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First off, what the heck happened to the video game industry? What has it turned into? It used to be about blue hedgehogs and fat plumbers and now it's about bottom lines and selling products as services.
It boggles my mind how people who just want to play games and have fun can't do that anymore. Instead, the industry has turned into a hot zone of pro-corporatists versus everyday Joes and Janes. It's also saddening that so many gamers now have to protest against these mega-corporations just to enjoy a game. And no, I'm not talking about Call of Duty, Diablo or Street Fighter, I'm talking about Scrabble.
Apparently casual gamers who just want to play a game of Scrabble on Facebook are being faced with a lot of technical issues and player accessibility problems. Not much of a big deal right? Well, it is when requests, protests and outspoken gamers are being silenced, banned and shutdown for speaking up.
Scrabble is a Facebook and mobile app, it's based on the popular Hasbro board game and it's designed by none other than the worst company in America, Electronic Arts. The Facebook game is free-to-play and generates revenue based on ads while the mobile version has a small price of entry.
Now the game has been out and about, making the rounds and garnering quite a fanbase. With any fanbase, however, there comes a lot of anguish over issues that can negatively affect the gameplay experience. In this case, obtrusive ads, poor compatibility, longer load times and lacking accessibility to the gameplay area due to over-clutter.
Users soon became frustrated with the new board, the long load times and intrusive ads, and regaled at the thought of the old Scrabble board that some felt was more accessible and less intrusive. There have also been a number of server issues which seem to have plagued the game for quite some time, according to one blog post.
The constant server outages and cluttered gameplay screen led a group of players to take to the forums to do what outraged gamers do best: rage. Quite naturally, the raging resulted in bans, the bans resulted in more rage and then Facebook groups started appearing requesting for EA and Hasbro to reinstate the old Scrabble board for those who wanted the option, as pictured below (courtesy of Russ Nemec).
Some of the Facebook groups requesting a change back to the old boards are still around, the one that garnered the most popularity was shutdown by Facebook, and the remains of that board can be viewed here. The reason for the shutdown? Name policy violation. No further details have been revealed regarding the matter and Facebook offered no follow-ups.
The "Bring Back The Old Scrabble" group has resurfaced as part of a new group on a new Facebook page. It's one of many groups requesting that the Facebook game make a return to form.
Other players took their complaints directly to customer support, with representatives giving the basic retort that you would expect, with executive and customer relations rep, Kyle Cooper, stating the following copy-and-paste response to users who inquired of getting the old board back, saying...
We’re happy to report that we’ve seen a strong response to a lot of the new features, with overall user numbers and engagement numbers up since we launched the update, but we do understand that some fans are dissatisfied with these changes and we value your feedback and your respect for the integrity of the SCRABBLE brand. We've set up this survey (http://forum.ea.com/eaforum/posts/list/8706644.page) so that we can collect responses from the online SCRABBLE community and address concerns as quickly as possible. This survey has already led to changes in the game and it continues to be a valuable resource for us as we refine the Beta version of SCRABBLE. In fact, by popular demand, we’re actually planning to release an update next month that will let users choose the look of their game board – including the classic board.
A few keywords I'd like to point out here...first off, he mentions "We're happy to report that we've seen a strong response" that doesn't necessitate that it's a good response or that it's a positive one either. It's a spin-phrase used to market the intent of an agenda that may or may not be favorable but incites strong reactions regardless. In this case, it's used to spin the data in an attempt that perhaps the majority are fine with the new changes.
Another thing, he mentions that "by popular demand, we're actually planning to release an update next month that will let users choose the look of their game board – including the classic board." Now take note that users on the forums, such as the official forums here, are basically reiterating everything that's already been addressed above -- I know, forum boards are a tough source to gauge responses given the natural state of vitriol -- especially regarding bringing back the old board. However, Cooper is talking about the appearance of the board and not the actual layout of the board. Notice the keyword is "the look of their game board" and not the "look of the layout" or the "layout of the game board", which is actually the problem at hand.
Ultimately, I think this situation could easily be diffused by allowing users to choose which version of Scrabble they would like to play: the one with all the ads and clutter or the one without all the ads and clutter. Similar to, I don't know, Blizzard having an offline option for Diablo III.
Update: EA issued the following response regarding the changes for the game, with PR director Alexis McDowel stating...
Since we began rolling out this updated beta version of SCRABBLE on Facebook in late May, we've been constantly in communication with our fans through the EA and Hasbro SCRABBLE Facebook pages and we've set up a survey so that we can collect responses from the online SCRABBLE community in order to address feedback as quickly as possible. This survey has already been a valuable resource and led to several changes in the game including:
I guess we'll definitely be able to tell whether or not gamers will be receptive to the new changes come August. We'll keep you posted on additional updates regarding the situation.