Boardwalk Brouhaha: Monopoly Enters Debit Card Era

No Money Changes Hands When Players Advance to 'Go' in New Paperless Version of Classic Game


July 25, 2006 —  For generations, Monopoly has taught kids the joy of mortgaging grandpa into bankruptcy. But in an apparent nod to the high-debt, no-money-down ethos of modern life, the new British "Here & Now" version of the classic game will come without its famous pastel-colored play money, only pretend Visa debit cards.

In one of the biggest changes ever for the 71-year-old classic American board game, players won't collect $200 when they pass "Go," at least not in cold, hard imitation cash. Instead, they'll stick their debit cards into a small electronic device and their accounts will be credited.

Britain is the first country to release Monopoly Here & Now Electronic Banking, but even in the United States, the game is undergoing big changes, and if the "Electronic Banking" version is a hit over there, it's likely to be incorporated in some of the new American editions.

"Nothing replicates the kind of social interaction that board games provide, especially for kids and families. But in these busy times, we don't have the time to invest that many board games require, so you're bound to see some changes," says Phil Orbanes, author of "Game Markers: The Story of Parker Brothers," published by the Harvard Business School Press.

During the Great Depression, Monopoly literally saved Parker Brothers (now a part of Hasbro) from bankruptcy, and it has kept the world board-silly ever since, selling more than 250 million editions of the game in at least 80 countries and in 26 languages.

If you're looking for a good trivia question: What's the only patented board game since 1935 to outsell Monopoly in a given year? The answer, of course, is Trivial Pursuit, which sold an amazing 20 million copies in 1981. But in almost any other year, Monopoly has looked down upon the rest of the gaming world from a posh hotel on Park Place.

Still, in the ultracompetitive world of family entertainment, Hasbro is also competing against video games, DVDs, electronics, and virtually anything that might vie for your child's idle mind.

That's one reason why big changes are in store for the American version, even if the British plan of electronic banking on the game board doesn't make it past Mediterranean Avenue.

Atlantic City Loses Monopoly on Monopoly

If there's such a thing as someone who is not familiar with the game, Mediterranean Avenue is the name of square one on the traditional Monopoly board. Like all locales on the board from Boardwalk on down, it's named after locations in Atlantic City, where the game originated.