Scrabble traditionalists slam online innovation, especially baby dragons

One of the most popular new mobile games has falling tiles, sparkling jewelry, and a chat feature where players can get to know each other.

This game is Scrabble.

The new “Scrabble Go” app launched last month, when its ten-year-old red and tan predecessor was taken out of service. The quick, candy-colored update was meant to get younger players interested in an older game.

He has alienated many veteran Scrabblers in the process.

“It’s obscenity,” said Josh Bernoff, a 61-year-old business writer. “It’s like being inside the small intestine of a unicorn that just ate a bunch of rainbow bowling pins.”

Scrabble Go has generated thousands of 1 star reviews on Google Play and the App Store (“Seizure-inducing!”), Facebook pages like “Scrabble Go Away !!!! And Reddit threads on how to reverse engineer old devices to read the defunct app offline.

The complaints range from glowing treasure chests to difficulty finding the dictionary to the number of widowers in the chat room.

Liz Horkan’s profile on Scrabble Go


Liz horkan

“It’s not Tinder,” said Liz Horkan, a 60-year-old retiree from an airline. “I don’t want to know any of these people. I want to play Scrabble.

More than 8,100 people have signed a petition asking Hasbro Inc.

to bring back the old Scrabble app at least until the end of the pandemic, saying, “Please don’t give up on us when we need you most.”

Time spent on mobile games increased during the Covid-19 crisis with downloads quadrupling to nearly four million in March for the most popular mobile word game, Zynga Inc.

Words With Friends 2, according to market research firm Sensor Tower.


What do you think of the Scrabble Go app? Join the conversation below.

The company estimates that Words With Friends 2 has around 44.5 million total downloads since its introduction in 2017, while Scrabble Go has around 19.1 million downloads since it was first available globally in March.

Mark Blecher, head of digital games at Hasbro, said the old app won’t come back and the company sees the new app as a game changer for Scrabble, which has been a “relatively successful, year-over-year, stable one. Brand.”

The old app was the product of a now expired license agreement between Hasbro and gaming giant Electronic Arts Inc.,

which Mr Blecher said EA had not sought to renew. EA did not respond to requests for comment.

Scrabble Go is the result of a new deal with Scopely Inc., a Los Angeles-based mobile game company best known for Looney Tunes World of Mayhem and The Walking Dead: Road to Survival.

Scopely and Hasbro collaborated on Yahtzee with Buddies in 2015, which is one of the top 50 grossing games on mobile, according to Blecher.

The app “will dramatically increase the number of people playing Scrabble,” he said. “We can’t wait to beat Words With Friends.”

Scrabble Go operates on a ‘freemium’ model, which means the app is free to download, but ads appear every few plays or so and charge $ 2.99 to $ 99.99 for benefit purchases in the application. An ad-free version is available for $ 7.99 per month, compared to a one-time fee of around $ 10 for the old app.

The app encourages multiple games at once by regularly suggesting opponents, many of whom are bots. Zoey, the game’s wide-eyed avatar, offers frequent reminders to invite Facebook contacts and friends.

The app rewards regular play with gems redeemable for ‘boosts’ like a peek at the best word available or helps win themed 3D tile sets such as ‘Baby Dragons’ or ‘Tricorn Hat’. Players can decorate their tiles with flamingos and garden gnomes.

Scopely co-CEO Javier Ferreira said reimagining Scrabble is key because the dominant way of playing games these days is on a mobile device, not a traditional card, PC or video console. . “The notion of play has evolved,” he says. “You have to use the opportunities that technology gives you to create a new kind of experience. “

Mr Ferreira said he regrets that a minority of players don’t like Scrabble Go, but said a silent majority seems happy, with 2.5 million people playing every day and players dropping 80 to 100 minutes per day on the app.

This is not the first conflict over how and when to translate the 1948 analog classic for a digital age.

For years Hasbro was hesitant to develop a computer game for fear of hurting board game sales, Blecher said.

Scrabble has been popular for decades.


Keystone / Getty Images

Hasbro was slow to roll out a PC version in the 1990s and a web version in the 2000s, sending serious gamers to unofficial sites, said Stefan Fatsis, author of “Word Freak,” a book on Scrabble. competitive.

In 2007, nearly a million fans started playing a Scrabulous lookalike game on Facebook. Hasbro forced the game’s takedown over copyright concerns the following year, but was slow to come up with an alternative on the social media platform.

Scrabble and EA rolled out their mobile app in 2008, at the very beginning of smartphones. But the Scrabble app was quickly overtaken by competitors like Words With Friends.

Mr. Fatsis, an expert level player, said he initially didn’t like the cluttered nature of Scrabble Go, with its “explosive letters and explosive design”.

But he said Scopely deserves credit for responding to critics with a new Scrabble Classic option accessible with just a few clicks on the home screen. It still has ads but no falling tile bonus games and no gems. Scopely said that around 8.5% of users play Scrabble Classic.

Scopely has hired America’s top ranked player Will Anderson as a consultant. He experimented with streaming his matches on Twitch, Inc.

popular live streaming platform with gamers. He recently performed a play-by-play analysis of an elite-level Scrabble Go match posted on the game’s Facebook page.

Will Anderson places his tiles on the board at the 2014 National Scrabble Championship in Buffalo, NY


Gary Wiepert / Associated press

He was disappointed when he read the dozens of reviews. No one said much about his first try analysis of playing “URUS”, an extinct European beef, to gut two of the letter U, “the worst of all vowels.” Instead, they mostly complained about Scrabble Go.

“I’m trying to say this in as non-ageist a way as possible,” said Mr. Anderson, a 35-year-old textbook editor in Lancaster, Pa. “They’re almost always older boomer-style Facebook profiles.”

Disgruntled fans say Scrabble Classic is too small, too late, and too hard to find in the Scrabble Go app.

Mr Bernoff, who published an article on Scrabble Go, is auditioning alternatives such as Word Master and Lexulous, the sequel to Scrabble. He said he had long ruled out Words With Friends because of his adoption of 50,000 contemporary words, such as “hangry” and “BFF”.

“I’m sorry, BFF is a series of initials, not a word,” he said. “Nobody says, ‘I wish you would meet my buff.’ “

Ms Horkan, the former airline employee, said she now quits Scrabble Go games as soon as someone asks her if she is married. She is also looking for an alternative game but struggles to find anything calming.

“I don’t want to play Candy Crush,” she said. “I just want my game simple.”

Write to Valérie Bauerlein at [email protected]

Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Comments are closed.