The Scrabble GO experience, and how to avoid it (including a review of Word Master Pro)

So far, 14,000 people have read my little post about my outrage with the end of the Scrabble app — and with Scrabble GO, its replacement. Now I’ll tell you why Scrabble’s EA app is going away for good, what it’s like to play Scrabble GO as a decent player, and how you might enjoy Word Master, which may be better than EA’s Scrabble ever was.

I learned that I’m not alone

There are 217 comments on my Scrabble post. All of you hate Scrabble GO. The staid old EA Scrabble app has a following, and, at least as far your comments reveal, no one in that following likes the new, busy, ugly Scrabble GO app from Scopely.

There is a petition at change.org. It has lots of supporters. It’s up to 1,111 as I write this. Feel free to add your name.

Scrabble GO has 130,000 reviews on the Google Play store. It’s at 4.4 stars average, but there are thousands of negative reviews. The distribution of reviews on the Apple App Store is similar. Most of the recent reviews are critical. Feel free to add your own.

The EA Scrabble App will be gone for good

As a former media analyst, I know how licensing works. I can’t be certain, but it’s pretty. clear what happened — and what it means for you as a Scrabble player.

The owners of Scrabble (Hasbro in the US and Canada, Mattel elsewhere) want to make more money. The previous EA Scrabble app is either free with ads, or a one-time purchase of about $10. They want more.

The deal with Scopely to create the new and abominable Scrabble GO was designed to increase revenue. Scrabble GO is rife with the gamification strategies that generate ongoing revenues, such as bugging you to get your friends on it and to make in-app purchases of gems and the like to get to the next level.

In an interview with LA Biz, Scopely’s chief revenue officer explained a bit more, including why the company acquired the studio that built Scrabble GO for them:

Hasbro and Mattel were looking for a partner that would be willing to invest and build “Scrabble” for today’s market. With the success that we’d seen with “Yahtzee” — super social, deep, rich gameplay that’s a business that’s been growing every year since we launched it — they knew that we were a team that could really bring the “Scrabble” experience to life in mobile and kind of honor the core “Scrabble” gameplay that “Scrabble” players have known for years, as well as bring in a new set of features and experiences that can appease the word game players on mobile today. . . .

People love “Scrabble.” If you’re a word game player, you know “Scrabble.” It was our job to make sure that consumers and the market knew that “Scrabble Go” was here, because we knew that once they got into the game, they would stay and play and invite their friends to play. . . .

We’ve seen about a 10% increase in revenue across the portfolio [in the wake of the coronavirus]. This could be industry-wide, but for sure our casual titles have seen substantially more installs happening.

Let me translate for you in terms that matter to you. I’m certain that Scopely has an exclusive deal on Scrabble. That exclusivity requires EA to shut down its Scrabble app, eliminating the competition. That’s why the EA app is shutting down. Begging EA will do no good. Pleading to Scopely will do no good. Complaining to Hasbro (and, potentially, Mattel) could, conceivably, make a difference, but Hasbro/Mattel made the deal with Scopely and, I’m sure, promised that exclusivity. So they really don’t want to talk about it, and they don’t want to go back on the contract. They just want to see the money roll in.

The people playing Scrabble GO are not the same people that were playing the EA app. Hasbro is throwing the rest of us under the bus in hopes that a younger audience will adopt Scrabble GO and keep paying money to them for jewels and upgrades. They don’t are about you, they only care about the other people who generate more revenue.

What’s wrong with Scrabble GO?

Before I wrote this, I wanted to give Scrabble GO a fair shake. I don’t care about jewels and levels and leaderboards. Could I at least get a good game out of it?

If you want to play the machine, you’re stuck playing with “Zooey,” the avatar for the game. She sucks. Anyone decent can beat her. And there is no higher level of difficulty you can access. So if you like to play the machine, you need another alternative. (That’s WordMaster, which I’ll describe in a minute.)

