Scrabble has now become “Scrabble GO” . . . which will lead America to its doom.

These are trying times. A microscopic virus has transfixed the nation in fear. Our parents and grandparents are at risk, even as the government shares mixed messages about what is safe. Institutions of all kinds must step up and preserve the American way of life against the viral threat.

One institution has failed us. Scrabble.

In 2009, Hasbro the owner of Scrabble, licensed it for mobile play to Electronic Arts. EA’s app is a staid, simple, easily played, and diverting version of the classic board game. It looks like this:

(Why yes, that is me scoring 149 points in one turn for “REVALUES.” A fairly typical play for me, actually.)

Who plays this silly game? Word nerds and old people. I don’t do Candy Crush. I don’t do Fortnite. I don’t even do Words With Friends. I do Scrabble. My opponent is the app itself in Expert mode. The Scrabble app is quite an opponent; it never makes a mistake or misses an opportunity, and its vocabulary includes words you’ve never heard of. (“Squeg?” “Dogvane?” Every day brings an opportunity to learn a new word.) Even so, I often beat it, because of superior strategy, or because by random chance I get the Z, Q, X, and J.

In the time of Coronavirus, Scrabble is a crucial resource. I need a challenging intellectual diversion that has no political agenda, one that will wait patiently as I puzzle things out. I Scrabble before going to bed, and before dinnertime as I relax from the day’s work.

The Scrabble app also essential for my mother, who needs something to occupy her mind during my father’s cancer treatments and at other stressful times of day. (She’s awesome at it, by the way — she’ll clean your clock.) When you are 85 years old and the authorities are telling you to stay shut up in your house, Scrabble is more than a diversion. It is an essential coping tool.

My mother and I are not alone. Millions of people want something other than flashing lights, flickering Instagram, and angry news headlines to divert us. Scrabble is like the voice of Alex Trebek — calm, authoritative, and intelligent, reassuring us that the world remains sane and that we can take comfort in something trivial but engaging. We need this now.

But Scrabble is going away.

Stop Scrabble GO

Those of us who play the Scrabble app received this message a few weeks ago:

So I gave the new Scrabble GO app a try.

It is an obscenity, characterized by childish interactions, lurid colors, nagging reminders to invite your friends to play, and some sort of incentive system based on (gag) jewels you can earn.

Yup. They gamified a perfectly good word game.

After some diligent digging, I determined there was a “Practice” mode that does not require an opponent. It is well hidden. You play against “Zooey,” a white girl with brown hair and an unnaturally large head. Zooey is an airhead. She is no challenge at all; she’s a complete novice. And in practice mode, if you attempt to make a word that’s not actually a word, the board lights up in red to warn you off. This renders the game peurile.

I understand that it’s about money. But Scrabble GO is doomed to fail. It’s an ironic choice of name, since it’s not even worth playing on the toilet.

Those who like sparkly games have plenty of other choices that don’t require literacy and accurate spelling.

Our lives are about to be bad. Very bad. We will be shut up in our houses, especially the oldest and sickest of us. They just cancelled much of the baseball season, which was our other staid, boring, intellectual pastime. Some of us don’t want to grab the game controller and blast holes in people with a shotgun. We don’t want to stream the entire run of Seinfeld or Star Trek (or, like me, we already did). We certainly don’t want Zooey and her sparkly pink, purple, and chartreuse travesty of our beloved word game.

The old Scrabble app will be the only thing keeping us from cabin fever, tearing each others’ limbs off, and the inevitable swell of toxic, family-threatening sarcasm. (“Those sweatpants and slippers are so flattering. It’s too bad you can’t go out and show everybody how stylish you look. And smell.”)

Someday I hope to play QUIXOTRY across two triple word scores. But now that day may never come. Instead, we will need to choose between dying, our lungs filled with fluid, and living with purple sparkles and an opponent too stupid to play XU and XI crosswise on the same bonus square.

Death is inevitable. Hasbro, reverse your course. Save humanity. You have our fate in our your hands. Don’t kill the old app. Or else we’ll all go insane.

23 responses to “Scrabble has now become “Scrabble GO” . . . which will lead America to its doom.

  1. This will make me keep my ancient Ipad until my dying day. I play Scrabble daily, as does my 89-year old father. I have a phone message that I will never delete of him calling me to complain that the machine played a fake word that he couldn’t find online anywhere. He asked me what he was supposed to do about it…who could he call?

    Do these Scrabble GO people think this will entice anyone to play? (BTW, your bathroom comment made me laugh out loud, so thank you for that.)

    1. I’ve played Scrabble since childhood. I’ve logged about 12,000 games on the old app. I am very disappointed that it is being discontinued. I agree with everyone else that Scrabble GO is garbage, and of no appeal to any serious Scrabble player. We need the existing app either continued or replaced by something similar. We can all do without the chintziness, bells, whistles, silly prizes, gems, cheat aids, and distractions of Scrabble GO.

  2. Double triple-word score of 194 points for wingover. I’ve been playing scrabble over 60 years. Loved it when it went online so I could play with friends in other states. If I wanted jewels, I’d play those games.

