Hasbro, which has published the classic Monopoly board game since 1991, announced this week that it would adjust rules for a special edition of the game starting in late 2014. The company stated that though the classic rules will not change, fans who enjoy “House Rules” will now have them officially incorporated into another version. The game publisher launched a FaceBook page to allow aficionados to pick which five of the recommended 10 new rules, should be included in the special version of the game. The new suggestions will practically be the first changes since the game was first released in the 1930s. However, putting a stamp of approval on changes that players have been using anyway, may not be the best dice throw if the company is looking to expand its brand.
Some of the recommended “House Rules,” for the new version of the game include receiving $400 for landing on “Go” rather than the traditional $200 for merely passing the square, or players being able to buy additional houses and hotels if the provided number of pieces are exhausted. Unlike the traditional rules, House Rules allow players in jail to collect payment when an opponent lands on a square that they own. Properties can be co-owned. Hasbro’s decision to launch a game with altered rules results from the publisher’s notice that 70 percent of game-players have never actually read the rules.
Hasbro does not release specific Monopoly sales. However, when counting all of the versions of the game, from classic tabletop-based three dimensional version, to electronic forms, estimated sales are in excess of one hundred million copies since the 1930s. Over the years, strategists were reluctant to make any real alterations to the game. However, the popularity of video games and other issues encouraged the company to launch the “sister” version to the classic.
By its publisher’s own admission, Monopoly and other classic board and dice throwing games face tough competition from video games. While the company and others similar to it have have enjoyed some success by introducing new versions and rules and format (Hasbro added a cat to the inventory of “tokens,” which has famously included a top hat and a thimble), it will likely need to do more to stand up to electronic competition, which is found in more kids’ houses or dorm rooms. One recent innovation that has started to catch on is connecting a classic board game like Monopoly to the iPad. As electronic tablets become more ubiquitous, many classic board games are now being converted to digital applications. This is opening up a whole new realm of game playing that for some, such as the writers at Tech for Anyone, may actually be better than playing the three dimensional versions. Hasbro may want to invest more heavily into such technology, rather than the historically popular, but now unpromising cardboard game sets.
Ruling game publishers such as Hasbro, Milton Bradley, and Parker Brothers saw games like Monopoly, Yahtzee, and Clue become centerpieces in American houses and homes. However, if these companies continue to throw dice at new board game versions, while ignoring the public’s increasing preference for electronic entertainment, these companies may become history.
By Ian Erickson
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