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Subliminal Messages

December 1st, 2009

I play EA’s Scrabble a lot on my iPhone. Great game, with one annoying little mind fuck: I can play with my wife locally as we both have the app installed, I can play with others who have the application on their iPhone but only if they bought the application via the US iTunes store. Or, I can play with friends on Facebook, but only if they are in the US… Why? Because there are two versions of Scrabble on Facebook and in the app store — one by EA and one by Gamehouse Social. The EA version is only for use in the US & Canada while the Gamehouse version is for everyone else.

Scrabble Applications on Facebook

And both games (or Facebook on their behalf) actively block users from using the wrong version of the application based on their location. Most likely by geolocation based on IP… anyway, I can’t play the US version on my computer here in Singapore. Why? Read the fine print:

SCRABBLE game code and certain audio visual materials © 2008 Electronic Arts Inc. All Rights Reserved. Published by Electronic Arts Inc. under license from Hasbro, Inc. EA and the EA logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. HASBRO and its logo, SCRABBLE, the distinctive game board and letter tiles, and all associated logos are trademarks of Hasbro in the United States and Canada and are used with permission. © 2008 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved.

That’s on the EA application page [facebook.com]. The T&Cs on the Gamehouse application page shed more light on the issue:

SCRABBLE® is a registered trademark. All intellectual property rights in and to the game are owned in the United States by Hasbro, Inc., in Canada by Hasbro Canada, Inc., and throughout the rest of the world by J.W. Spear & Sons, Ltd., a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. SCRABBLE® and associated trademarks and trade dress are used under license from Mattel, Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Mattel name and logo are trademarks of Mattel, Inc. and used with permission. Mattel and J.W. Spear & Sons are not affiliated with Hasbro or Hasbro Canada.

Emphasis mine.

Yea, this is a relic of the pre-globalization, pre-internet age… the dark ages of licensing.

At least in this case EA owns both the internet and mobile rights to the game, so I can play with a few of my Facebook friends in the US from my mobile — but only from my mobile, I can’t load the app on my computer. Remember?

Licensing is a serious cluster fuck in the digital age. The reason I use the US iTunes store is there is not iTunes music or movies or TV shows for sale in the Singapore store… only applications — and not necessarily the same ones as in the US. Luckily having lived in the US most of my life I still have US credit-cards so I can pay Apple and all is good. Yummy content for me. But I can’t play Scrabble on my iPhone with the guy sitting next to me at work… And the two Facebook apps don’t cross pollinate so we can’t even play that way. Like I said; cluster fuck.

Unfortunately this is all SNAFU. I have run across this issue from other angles before. Anyone living outside America knows that only some of the movies — even big ones make it overseas. This is due to the complexity of local distributes buying the license to show the movie. And even if the movie makes it to the theaters it might be a long, long time before it is released on DVD. Or maybe never. But we are all used to that, same goes for music and TV but it’s less obvious.

Where this crap gets really Japanese demon-sex-horror-anime fucked up is when you bring in things like mobile and internet rights. Take a movie, Generic Hollywood Blockbuster Movie. The studio will sell the distribution right to this movie to some number of companies to get it distributed around the world. It may sell the rights to distribute a few still images to the same people or it might give them away for free on the internet, or it might sell or give them away directly to local mobile telecoms operators to sell or give away to subscribers as an advertisement. Then there is the music from the movie, which may or may not be produced and distributed by the same studio or a subsidiary of the same studio that made/produced/distributed GHBM. The songs will have physical distribution rights, digital distribution rights and even mobile ringtone distribution rights…. and these and other rights will all be on a country-by-country basis. This is what most lawyers do for a living — contract negotiation. And remember; “contract negotiation is like flatworm sex; both parties are hermaphrodites trying to rape the other party.”

Did you ever wonder why content is so expensive? It’s expensive to create high quality content. But it’s stupidly expensive to distribute it via this web of money-grubbers. Too many hands in the cookie jar equals no cookies… Trust me, I have a friend involved in the Nokia Comes with Music thing… Hermaphrodites. Rape. Cluster fuck. SNAFU.

But anyway. This post was supposed to be about subliminal messages. In particular a subliminal message in the splash-screen of the EA iPhone Scrabble app:

EA iPhone App Scrabble splash-screen

See it? It’s not really hidden, but click the image to see it in-your-face.

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