If you want to play other people, you’ll still have to put up with the ads and constant nagging to turn on notifications and pay for features that used to be free, like the “teacher” telling you the best move that you missed. I was unwilling to connect my Scrabble GO app to Facebook, because it seemed like a bad idea to have it spamming my friends. But you can still play other people it matches you up to.

There are two kinds of people there: real humans and bots.

The bots are not labelled as bots. But you can spot them — they have blue clouds around their avatars, and their “best word” score is zero. They don’t all play quickly, which is annoying — why are we waiting for a bot to get around to playing us? You’re not fooling anyone. I beat the bots every time I played them. They’re better than Zooey, but not much competition for a decent player.

These aren’t people, they’re bots. They’re better than Zooey, but not that good.

You can also play actual humans. I tried a few. And I scored better than I usually do, because the game shows you when you put the tiles down if something is a legal word or not. If you don’t have to guess if something’s a word, you can keep messing around until you find one.

My average score was over 400. I am not actually that good. The features of this game inflate your score.

I also beat all the humans I played. But a funny thing happens. If you start a game and you jump out to a lead, the other player slows down or stops playing. They don’t want to lose, since that will jeopardize their “streak.” So you end up with a bunch of half-finished games. The one person who was decent competition wouldn’t accept a rematch with me — she opted out.

As a result, there is no competition worthy of the word on Scrabble GO, and I’m not interested in easily besting random people who don’t enjoy it.

My readers, especially women, say that there are men hanging around trying to chat up women on Scrabble GO, and even some scammers. Any social media platform is going to have such trolls. So it seemed boring to me, but in fact, it’s much worse than that.

Want an actual experience worth having? Try WordMaster

Is there an app with the same board layout and tile distribution as Scrabble that you can play yourself? There is. It’s called Word Master. And I like it a lot.

On Word Master, your opponent is the machine. The machine is very good and lightning fast. Here’s what’s different from the original EA app:

  • You can install a free version with ads or an ad-free “Pro” version for $3.99.
  • There are two English dictionaries. Use the one called ENABLE (US) — it has a smaller word list that still includes Scrabble must-haves like OE and QI. (It lacks the recently added OK.) The alternate English (International) dictionary has all sorts of questionable additional words, like CH and ZO. There are also dictionaries for other languages like Spanish, French, Catalan, and Greek.
  • You can try a bunch of different board layouts, including one with no bonus squares at all. I stick with the old traditional one.
  • After each turn, you can see a list of the highest-scoring words you could have made (like the EA Scrabble “Teacher”).
  • The developer has added several innovations that I found excellent. You can play with the board revealing which words are legal as you put the tiles down (as Scrabble GO does), or without that feature. You can restrict the computer to not play any rare/unknown words, which greatly improves the game. You can even tell it not to give you a rack of all vowels or all consonants.
  • Right now, it only plays in a vertical mode. If you turn your iPad or phone, the board does not rotate.

I spoke with the developer, a guy named Luis Galandi in Brazil. He’s fixing the rotation problem and developing a multiplayer version. Luis has already created a wonderful version and he deserves our support.

So download Word Master Pro and give it a try. And let’s hope the revenue-hounds at Hasbro and Scopely don’t get in Luis’ way. At least he’s trying to create an experience that will entertain us word nerds as we ride out the viral apocalypse.

42 responses to “The Scrabble GO experience, and how to avoid it (including a review of Word Master Pro)

    1. I’ll be honest, I was in a bit of a panic after seeing the new app, I play every night to send myself off to sleep and when I wake in the night & cant sleep… so following your tip I just downloaded Word Master pro, created a scrabble board and played my first game.
      So far so good! No glitches, no ads, no daft graphics. I only play against the computer so that aspect’s fine for me, I am so relieved as this seems to be a real alternative. Thanks!

    1. Echoing John Goff and Margery: You are a hero, Josh, for fighting the good fight against the travesty that is ScrabbleGo. Thank you for discovering Word Master Pro, I will definitely give it a look.

      1. Scrabble is a wonderful game, delightfully challenging. ScrabbleGo is mind numbingly infantile and a sorry bastardization of an already perfect game. Please let ScrabbleGo die an easy death and let Scrabble out of the cage.

