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New Scrabble strives to make word game more accessible

Scrabble is getting a bit of a makeover, at least in Europe

By Associated Press
Published: April 12, 2024, 6:04am

NEW YORK — Scrabble is getting a bit of a makeover, at least in Europe.

Mattel has unveiled a double-sided board that features both the classic word-building game and Scrabble Together, a new rendition designed to be accessible “for anyone who finds word games intimidating.”

This new version, which is now available across Europe, is advertised as being more team-oriented and quicker to play. The update marks the first significant change to Scrabble’s board in more than 75 years, Mattel said Tuesday.

“We want to ensure the game continues to be inclusive for all players,” Ray Adler, vice president and global head of games at Mattel said in a prepared statement, noting that consumers will still be able to choose between the classic game and new version.

Seeking to expand their reach, toy companies have rolled out alternative or simplified ways to play board games for years, ranging from “junior” editions made for younger children to multiple sets of instructions that players can opt into for increasing difficulty.

Scrabble Together is marketed toward players of all ages. Jim Silver, a toy-industry expert and CEO of review site TTPM, said the double-sided board is a smart approach because it allows players to switch from one mode to another as they wish.

Mattel’s announcement was also accompanied by a survey that offered a glimpse into some of the ways British consumers have previously tackled classic Scrabble. London-based market researcher Opinion Matters found that 75 percent of U.K. adults aged 25 to 34 have searched a word when playing the board-and-tile game to check if it’s real. And almost half (49 percent) reported trying to make up a new word in hopes of winning.

Whether the new version will expand beyond Europe one day remains to be seen. While Mattel, which is based in El Segundo, Calif., owns the rights to Scrabble around much of the world, Hasbro licenses the game in the United States, for example.

“Mattel and Hasbro have worked separately to develop different versions of Scrabble every year,” Silver said. As a result, some versions are only available in certain countries, creating a “interesting dynamic” for avid fans of the game, he added.

A spokesperson for Hasbro, based in Pawtucket, R.I., confirmed to The Associated Press via email Tuesday that the company currently has no plans for a U.S. update — but added that the brand “love(s) the idea of different ways to play Scrabble and continue to attract new players to the game around the world.”

Scrabble’s origins date back to 1931, when American architect Alfred Mosher Butts invented the game’s forerunner. Scrabble’s original name was “Lexiko,” according to a Mattel factsheet, and before officially getting the Scrabble title and trademark in 1948, Butts’ creation was also called “Criss-Crosswords,” “It” and “Alph.”

Today, Scrabble is produced in 28 different languages. More than 165 million games have been sold in 120 countries around the world since 1948, according to Mattel, with an average of 1.5 million games sold globally each year.

Beyond the decades-old Scrabble fanbase, other word games have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, including Bananagrams and online guessing game Wordle.

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