Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In case you missed it: Scrabble rule change

Mattel announces Scrabble rule change.

In 1938 an architect by the name of Alfred Butts invented a word game he called "Criss-Crosswords".  Butts manually tabulated the frequency of letters in words of various lengths using examples in a dictionary, the Saturday Evening Post, the New York Herald Tribune, and the New York Times. From those tabulations he worked out how many letter tiles to use in his game and the points values to allocate  to the letters.  The game used a crossword style of placing the tiles on the board to form words.

Butts made a few sets but was unable to interest any games manufacturers.  In 1948 he sold the rights to James Brunot in return for a royalty for each set sold.  Brunot simplified the rules, rearranged the premium squares and renamed the game "Scrabble".  Although Brunot made 2,400 sets in 1949, he ended up losing money.

In 1952 Jack Strauss, the president of Macy's, played a game on holiday and was surprised to find that his department store did not stock or sell the game.  An order was placed and the popularity of the game kicked off.

Scrabble is now produced in the US and Canada by Hasbro Inc and in the rest of the world by Mattel.

News reports today have announced that Scrabble is changing its rules for the first time in its 62 year history:  proper nouns, unconnected words and words spelled backwards will all be allowed.  The idea is that it will rejuvenate the game and attract younger players who know the names of pop stars and celebrities.

Apparently Hasbro Inc is not following suit and competition play will not adopt the rule changes.

It remains to be seen whether the proposed rule changes will go the way of  New Coke and the name Vegemite iSnack 2.0.

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