  1. Well written…Thanks for the recommendation…SCRABBLE has been our favorite multi-player game for years and kept us “in touch” when apart… We’ve been searching for another but with no luck… We’re going to try WordMaster and maybe, someday, it will be multi-player.

  2. Thanks for the tip – I’ve been dreading The demise of Scrabble (though it will probably be good for my daily productivity).

  3. lexulous also seems an option for my friends and I…word master, I tried but didn’t love…
    have also written reviews for Go, and written to Hasbro…used real words and didn’t throw any jewels at them!! or cupcakes, or anything! (insert eye roll here!!)

  4. Just purchased Word Master Pro. Best $3.99 I ever spent! Now, hopefully we will have a game soon where you can play with friends. Sure hope that is on the developer’s agenda. Deleted the horrifying Scrabble Go, and what a feeling!!!!!

    1. Which wordmaster? I don’t see wordmaster pro on App Store??! Help! I’m desperate as I can’t deal with losing my beloved Scrabble!! I’m truly so sad!!

  5. I also bought Word Master Pro and it’s like the sun has risen on clear skies after a long and stormy night full of despair and agony. There is hope at last.

  6. Thanks for the Word Masters recommendation. I found another similar game called Lexulous. You can play the computer as well as invite and play friends. Interface is a bit wonky but overall not too bad

  7. I completely agree with these comments
    This new scrabble app is putrid
    Compared to the previous app
    Scrabble is enjoyed by so many people because it’s about a serious challenge
    Gamifying this is ridiculous and annoying with so many silly incentives and sales happening

  8. My husband & I loved the old EA app & played for years. Especially loved was the Teacher button,
    which was not on Words with Friends etc.
    We loved your blog about the app being stripped away & couldn’t agree with you more that this is the last thing we need at the height of the pandemic! Almost enough to send us all over the edge!
    Thanks for the link to the petition, which I signed, & the suggestion for the substitute app Word Master. Can’t wait to try it! It might just save the sanity of many of us!

  9. Money money money it’s a rich mans world. As the song goes. As fare as the rest of us are concerned we can get lost !

  10. Thanks for your write ups on this Josh. Over here in the UK we thoroughly agree that this is outrageous. In addition to leaving a 1 star rating, signing the petition, writing to the CEOs of Scopely, I also reached out to a couple of media outlets here in the UK. Here is the resulting article from the BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52633088. Let’s spread the word about this outrage!

  11. It is a gambling addict’s grooming ground, releasing reward endorphins for “accomplishments” without ever getting off the couch. A millenial’s dream.

    I’ve had the “online dating” lurkers (block) and the scammer who couldn’t keep his story straight but he’s still ahead of me in the leaderboard (because that appears to be about how often you play, and not your actual score).

    Being able to exchange letters and not lose a turn is BS. And there is no rhyme or reason for when you have to pay gems or just watch the same inane ad.

    Thanks for the thorough review.

  12. After trying to play the travesty that is ScrabbleGo I am so very glad i found this post. Thank you very much for the information and research. i will try Word Master when Scrabble goes away June 1. So very sad!

  13. Great option.

    However , letting you know, CH and ZO have been words since I started national and occasionally international tournament for 27 years . That is currently from OSW19 lists .

  14. “Want an actual experience worth having?” “The developer has added several innovations that I found excellent” – and I thought I was bad at English. So this is a pseudo-review piece promoting a most likely illegal copy of Scrabble called Word Master Pro. Which is like GO, only without the proper dictionaries, without the player base, without the high production quality graphics & sound and without all the side-games – but either free version comes with ads.

    Also note that GO is evolving with each new version. With 1.23 fully enabled you can play without the fripperies if that’s not your bag. New versions are coming out regularly with upgrades and I look forward to them. I suggest people keep checking it out as new versions are released. If you don’t like it that’s fine, most people do. Trying to promote a competing app off the back of a hit piece is pretty desperate.

