I can’t remember exactly where I read this, but apparently the average length of time that a person spends playing Words With Friends for iPhone after they download the app is 90 minutes a day.
I can well believe it. Newtoy’s take on Scrabble is an addictive marvel because of its clever use of asynchronicity, meaning that you don’t have to be online at the same time as any of your opponents to continue the game. Play a move, and it gets sent to the other player’s screen the next time they log into the application. Games can therefore be played at your leisure. I’m pretty much obsessed with it at this point, finding it very difficult not to look at my iPhone lying next to me and immediately wonder whether anyone’s played another move in the few minutes since I last checked. Almost inevitably they’ve been thinking the same as me, and have. Not only can you search for opponents by username or from your iPhone contact list, but you can also play with random people. You can have up to 20 games on the go at once, and there’s an easy rematch option which comes in handy after I’m inevitably crushed yet again by my scarily good wife.
While it’s very similar to Scrabble, there are small differences in the layout of double and triple letter and word scores, the number of tiles, and the points values of the individual letters. You get used to the changes quickly, however, and they’re likely only there to keep Hasbro’s lawyers at bay – it certainly still feels like classic Scrabble updated for the 21st century. The only real problem with Words With Friends is the dictionary, which lets you get away with some very strange words yet point-blank refuses to allow “quo”. There are occasional server bugs, too – I’ve had a couple of games randomly disappear from my list for no reason, so gremlins rear their ugly head from time to time.
But when the implementation of the game is so enjoyable, these few minor quibbles can be forgiven. Asynchronous turn-based Scrabble is such a brilliant idea, and it’s amazing that the official keepers of the flame haven’t immediately launched a riposte. They’re missing a trick, they really are.
The only thing that Words With Friends can’t do is to make 4 Ts and 3 Rs in your rack be anything other than a rage-inducing clusterfuck, as your significant other races away to victory and looks smugger than Jools Holland while doing it. Worse still, there’s a chat function that allows her to gloat as often as she wants. But I know I’m going to eventually recover from being… er… 8-2 down in our eternal battle for supremacy. Yeah.