Wendy Davis writer for MediaPost, comments: “It’s been one week since news first broke that Scrabble owner Hasbro was complaining to Facebook about Scrabulous, the online version of the game that’s available as an application on the social networking site.”
“In that week, more than 30,000 Facebook members have rallied to the game’s defense, joining Save Scrabulous Facebook group.”
“The game, developed by two brothers in India, is similar enough in look and feel to the board game that Scrabble is griping its intellectual property is being infringed. But, while that may be the case, it’s not clear that Hasbro or Mattel (which owns the rights to the game abroad) is being hurt here.”
“Consider, quite a few people are saying that Scrabulous spurred them to purchase copies of the board game. “A few friends and I, all Scrabulous players, recently bought three Scrabble games … I think you are shooting yourself in the foot, if you try to squash the best free marketing campaign Scrabble has ever seen,” wrote one.”
“Others chimed in with their own reasons why Scrabulous is a boon to Hasbro. “I think Scrabble should be thankful for Scrabulous. Now there is an entire generation addicted to it,” one argued.”
“Yeah, the infringement is obvious, but so is the concept of not annoying your fans!” wrote another. Facebook isn’t talking, but, as of Friday morning, neither has the company removed the application. That indicates to some observers that Facebook is in talks with Hasbro and Mattel (which owns the rights to the game abroad). Some sort of settlement is the only resolution that makes sense here.
As with music or video, free exposure can be invaluable in building fans.
In 2006, shortly after CBS made clips of TV shows available on YouTube, the network said that ratings increased. “The Late Show with David Letterman” drew 200,000 new viewers, a 5% increase, after CBS placed clips of the show on YouTube, while “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” increased its viewership by 100,000, or 7%.
It’s not surprising that people who’ve played Scrabulous would then go out and buy Scrabble. And it also won’t be surprising if removing it from Facebook results in a loss of interest when users are forced to find other online games to play.
Mobilizing or polarizing consumer opiniions and reactions has never been so instantaneous as what happens within social networks. In the past a business could simply pull a bad ad on TV or replace a print ad quickly in time for the next publication release. While press release get promulgated throughout the web until the social web came on the scenes the conversations concerning what companies say and do was limited, contained and risk were manageable.
Hasbro, an old company run by old business rules, reactions in the story above is but one example of 1) the conversational power of the social web and 2) the lack of understanding that power by traditional business minds.
Even with the profile of the Scrabble story the real message will not be heard by many businesses until they step on the “power cord of conversations” enabled by the social web. When we ask “What were they thinking? the answer is they weren’t because they don’t understand“.
What say you?