    1. Why are you posting bullshit on WithoutBullshit? Yes, wordmaster lacks some features like multiplayer and dictionaries. But the without ads feature of Scrabble Go costs several dollars per month, a subscription model, whereas the EA app and wordmaster charge a one-time fee.

      Was the one-time fee too low to support the service? There would have been many ways to raise the cost without selling the exclusive rights to Scopely, the Martin Shkrely of online games.

  15. Thanks for the above overview; very good points raised.

    I have a different issue with the Scopley Scrabble Go in that my icon on my iPhone has been stuck for the last two days and I am unable to continue my Scrabble games. I still get the notifications, but cannot enter into the actual games (and I have shut down and restarted my phone as well).

    I had contacted Scopley and got one acknowledgement yesterday, but no fix has been offered as yet, which is incredibly frustrating, as I do not want to lose my history, gems, etc. by deleting and re-loading the App.

    I feel I have been a good ambassador for the App, having introduced several people to it, so I am disappointed with the timing of the service response.

    I must add that I am on the ‘free’ version of the App, so am beginning to wonder whether this is a ploy to get me to be a paying subscriber – if so, why not just say one way or the other, rather than keeping me hanging?!

    I am very much warming to your recommendation of WordMaster…….

    1. Hi All,

      Following my earlier ‘rant’ I am delighted to report that Scopely has since contacted me and has sorted out my connection issues I have had with Scrabble Go.

      The engagement with me has been excellent (once they got moving) and I feel that I at least owe them the courtesy of letting this group know of that fact.

      Thank you all for your patient ‘ear’ and thank you Scopely.

      Stay well.

      Best regards,

      JJ.

  16. I feel better knowing that there are others that loved the EA app and hate the foolishness of ScrabbleGo. One other thing that I liked about the EA app is that it kept track of wins and losses. I’m kind of a statistics nerd and while my 4533-1510 record over 8 some years isn’t impressive, I enjoyed trying to nudge my win percentage up. Does anyone know if ScrabbleGo keeps track of wins and losses? Or do I have to win a cape or some shit first?

  17. Any lawyers here? Are there grounds for a class-action suit here (at least for those who paid for the ad-free version of the old Scrabble)?

  18. Many thanks for posting about Word Master Pro, a wonderful app. I have been trying Scrabble Go and it is a truly awful experience. Their support is also a joke (despite earlier comment about it being good). I contacted them and all I got back was a survey after 3 days to ask how well they had answered my question, which they still haven’t after a fortnight.

  19. Thanks for this, I was very ha[[y with my old version of Scrabble, and loathe the new version. £5.99 per month to go ad free? For a simple game? I also now realise that I have been playing against bots for the last month, without knowing it! And they aren’t even any good, FFS! There is almost nothing to like about the game and much to hate, for example, all the fuss about winning new types of tiles! The game is about WORDS! I don’t give a hoot what my scrabble tiles look like, and some of the options are so awful I have no idea why anyone apart from a demented monster would want to have them anyway? Thanks for the Word Master tip, I installed it and breathed a sigh of relief when I opened it. I mean, would anyone take a chessboard and gamify it? No, they wouldn’t, because it would be a travesty to do so. So why do it to Scrabble? Why?

  20. Try http://www.isc.ro for a great scrabble experience. The games are live, so you need to play straight through, but you can choose the maximum length of time for each turn when you set up each game.

  21. Thanks for the info about word master, but is there ANY multi-player games besides words with friends out there anymore?

    1. http://WWW.isc.ro is real scrabble with real opponents. Check it out. The only hitch is that I think you need to play the games straight through. You can set the amount of time max that each turn can take though.

  22. If anyone is interested, we have an email based game of pure Scrabble that has been online since 1998 listed below. We have ten Official Scrabble dictionaries and the 21 x 21 Super Scrabble game. There is an annual subscription of $15 USD per player required, but for that you get an advert free site where you can play as many games as you wish to.