  3. Check out WordFeud….a Scrabble-like game that you can pay a small amount (~$7 if I remember correctly) to opt out of the horrid ads which ruin WordswithFriends and (apparently Scrabble GO)….a good alternative that I have been playing with a pal for several months, quite good….

  4. This looks like a typical corporate strategy to appeal to “the next generation.” Why can’t Hasbro have 2 versions available at once: Scrabble Classic for purists, and Scrabble Go for kids? I constantly see advice about personalizing the customer experience, etc, etc. Hasbro has personalized the experience for anyone who doesn’t know how to play or spell very well, and DE-PERSONALIZED it for anyone who was already a loyal fan. Kind of silly and short-sighted. I’ll sign any online petition to bring back the old version and keep the new one. Let them fight it out… and we’ll see which one more people play!

  5. Been playing scrabble for a long time on this app. Has anyone noticed recently on expert mode that computer gets an obscene number of bingo plays? I did a little experiment where I used an app to solve the best word for every rack and I got 18% as many bingo words in my rack (let alone that I could actually play on the board) compared to the computer. It’s driving me nuts! Anyone else noticed this?
    /rant

  6. Oh my gosh! I thought I was going crazy. Thank you for writing this. I am on chemo, had a child home with flu symptoms and needed Scrabble desperately. Scrabble go was a nightmare and I am getting lots of spam texts. I don’t think it is a coincidence.

  7. I agree. Scrabble Go is a ridiculous waste of of time. I just want to play words, and I spend so much more time clicking out of “rewards, bonuses, jewels etc” and turning down multiple game requests everyday from people I’m not interested in playing.

    Please bring our simple but elegant Scrabble game option back!

  8. Love this! I shared a similar review with Scrabble GO…just before I uninstalled the app! Juvenile drivel I believe is how it ended!

  9. My husband (in FL) has enjoyed playing Scrabble online with his 88 year old mother (in OH) for years, nearly every evening. Now Scrabble GO has ruined that wonderful connection and source of pride (esp for my smart & amazing mother-in-law). Scrabble GO needs to GO AWAY! Pleeeease bring the old Scrabble back NOW!

  10. Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been playing Scrabble on my phone for years, and it’s so relaxing. Now, during the virus, I’m playing all day. The new game is disgusting. So many people love the original game. The new one is wrong and a total failure in every way. A few weeks ago I left a scathing review of it on the iTunes aApp Store, as had thousands of other people. I just checked and all reviews have been deleted. It’s just an idiotic business decision. I feel crazy for being so upset about this, but I am. Is there anything we can do? Why can’t they keep the original, and have this dumb new version? Please list alternative games. Thank you!

  11. I have been playing Scrabble HD for years, several times a day. Now when we are housebound and really need it, it will be gone in June. I tried to introduce a friend to the game and found only GO is available. This game is rubbish. I started a game, was going well, then could not get back to it, We should be able to keep the old game and let the new one be available for those who want it.

  12. I agree with you 100%. They need to understand that there are millions of us who grew up playing real Scrabble, and many of us have migrated to online Scrabble. None of US are interested in all the juvenile and gaudy features of Scrabble GO. I despise it. There are way too many distracting bells, whistles, built-in cheats, gems, prizes, bots, and treasure chests, not to mention slow transitions and difficult navigation. SCRABBLE GO IS GARBAGE . . . and it really needs to GO!

  13. Scrabble GO is an obscenity. Does Scopely not realize how many genuine players of this classic game they’d are about to lose in favour of picking up bored kids looking for another jewel game? Can only imagine what Scopely would do if they owned the sole rights to chess …

  14. I am really unhappy. I PAID Scrabble without advertisement. That to me equals a contract. They have broken their contract. I cannot install the origional Scrabble on my IPad. I had to deleted it after it totally stalled on a word. Nothing I did would get it to work properly. Once deleted it could not be reinstalled. (That previously had been the recommended to fix bugs).
    I will not play that childish, ridiculous, Scrabble Go.
    Come on Electronic Arts, honor you contract with thousands of Scrabble users.

  15. Yep, it’s total junk, a monstrosity. One thing not mentioned in this blog: Scrabble Go uses bots — not real players — if you want to play a “random” opponent. The only way to get a real human player is to play your Facebook friends.

    I had the misfortune of my iPhone crashing just when Scrabble Go launched, so when I tried to download scrabble on my new phone, Scrabble Go was my only app choice.

    The rest of you who still have the old EA Scrabble app on your phones have only until June 3020 — then the app will be bricked, shut off, and you’ll be left with no other app but the monstrosity of Scrabble Go. I pity us all.

  16. With apologies for repeating myself, for folks looking for an alternative….please check out Wordfeud (I have no connection to the game, no $ COI..etc)…as far as I can tell it is pretty much Scrabble…and you can opt out of ads at a pretty low price…I generally play 2 games at once with the same friend…here is a link for the apple version, there is also an Android version apparently….https://apps.apple.com/us/app/wordfeud/id428312806

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