Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Monopoly game pieces go commercial!

Put this in the "Is nothing sacred?" file. The board game Monopoly is due to come out with a new "Here and Now" edition which, according to the New York Times, replaces some traditional game pieces with ones representing McDonald's French fries and Starbucks coffee. Also to be included are a New Balance running shoe, a Motorola Razr phone, a Toyota Prius hybrid car, and a laptop computer (no brand mentioned; maybe manufacturers are still bidding for the rights?).

Other changes in the "Here and Now" version: players will get $2 million instead of $200 for passing Go. And the squares for railroads in the original edition are replaced by airports (no word on whether you have to take your shoes off if you land on them). The article says that the companies featured did not pay to be included in the new version of Monopoly, instead, game maker Hasbro approached the companies, seeking to update the game's image.

Although Monopoly has created many different specialized versions over the years based on cities, sports teams, and even The Simpsons, "Here and Now" is designed to be a mass-market version.

Besides the generic laptop, the Times article says the other nonbranded new items are a jet (to replace the battleship) and something called a "Labradoodle," in place of the Scottish terrier. And the new version will feature properties in Boston, New York, and other cities instead of Atlantic City hotels.

I can see replacing some of the pieces for more up-to-date versions–how many young people even know what the old iron and the thimble are–but I find the commercialization to be kind of tacky. Not outrageous, not earth-shattering or worthy of a congressional investigation, but tacky.

But don't fret, Hasbro insists that the old-fashioned version of Monopoly–with all the traditional game pieces, properties, and names–will still be available alongside the new one.

If the commercialization the game pieces doesn't bug you, this just might: the Times reports that the new "Here and Now" version will have a price tag of $30, versus the $12 to $20 charge for the traditional edition. For a markup of 50% or more over the old version, you'd think they could at least include some coupons for Starbucks or McDonalds.

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