  23. Scrabble GO is a scam!

    I’ll leave aside the many complaints we all have about the user interface, stupid Zoey, etc. and get to the meat of the problem.

    Scopely has made Scrabble GO for one reason and one reason only: to pelt users with obnoxious ads for crap that no one could possibly want. See, these aren’t really ads. Ads are supposed to advertise a product that someone would conceivably want to buy. Scopely’s loud and obnoxious ads for other moronic games are not meant to sell these games. Nobody could possibly want them. No, the purpose of these ads is to sell you something else: their ad-free version at $4.99 a month. For sixty bucks a year, they’ll stop bothering you. In other words Scopely is running a protection racket. Pay me to protect yourself from me.

    What can be done about it. I suggest the following strategy:
    Everyone reading this should complain to the Apple AppStore or Google App Store about this app. Do not complain about technical glitches, things for the developer to resolve. No, attack the game as the FRAUD, the protection racket that it is. Say that their ads are fake, that they’re really trying to sell not the advertised product but making the ads go away. This is NOT a legitimate business practice and Apple or Google should kick them out of their store if they don’t clean it up. Say you’d be willing to be a reasonable subscription fee ($5 a year?) for a clean app but this is not it.

    Apple: https://reportaproblem.apple.com/
    I am not sure what the correct place for android users to file such a complaint is. Maybe someone can help

    If all the bile that has been released on this site were pushed onto Apple and Google, maybe something could be done.

      1. 1. Click the Link.

        2. Enter your Apple ID and Password. If you don’t know it, there is an option for recovering it. You may have to also enter a “Two-Factor Identification Code” which will come to you by text or email depending on how you set that up.

        3. You will come to a screen showing the apps you’ve installed. Find Scrabble GO and write down the order number on the right.

        4. Then go back to the top of the screen where it says “What can we help you with” and select “Report Suspicious Activity”. That’s the correct choice, remember we are complaining about Scopely’s abusive behavior and that’s the closest.

        5.Click Next and then Contact Us.

        6. On the next screen I chose Email. You enter your name, email address, Scrabble GO for the Item Title and Type in the order number you wrote down previously. Then enter under Additional Details something like this (you only have 250 characters).

        “Scrabble GO is a scam. It throws obnoxious ads at users for things no one would want to buy, then offers you (for $4.99 a month) the option to tune these “ads” off. In other words, it’s a protection racket: Pay me to stop me from bothering you.”

        Submit this and they will get back to you with a boilerplate email asking your for purchase receipt, etc. Ignore all that and pour out your passionate feelings in the reply, but be sure to mention the fact that the “ads” they are throwing at you are fake, junk that no one would want to buy, their real purpose is to get you to buy the ad-free version for 60 bucks a year.

  24. Mostly accurate analysis, although anyone can see that Scrabble GO is aimed at children and the bottom line. I’m confused though by the implication that GO introduced “just try again” if you play a bum word. EA Scrabble has always been like that too, and is I believe the main reason that serious across-the-board players refuse to play it. Perhaps EA works differently if you play against the computer; I’ve never tried, that kind of self-gratification holds no interest for me. For the same reason I can’t summon up any enthusiasm for Word Master Pro until it’s multiplayer. By then, though, the suits will almost certainly have closed it down or forced it to be changed into a different game – remember what happened with Scrabulous/Lexulous?!

    So, what to do? Yes, I’ve tried the IUC but it’s live only – not so useful for many. And its UI is pretty awful, to be honest. Lexulous is too far from Scrabble now to appeal to me. I will probably give up the game altogether, and play more chess.

    Finally, to the OP, please note that just about every country in the world – and, I believe, every international tournament – uses the English dictionary, not the American one. CH, for example, is a fine word; drawing a C is enough of a handicap as it is.

  25. Ugh. Thank you for calling out the Scrabble Go BS for what it is, especially with the insight into the corporate mega-BS. Truly horrendous. Also, thanks for the recommendation for WordMaster.

  26. Personally I much prefer CrossCraze for playing against a computer. And WordFeud is a decent option for internet play.

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