Electronic Arts (EA) and Hasbro have announced the release of a legit version of Scrabble for Facebook. The iconic word game will launch in mid-July for Facebook users in the U.S. and Canada. A version can currently be played through the gaming site Pogo.com.
The release sets up a showdown between the Hasbro-sanctioned Scrabble and the unauthorized but popular Scrabulous, a Facebook game that closely resembles Scrabble. Created by brothers Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla two years ago, Scrabulous has amassed a legion of loyal fans with more than 518,000 daily active users on Facebook.
The new, sanctioned online version of Scrabble closely mirrors the board game, with each version customized for its intended platform.
“We’re staying true to the essence of the game and adapting it for digital formats. Each of our Scrabble games we’ve developed are tailored to that specific platform: Facebook, Pogo.com and mobile,” said Alexis Mervin, an EA spokesperson.
Playing by the Rules
Both the Pogo.com version and the Facebook app promise gamers an authentic Scrabble experience, according to Mervin.
The game includes an intuitive interface through which gamers can challenge family, friends or anyone else in the U.S. or Canada accessing the game through Facebook.
They can also opt to play a real-time, turn-based game or pause the game and return at some later point. EA developers have made tracking scores and statistics simple, and players will always know where they rank against their competitors.
Other features include built-in chat functionality, word lists, dynamic animations and the ability to customize the level of difficulty and speed. Users can play multiple games at a time.
Soon after the game launches, Facebook users will be able to play in so-called Challenge Mode, Mervin told TechNewsWorld.
Challenge Mode gameplay turns off the dictionary, and each word can be challenged by another player before the end of the turn.
For Pogo.com, Scrabble offers real-time play, either alone or with three other Pogo players. Gamers can choose from five customizable skill levels that include a matching Scrabble dictionary. Traditionalists can opt to follow established game rules or create a la carte rules.
Timed games include integrated hints, tips and tricks. Club Pogo players can go a step further, unlocking bonus features such as their own set of National Scrabble Association (NSA) tournament rules, the ability to play games modeled after the NSA’s rating system, a choice of three different boards and an NSA room, a place set aside exclusively for NSA tournament players to compete online.
Scrambling for Gamers
When EA’s version becomes available, it will go head-to-head against the massively popular Scrabulous.
“Scrabulous is allegedly in violation of the Scrabble trademark, so I would bet Facebook gets pressure to drop the application. I think people would prefer to play the real thing rather than the alleged copycat, but I suppose we’ll see,” said Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Morgan analyst.
Demands for the removal of Scrabulous could lead fans of the game to speak out. In January Hasbro and Mattel tried to the put the kibosh on Scrabulous; however, the outcry from users was so great that the game remains one of the most popular on Facebook.
However, Pachter said he does not think “we will see both games offered after a month or so.”
The EA/Hasbro release is not so much a potential smackdown for Scrabulous as it is a win for the social network gaming segment in general, according to Shervin Pishevar, CEO of Social Gaming Network.
“We welcome it because it validates the early investments that SGN has made to build up social gaming as a viable category in gaming and as a profitable area to invest in,” he said.
Social gaming expands the playing field beyond traditional male gamers and includes users young and old, male and female, Pishevar told TechNewsWorld.
“The idea is that gaming is not just about young males. It’s about everyone and about the whole mass audience. Social gaming has the potential to reach a truly massive audience of players who for the first time have incredible fun playing a game with their friends, families and colleagues in a way that wasn’t very easy to do before. That’s the power of gaming on social platforms,” he pointed out.
The makers of Scrabble and Scrabulous should find some way to work out their differences that will allow fans of either version to continue to play, he said.
“Everyone should put the players first, because they enjoy the game,” he concluded.