As Hasbro fights to get an online copycat of its Scrabble board game called Scrabulous yanked off the Internet, thousands of visitors to Facebook, where the game most famously lives, are lobbying to keep it alive and kicking.
Within hours of news of a potential Scrabulous scrapping hitting the Web, many bloggers and Scrabulous fans were up in arms over the news.
Between Monday and Thursday on Facebook, at least seven different groups formed with nearly 20,000 total members joining to rescue the favored application from its demise. Nearly all the groups had some variation of the phrase "Save Scrabulous" in their names.
The online game, which is played much the way Scrabble is, was developed by brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla in Calcutta, India. The game is among the top 10 most downloaded applications on Facebook and can also be played online at the brothers' Web site.
Jason Madhosingh, a 30-year-old New Yorker who works in marketing, is the leader of one of the biggest "Save Scrabulous" Facebook groups; on Thursday morning, it was more than 16,000 strong, growing by about 4,000 people overnight.
Madhosingh was ecstatic with the support Scrabulous is getting.
"We're excited that we have this many people who are supportive," he said. "I can certainly understand the position of the creators of the game. But we have a group of 14,000 people who are really passionate about this brand. It's a good opportunity for the makers of this brand to engage with us instead of pushing us a way."
Despite Scrabulous' popularity on Facebook, Madhosingh was quick to separate the two.
"Ultimately, it's something that enhances the experience. It's not the primary cause I use Facebook," he said.
But for reluctant Facebooker Jessie Strauss, 27, the stakes are higher. Scrabulous lured her out of her anti-social network stance to the site. If the online game's plug gets pulled, she said she would probably ditch Facebook altogether.
"As far as social networking sites, I'm kind of over it. I had MySpace. I wasn't that eager to get on Facebook," Strauss said. "Then I got invited to do this Scrabulous thing. I thought, 'This is actually really amazing. My life has purpose.' ... I don't think I would have any reason to log in to Facebook if it weren't for Scrabulous.'"
Although Strauss was surprised that Scrabulous and Hasbro weren't affiliated, she's similarly surprised that Hasbro is considering legal action, arguing that playing the online version encourages real-life play.
"I think people who ordinarily wouldn't play Scrabble might play Scrabulous games. They would think, 'Oh this is fun -- maybe we should play,'" she said. "I think Scrabble is sort of hot right now and it's all because of Scrabulous.'"
But obviously, Hasbro sees things in an entirely different light than Scrabulous fans.
"Scrabulous infringes on Hasbro's trademark. Like all intellectual property owners, we take this type of infringement seriously," Hasbro spokesman Gary Serba said in a statement. "We are reviewing a number of options with the parties involved and hope to find an amicable solution. If we cannot come to one quickly, we will be forced to close down the site and its associated distribution points."
Serba refused to comment on reports that Hasbro sent out legal notices to four parties involved in developing and hosting the game. He said he could not say anything more than what was in the official statement.