Scrabble Players Have Choice Words for Mattel and EA

Scrabble 150x150 Scrabble Players Have Choice Words for Mattel and EA

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Mattel and Electronic Arts.

The British like a lot of things: gardens, a good cup of tea, cricket. What don’t they like? Apparently, their Scrabble game being messed with. Scrabble, of course, is the classic board game in which lettered tiles are put down to form words crossword puzzle-style. Created by American architect and game inventor Alfred Butts in 1938, it’s become a beloved pastime enjoyed by generations of players. In 2008, Mattel, Inc. launched what became a wildly popular on-line version through Facebook; users could play in realtime against friends or random opponents around the world, their statistics collated and ranked.

Until a few weeks ago. That’s when Electronic Arts (EA), the company to whom Mattel turned over the reins of online Scrabble, “upgraded” the game in Europe and Australia. Among other deeply unpopular changes, players must refresh their screens to see if an opponent has played, and score histories have been obliterated. Also removed was the ability to control time limits, making it difficult to play opponents on different schedules or in other time zones. The new version has been met with a torrent of criticism and the launch of boycotts and petitions. Thousands of players are raging against Mattel and EA on Facebook, all demanding that they bring back the original version.

The companies also lose major points for their PR prowess. EA declined to comment, while Mattel’s cringe-worthy response was “We are sorry we weren’t able to please everybody … We produce the board game but we’re not experts in electronics.”

THE PR VERDICT:  “F” (Full Fiasco) for Mattel and EA, who don’t seem to know the Number One rule of successful products: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The client is always right. It’s true you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but there is a difference between that and enraging your entire customer base. When contemplating major changes to an iconic product, common sense dictates that decisions should be based on extensive research. Had the corporate powers-that-be asked players what was important to them, they might have seen that a move like this could only spell CATASTROPHE.

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Christine Walton Brennan About Christine Walton Brennan

Christine Walton Brennan is the former Head of Corporate Communications for Marsh & McLennan Companies. She also managed media relations at banking giants UBS and Merrill Lynch, and was a journalist with Bloomberg News. In 2011, Christine embraced her midlife "realization" and is now a Registered Nurse in New York's Hudson Valley.

What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. Janet L. Falk says:

    Time for Mattel and EA to go back to elementary school and learn the three R’s of Public Relations: Regret, Reform, Recompense.

    Mattel and EA should:
    1. apologize in more than a perfunctory way;
    2. indicate how they will incorporate customer feedback so that this loss of service never happens again;
    3. provide some restitution for the inconvenience endured by Scrabble devotees, whether a free subscription, upgrade or other service.

    Someone overlooked the possible downside in the strategy sessions, but there still is time to recover.

  2. John Lewis says:

    I may be British, but I know that good communication is the key to healthy sexual relationships. I know that there are many people in the UK that only marginally prefer sex to Scrabble. If Mattel and EA had considered exiting players they would have had some idea of this and developed a game that met the needs of existing Scrabble players. They do not have appeared to have consulted anyone and therefore developed something that is regarded as droopy and flaccid.

  3. Jon Carver says:

    I cant believe that Mattel cannot see that the hardcore scrabblers, who would be their main potential revenue income, have come up with reasoned requests which are turned down point blank. The top people within this company need to really ask themselves what they are actually doing to their own company. Upsetting this group is the equivelent of a “Ratner”. Unfortunately Newtons Third Law’s last word appears to be heading towards overreaction and I, for one, will encompass that.

  4. Its not just the British that like their scrabble…Us Aussies, and Kiwis are also distraught at destroying our beloved game… they say that numbers for the new scrabble are high…but what they dont say ..is that us players that could only use the original scrabble were forced…and given no choice about using the “New Better(your kidding)…game…Please give us the old game back…

  5. Suzi Heke says:

    It’s true. I’m a Kiwi and relished being able to play Scrabble against family members in other countries as well as meeting new opponents. My sisters (both overseas) and I could play a three-person game, chat in between and keep up a healthy sibling rivalry as we competed to win. I regularly played about 17 games at one time which ensured there were always a few turns waiting for me when I got home after work. I considered the online scrabble as being one of the best things about the internet! Due to its obvious popularity, Mattel and EA could do wonders for their declining popularity simply by reinstating the original game. Perhaps in addition to the current child’s version OR even with a subscription option, which I would be happy to pay.

  6. karen malkin says:

    I’ve played scrabble for years didn’t realise it had been taken over by EA shame on you for not telling us when you took pet society from us, shame on you EA, you are diabolical !!1

  7. Di Queensland says:

    Mattel/EA have totally misjudged this one. They took a popular tried and true “thoroughbred” game and turned it into a “camel”. This has alienated and frustrated so many loyal customers worldwide. Many initially tried the new version and deleted it in disgust. A) because it is largely unplayable and B) does not meet the standards of the previous version. Even players who say they have embraced the latest version have a list of at least sixteen improvements they wish made! The lack of market research and consultation by Mattel/EA with existing players prior to the changeover is nothing short of heartless arrogance. Appeals to Mattel/EA have met with silence or trite patronising script. Talk to the hand stuff. There is now a groundswell to hit them in the back pocket by boycotting their products and toylines. Some determined souls are even placing an interesting spotlight on Mattel/EA in terms of any transgressions and abuses of workers rights in their overseas factories. If i marked this PR excercise on a continuum of 1 to 10 , ten being the lowest score possible … I would give it a 12. Mattel/EA needs to : Fess Up, Fund It , Fix It …Fast.

  8. Neil Saldanha says:

    It’s not just the British who are fuming! Indians, Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans, Filipinos, Americans, basically people from everywhere (except Antartica) are absolutely livid at what Mattel and EA have done to our game. I will never ever play it in it’s current avatar and I will also boycott all Mattel, EA and advertisers products until the original game is restored or we get something very very close to the original game.

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