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Facebook Developer Lessons: Imitation vs. Agitation

January 14, 2008

Via Yehuda comes the not so surprising news that Hasbro has issued a cease and desist order to the developers of Scrabulous. What I do find surprising is how the developers of Scrabulous figured it would turn out otherwise.

The issue has generated some anger toward Hasbro, but I think that anger is unfounded. Was Hasbro less than savvy for not creating their own app? Yes. Does this mean they should lose the right to decide what happens to their game design? No. More far reaching is the example this potentially sets. What if someone decided today that they could just whip out a nice copy of anything for free so long as the actual IP owner wasn’t working in that space. Carcassone for Facebook! Actually, that would be an excellent app. Settlers for the Wii! BMW Racing for the PS3 – hey, BMW’s not doing it, so why waste a perfectly good brand and good gameplay?

I’ve seen games I worked years on ripped off and translated without so much as a penny royalty or even a nod in our direction. That perspective changes you.

Maybe it’s a little naive of me, but in this industry, of all industries, shouldn’t we play by the rules?


4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 15, 2008 1:36 am

    I think the publishers of Monopoly have no right to complain about unauthorized clones (search for “The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle”).

    Hasbro’s case is not without some merit, but I think as a society we should treat game mechanics as unworthy of copyright protection.

    I think the developer’s biggest mistake was to adopt the name “Scrabulous”, which is obviously a play on Hasbro’s own trademark.

  2. January 15, 2008 6:54 am

    Part of me still genuinely hopes that Hasbro does the smart thing and buys the code from the developers. Make it the official SCRABBLE Facebook app, throw some Hasbro ads up there, and let us continue enjoying one of the best apps Facebook has to offer.

  3. January 15, 2008 6:56 am

    @Adrian – in this case, it’s not the mechanics that are being swiped. Tile laying and the counting of points is used in a whole bunch of games. It’s the theme that’s being ripped here. It game could just as easily be Carcassone.

    @Scott – me too.

  4. January 15, 2008 6:25 pm

    So, does that mean Bogglific is next in line?

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