Modern Culture28 Jan 2011 09:54 pm
During the Great Depression, an out-of-work architect named Alfred Mosher Butts decided to invent a board game. He did some market research and concluded that games fall into three categories: number games, such as dice and bingo; move games, such as chess and checkers; and word games, such as anagrams. Butts wanted to create a game that combined the vocabulary skills of crossword puzzles and anagrams, with the additional element of chance. The game was originally named Lexico, but Butts eventually decided to call the game “Criss-Cross Words.” This game would eventually become the game we know as Scrabble.
Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by forming words from individual lettered tiles on a game board marked with a 15-by-15 grid. The words are formed across and down in crossword fashion and must appear in a standard dictionary. Official reference works (e.g. The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary) provide a list of permissible words. The Collins Scrabble checker can also be used to check if a word is allowed.
The name Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro, Inc. in the United States and Canada and of Mattel elsewhere. The game is sold in 121 countries in 29 different language versions. One hundred and fifty million sets have been sold worldwide, and sets are found in one out of every three American homes. Scrabble has been translated into 22 languages, from Arabic to Afrikaans. Oddly, the game is sold outside the U.S. by Hasbro’s rival, Mattel Inc. By the early 1990s, thanks to its acquisitions of Milton Bradley (maker of Life, Yahtzee and Candy Land) and Parker Brothers (Monopoly, Risk and Trivial Pursuit), Hasbro owned more than half of the $1.1 billion U.S. games market. But in 1993, Mattel outbid Hasbro, paying $90 million for the international rights to the game. Hence the game’s weirdly bifurcated homepage at Scrabble.com.
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