Fresh off his interview with Lesley Stahl on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Mark Zuckerberg is being asked to remove the very popular “Scrabulous” app from Facebook. An article from the wires this morning cites copyright claims by two of the worlds largest toy companies.
I don’t think it is coincidence given that the 60 Minutes piece that aired recently showed the Scrabulous application. Perhaps I am wrong on this, but is seems rather suspect.
Aside from getting into a discussion over copyright, I wonder if the folks at Hasbro and Mattel could have approached this in a different manner? The application is quite popular on Facebook. Is this not likely to do more damage to the brand than good if they get their way and it is removed? Perhaps this is a move to supply Facebook with a “legit” version of the game. Or, perhaps it was the only thing the toy execs could do having been caught off-guard to the opportunity unfolding in the digital world to extend the brand. Instead of unleashing a killer app, they are opting to become an application killer.
Two things are clear to me. First, when it comes to bringing a game to life online, it seems like a lay-up in terms of moving off the shelf from Toys “R” Us and breathing new life via the digital world. The transition of content offered up as widgets, Facebook applications or whatever are sitting right in front of people’s noses. Webkinz and Club Penguin have been effective in mixing up the online and offline worlds, so is it really a stretch for established offline games to rethink the model?
Second, I am not a big Scrabble fan, but “Scrabble” has been talked about a lot lately. This is undoubtedly due to the popularity of the application on Facebook. Before this legal wrangle, I had no clue this was not the “offical” version of the game and I’ll bet you didn’t know either. So, the Scrabble brand has benefited. If I am Hasbro and Mattel, I’d like to find out who programmed the application and put them on staff.
Perhaps Zuckerberg and Co. should try out an angle with select brands (or their agencies) where brand managers and application developers team up to build branded content/games like “Scrabulous” that people will use and love – where the advertising is in the game itself.
It is less likely to create the furor seen with Beacon and Social Ads. I mean, if a fast-food giant like Burger King can do advergaming, why can’t the game people?
UPDATE: My friend Shel Holtz of For Immediate Release fame and the blog A Shel of My Former Self has a great post explaining the rationale behind the lawsuit. He worked for Mattel, worth a read.