Suing Scrabulous: The Game Everyone Gets to Lose!

Well I guess it’s finally time to check out Wordscraper. Caving Responding to a formal complaint from Scrabble copyright holder Mattel, Facebook has blocked access to Scrabulous for pretty much everyone.

I was hoping to at least play Scrabulous when I travel outside the States, but no longer, because Facebook has preemptively blocked it across the globe. (Except in India, where creators Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla hail from and where a court case is still pending.) Worse still, I’m not particularly enthused by my alternatives.

The Argwalla brothers’ Wordscraper is generally seen as an inferior (if lawsuit-proof) replacement. For that matter, however, so is Electronic Arts’ Hasbro-sanctioned SCRABBLE Facebook app, which is hacker-prone, and from this player’s perspective, markedly inferior to Scrabulous — it’s excessively flashy, the board layout is confusing, and moving tiles is a kludgy process at best. I invited Liz to a game earlier this afternoon, but it took her awhile to get started, because the invitation was counterintuitively sent not to her Invitations box, but her Notifications channel.

Ironically, the best features in SCRABBLE, like live chat and leaderboards, were originally innovated in Scrabulous. To make matters even more aggravating, non-North American Facebook users can’t even play EA’s SCRABBLE, but instead, have to play yet another licensed version. (So much for playing with the 30 percent or so non-Americans in my friends list.)

So in this tangle of competing IP claims and threatened lawsuits, no one really wins — not consumers like me, but not even the companies most directly involved. Scrabulous was easily among Facebook’s very best third-party apps, and the Argawallas are none too happy with how they were still thrown under the bus: “[It’s] astonishing that Facebook, which claims to be a fair and neutral party, took this step,” Jayant told The San Jose Mercury News. If I was a Facebook developer, I’d be worried about that too.

Image credit: Fail embellishment by WJA.