Ready to have a beloved childhood icon voted off stage like an unloved American Idol contestant? That's what's about to happen to the quintessential family board game, Monopoly. After years of refreshing coffers by rolling out dozens of variant editions based on different US cities, Star Wars, SpongeBob, and even Zynga games, Hasbro is now trading on the community's affection for Monopoly's flagship title. One of the six current game tokens is going away, supposedly eliminated from the game forever, with a replacement token to be announced on February 6.
What's more, the people deciding your favorite avatar's fate are Facebook users, who are voting for their favorites to "get out of jail." (This isn't a winking attempt at a clever reference; the Facebook app uses that phrase, plus "Pass Go" for the new piece. Thank goodness you don't have to become a "fan" of Monopoly's Facebook page to vote.) Currently, the leaderboard has the wheelbarrow and iron as the most likely to be discarded, each gathering less than 5 percent of votes cast; the dog and car are the most popular pieces, at 34 and 16 percent, respectively.
Remember the cannon? How about the horse?
Naturally, a "Gold Token" limited edition of Monopoly will go on sale in mid-February (Target got the exclusive), featuring all the current pieces plus the five new candidates. Call it "the Twinkie strategy": Hasbro is provoking users' affection for the game to turn ordinary shoppers into collectors. It still doesn't feature all the pieces most adults grew up with: the cannon and horse tokens were eliminated over a decade ago, even though the cannon finished in third place in a 1998 poll. If you go way back to the 1930s Parker Brothers game, the purse, lantern, and rocking horse were all original metal tokens that were replaced after a few years. The winner of that 1998 vote for a new piece, a sack of money, didn't last long either. Not even the "Scottie" dog is an original; that token was added in 1942.
So even though there's no such thing as an "authentic" Monopoly board, fans are attached to the pieces they regularly play. "There's a love affair with the token that each player has settled on over time," Monopoly expert Philip Orbanes told USA Today. That's why the official rules have players roll dice to determine who gets to pick the first token. And Hasbro's betting that players' affections will drive interest in the Facebook and the new limited edition.
Of course, house rules for Monopoly and even pieces used widely vary from board to board. On Twitter, Jim Sylvester writes, "What is 3-D printer technology good for if not for infinite Monopoly tokens!" Two workers at a laser company posted photos on Reddit of an all-wood, laser-etched "Stevensoply" board and card set that purportedly took 600 hours to make. All this is a useful reminder that before, during, and through the software era, users have hacked their way around limitations, grown deeply attached to things as they have known them, and treated "updates" with ambivalence and suspicion. Nobody has a monopoly on how to play Monopoly.