewhat popular in the past year, going by the name of Scrabulous. So far, despite sinister rumblings from official Scrabble distributors, Scrabulous continues to thrive on Facebook. But EA Hasbro’s move to launch a legitimate, licensed version has put a new question mark on the future of the unauthorised version.

In Europe, there is already a legitimate version of Scrabble, made by Gamehouse but licensed by Mattel. This is unavailable to Facebook users in North America due to the fact that Mattel only owns the license for Europe. It all gets very complicated. Mattel, however, doesn’t appear to have been bothered by the presence of the naughty illegitimate Scrabulous application so things have been quiet on the legal front for a while.

However, if ever there was a place to start suing, it would be in the US, so eyes are on EA to see whether the publisher will seek to quash the cheeky upstart. Obviously that won’t go down well with Facebook users, but considering that Scrabble in Europe has only achieved a tiny fraction (just over 1%) of the number of active players that Scrabulous has (despite being a slightly better quality game), the stakes are pretty high.

Games analyst Michael Pachter, of Wedbush Morgan Securities, reckons that EA Hasbro’s launch of the authorised version of Scrabble might enhance the company’s legal position against Scrabulous, The New York Times reported earlier this year that Scrabulous earns about $25,000 a month from online ads, so there’s also a clear financial incentive to start dropping legal hammers.

In other Facebookey news, a group of users is campaigning for the website makers to update the ‘Relationship status’ option to include Civil Partnerships. Nearly 13,000 campaigners have signed up to a group calling for the addition of the new category. Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, obviously thinking the whole thing was very Government 2.0, said it was “very disappointing that Facebook still doesn’t include civil partnerships”. Jesus H. Christ, don’t these people have jobs or something? Or did I just miss the meeting when it was agreed that the strength and nature of our relationships hinged entirely on the wording of our Facebook statuses?

EA (via Mercury News)

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