RealNetworks in talks with Scrabulous

LONDON - Digital company RealNetworks has been tipped to buy Scrabulous, the unofficial online version of the Scrabble boardgame which attracts over 500,000 daily players on social networking site Facebook.

The move could save the online game from being banned by the boardgame's owners Hasbro and Mattel, which threatened legal action for copyright infringement in January.

Electronic Arts and RealNetworks have both signed deals to create online versions of the game with Hasbro, owners of the board game in the US and Canada, and Mattel, which owns the rights internationally.

Harold Zeitz, senior vice-president for games at RealNetworks, said late last week that RealNetworks was working closely with the Agarwalla brothers, who created Scrabulous, to bring the official Scrabble game to Facebook users, according to a report in The New York Times.

However, following the Times report, Bill Hankes, vice president of corporate communications at RealNetworks, sent an email, reported on Om Malik's blog on, that said Real was not part of any legal action against Scrabulous and because it has licenses from both Hasbro and Mattel it is "in a unique position to bring all the parties together in an effort to preserve the Scrabble experience for millions of Scrabulous fans".

Malik contacted Hankes to ask if Real was looking to buy Scrabulous and Hankes reportedly said: "We aren't saying anything that specific, except that we're big fans of Scrabulous and think because of our licenses from both Hasbro and Mattel that we're in a good position to work with them to keep the Scrabble experience on Facebook.

Scrabulous was developed in Calcutta, India, by software developers Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla. Last year, they put it on Facebook after an approach to Hasbro received no response and it soon became one of the most popular Facebook applications.

Thousands of Facebook users have joined groups such as Save Scrabulous, which have been set up to protest against any Scrabulous ban.