Way back before Facebook, when the Internet was made of string and chewing gum, when Scrabble was a game for old people and nerds, I was.... Well.... A nerd!I loved Scrabble and attained the heady heights of school champion!
But it wasn't enough. I had tasted power and wanted more. I devoured Scrabble strategy books, word lists, reverse dictionaries and spent the nights dreaming about triple word scores.
I even went to the regional finals where our team came second to some suspiciously over-developed "school boys" from Westminster.
My love of scrabble stays strong, but I haven't dusted off my tiles in years.
All of which leads me to Hasbro/Mattel and their war against Scrabulous. I've never used the Facebook app - but I think I might take it up, just to spite them.
Old companies have a very hard time adjusting to the Internet way of doing things. There are two reasons for this...
1) Hasbro/Mattel exist in a nice and cosy status quo and don't want to take any risks. They're making a solid amount doing what they've always done, so why innovate?
2) The innertia of old companies weighed down with processes, multiple stakeholders, vested interests and office politics is staggering. It amazes me that Google and Apple can seemingly think of an idea on Monday and have it released on a Tuesday. Meanwhile, it's Thursday and I'm stuck in a meeting discussing whether the meeting to arrange the logo placement on the report exploring the possibility of designing a new application should be held in May or June.
Does Hasbro/Mattel have the legal right to sue Scrabulous? Undoubtedly. Some company is infringing on their work and not paying them. That's lawsuit time.
Do they have a moral right to sue? Scrabble was invented 50 years ago - I certainly think it should now be in the public domain.
Hasbro/Mattel haven't taken up the new economy and released an online version of any of the games. They've dropped the ball and, as always happens in this capitalist society, someone has picked it up and started playing with it.
Hasbro/Mattel can't simply buy Scrabulous and slap their branding on it - that would open the floodgates for thousands of rip-offs each trying to get bought out.
They can't sue them out of existance without generating a lot of ill-will.
So what can they do?
1) Fire whoever runs their Internet Division (and their heavy-handed legal team, for that matter)
2) Create an official version of Scrabble for Facebook. Make it so good that people would rather use it than some knock off.
3) Create social games that work across the Internet. Invest heavily in this new world. Put all their existing games online and develop great new games specifically to be played online.
4) Encourage Scrabulous to ceed to the Official Scrabble Facebook app. They shouldn't pay them off, they should obliterate tham with a better product, better marketing and a better experience and, maybe, the hint of a lawsuit.
Of course, what they'll actually do is sue, create a storm of negative publicity and reap the rewards of the Streisand Effect
Right. I'm off to install the Scrabulous app - who wants a game?