Hasbro/Mattel to Scrabble Fans: No Love For You!

(full disclosure: I love Scrabble and I’m a Facebook Scrabulous junkie)

A few days ago, I read with horror that Hasbro/Mattel were threatening to shut down Scrabulous, my favorite Facebook application. There was a sense of deja vu as the article was written by Josh Quittner, former editor-in-chief of Business 2.0, the magazine we tried to save last summer with a Facebook group. Quittner, showing an enormous sense of humor, titled his article “Will someone please start a Facebook group to save Scrabulous?”

Yesterday morning, we learned that the two toy companies (who co-own the rights to the Scrabble game) have decided to escalate the legal procedures to Facebook directly and ask the social network site to shut down the very popular application (more than 600,000 active users per day, 26% of the application installed base).


Flickr picture by allyrose18

Following this news, fellow Toronto blogger Matthew Ingram wrote a mordant blog post called “Hasbro and Mattel: Dumb, dumb, dumb“. In it, Ingram writes “From a legal perspective, Hasbro and Mattel are no doubt totally within their rights to have the app removed, or to sue, or do whatever they wish to protect their trademark. But from a marketing perspective I think they are missing the point.”

He’s right. Between the cottage and our home, my family owns four versions of Scrabble (two Deluxe and two travel versions). We want to play the game offline and online but unfortunately Hasbro/Mattel haven’t built one for us within Facebook, where our network of friends currently “resides”. Scrabulous is the only solid alternative. It reminds me of the way the music industry threatens the largest consumers of music, the peer-to-peer network users, by calling them thieves and suing them (a study published late last year showed that P2P downloaders buy more music). Great way to treat your most important customer base…

From a marketing point of view, Hasbro/Mattel could have gone through different routes. Ingram suggested: “So why not just buy the app from the developers for a couple of hundred grand and call it a day?” Attaboy commenting on Ingram’s post proposed: ” they should be demanding that Scrabulous pay a license or share their revenues, not demanding that it be shut down.” I add that shutting down Scrabulous will only serve to anger your biggest Scrabble fans. The big lesson for corporations is: fill consumers’ needs or it will be filled by others, and you might end up looking like bad guys.

Can Social Media Save Business 2.0 Magazine?

What started yesterday as one of my Facebook status updates is slowly becoming a grass-root effort to save Business 2.0 magazine. The Facebook group created yesterday morning for that occasion now has 139 members (and growing every minute). The list of people supporting the magazine is starting to read like a who’s who of tech entrepreneurs, bloggers and journalists and includes amongst others Reid Hoffman, Michael Arrington, Om Malik, Craig Newmark, and Josh Quittner.

In addition to the Facebook group, I’ve posted the news on Digg (very limited results) and I’ve also asked a question on LinkedIn (some interesting comments there). We’re also now crossing over into blogging media with a Valleywag article covering our efforts to save the magazine. Hopefully, we can get more blogging media coverage today and maybe (cross your fingers) get offline media coverage as well!

With that many “sneezers” on board, I have very high hopes we can tell Time Inc. that the magazine is a must-read amongst the digerati and save it.

BTW, if you like Business 2.0 magazine, make sure you add your name to the Facebook group! If you want to add me to your Facebook network, don’t hesitate to invite me also.

End of day update: the group is up to 329 members and Advertising Age has covered the news! Keep going!