The internet has changed the world of gaming, even the way we play traditional family games has changed, but not all companies understand the opportunities these changes offer.
The notion that the world has become a global village is most visible on the internet. Thanks to internet technologies I can now keep in touch with friends in the US, Brasil, Italy and Sweden for a fraction of the costs of a long distance call only a decade ago. I am living the internet life, because I have more friends abroad than I have in my home town. Social network sites like Facebook and instant messaging software like Skype or AIM made it easy to keep track of eachother and costs no longer are an inhibitor to keep in contact.
Some companies have understood that this small world has changed the way we interact which eachother and family games that made some long winter nights pass in a wink are no longer tied to being together in the same spot at the same time. For some time a company called Scrabulous made the homonymous game that was wildly popular on Facebook. The game was an online copycat of the famous game Scrabble, but allowed people from all over the world to play together. I joined Facebook with the sole purpose of playing Scrabble online with my American friends. We enjoyed many a game until the game suddenly disappeared from Facebook. Soon it became clear it was shut down because of copyright violations. The original copyright holders Mattel and Hasbro came with their own version, but where the Scrabulous game allowed me, living in the Netherlands, to play against my friends living in the USA, in their version I was welcomed by the message that I should not use the American version, but the international version. While we could invite eachother to a game of Scrabble, these regional restrictions prevented us from playing. So when we found out that Scrabulous was still available on its own site we moved our gaming there, only to be shut off again after a couple of games. For a while we couldn’t play online anymore, until Scrabulous reinvented itself als Lexulous and offered an unrestricted clone of the game again.
While Hasbro and Mattel can work together to create an official online version of Scrabble and sue Scrabulous, it seems to be too much to ask to create a game where Americans and Europeans can play together. Even though they exploit the site scrabble.com together they don’t seem to see the value of creating a single online community. Obviously the two companies do not understand the concepts on which the internet is based. A global network that is freely accessable to anyone but where the value of a website is defined by profile of its visitors. A game that attracts many highly educated visitors who return frequently should be a valued resource. Instead their shortsightedness forces me and my friends to find alternative ways to enjoy an online game together.
Apparantly, for some it’s not such small world after all.