Thursday, January 10, 2013

The New Monopoly

You've all probably heard the news this week, Monopoly, the popular property trading game from Hasbro (or currently from Hasbro, previously from Parker Brothers, or Waddington's in the UK), is getting a new playing piece, and letting their fans decide which new piece will be replacing which old piece. It's great marketing and promotion, of course.

Monopoly is an American tradition, king of the board games, and has been around since the turn of the last century. Initially a parlor game to explain taxes to those not smart enough to understand, it first saw widespread popularity as The Landlord's Game in 1923, and finally as Monopoly in 1934. Like Scrabble, I think every household has at least one Monopoly game. At my house we didn't have any board games, and even we had Monopoly. Today, many versions of the game, based on colleges, localities other than the traditional Atlantic City, even movies and other popular genres. Monopoly is a videogame, and a sticker game at McDonald's. Currently in my household we have a Doctor Who version and a Justice League version.

I can remember back in the 1970s when the summers were so hot no one wanted to go outside, we would have marathon games of Monopoly that would last for hours, sometimes days. We'd bend the rules, and I'm not just talking about the dubious Free Parking rule - we'd use two banks, no limits on hotels or houses, we'd make deals outside of the game to keep someone in the game - "Let me use your bike and I'll spot you $500 in the game." Yeah, that kind of stuff. It's a crazy, addictive, and sometimes cutthroat game. Good, good times.

In those days there were very specific playing pieces. You had the car, which everybody wanted. If you had first choice, you always had the car. If you had second choice, it was slightly different - if you were a girl, you took the dog, and if you were a boy, you took the battleship. After that, the top hat, iron, thimble, cannon, boot, man on a horse, and wheelbarrow were up for grabs. Notably, those were the pieces in the set we played with. Even then we knew there had been other pieces.

In the 1950s, the purse, rocking horse, and lantern had been replaced by the dog, wheelbarrow, and man on horse. So there's nothing new under the sun. Similarly in later years, Monopoly has added (and apparently subtracted) a train and a money bag as tokens as well. Noatably, most of the different variations of the games have different tokens as well. My Justice League set has tiny busts of the first eight members.

The new deal, which is sure to equal sales in the old sets, as well as anticipation of the new ones, has the public voting for a new piece to replace an old one. Any of the existing (the cannon has apparently previously been jettisoned) are up for retirement. The new pieces you can vote for on the Monopoly Facebook Page include the robot, the helicopter, the cat, the diamond ring, or the guitar.

Personally I'm pulling for the robot or the helicopter. They both have the coolness factor of the car. I am wondering however, how popular would a full set of playing tokens be? I know I would buy that, all of the past and present pieces in one set would be cool for collectors and fans of the game as well. You could even throw in proposed pieces like the biplane and the piggy bank. Now, the real question is, why isn't there a playing piece of the game's mascot, Uncle Moneybags?

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