Monopoly, the board game built around the improbable premise of real estate investment that notoriously takes hours to complete, has gone through many different iterations in its 77-year history. But for the first time the popular board game has been given the viral social-media treatment, asking fans to vote on which of the game’s eight tiny die-cast metal tokens should be upgraded.
For the game’s maker and seller, Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS), of Pawtucket, R.I., the publicity stunt hasn’t been orchestrated flippantly. Other than the dog and the wheelbarrow, which were added in 1952, the other six tokens have been unchanged since – as Monopoly lore has it – the daughter of the game’s inventor, Charles Darrow, suggested he use the charms from her bracelet as game tokens in 1934. (Most Monopoly history comes from one oft-cited definitive resource: "The Monopoly Book, Strategy and Tactics," by Maxine Brady, which was published in 1975.)
So far, the leaders and losers of the Facebook-driven poll confirm what many players of the game have known all along: The dog and racecar tokens are beloved while the top hat and boot are falling behind with over 260,000 votes as of Wednesday. The wheelbarrow – always prone to falling on its side, dumping its invisible load onto the game board – was tailing with just 3 percent of the vote while the adorable Scottish terrier was ahead of the pack with 33 percent popularity. The battleship and top hat were tied with a comfortable 12 percent of the vote.
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"The tokens are one of the most iconic parts of the Monopoly game, and we know that people are emotionally tied to their favorite one,” said Hasbro spokesman Eric Nyman in a written statement.
The retiring token will be announced Feb. 6 along with the winner of the five nominated pieces: a cat, a toy robot, a guitar, a diamond ring and a helicopter.
In 1904, Elizabeth Magie of Brentwood, Md., patented “The Landlord’s Game” to teach children about the negative effects of monopolistic land ownership and ostensibly how to use land-value taxes to remedy the problem. The game, the first economic-themed board games to be patented, allowed players to buy railroads as well as properties like “Wall Street” or “Beggarman’s Court.”
Players would be sent to “Jail” if their tokens “trespassed” on game-board panels called “D. F. Hogg's Game Preserve” or “Lord Blueblood’s Estate” representing super-wealthy monopolistic land grabbers. Unlike Monopoly, Magie’s game instructs that players could collaborate by paying “rent” to a common fund rather than to individual land owners. Consider it a game socialist folk singer Woody Guthrie would have enjoyed.
But by 1930s, game-maker Parker Brothers of Salem, Mass., had expropriated the theme of Magie’s invention by buying Darrow’s innovation of Magie’s popular board game. Monopoly went on to become a best seller during the Great Depression and by the 1950s America’s No. 1 board game.
Since its inception, Monopoly has sold 275 million copies in 111 countries in 43 languages, according to toy giant Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS), which acquired Parker Brothers as part of its acquisition of toy and game maker Tonka (with its iconic yellow dump truck toy) in 1991. There are now 48 different game brand-extensions of Monopoly, including electronic versions and tie-ins with The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIAB).
This is the second marketing blitz for Hasbro in a month. In December the company seized on an online petition set up by 13-year-old McKenna Pope of Garfield, N.J., asking the toy maker to create a more boy friendly version of its Easy-Bake toy cooking set so she could give one to her brother. The company abided and in a public relations hit it invited Pope to its Rhode Island headquarters to participate in the announcement that by next year the product will be available in black, silver and blue as well as pink and purple.