Hasbro Takes a Chance on Electronic Monopoly Game

PHOTO: A publicity photo of the new Monopoly Live game from Hasbro.
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Don't count on stealing from the banker in this version of Monopoly.

In its latest update to the classic board game, Hasbro has added a computerized twist that makes paper money, dice -- and even cheating -- a thing of the past.

Monopoly Live, introduced by the company this week at the annual Toy Fair in New York, features a computerized tower in the center of the board that essentially manages the game.

The so-called "Tower of Power" contains an infrared camera that follows players' movements on the board and a speaker to deliver instructions. It also keeps track of players' money and makes sure that they stick to the rules.

"Kids are always telling that they really love playing board games and … video games. For us it was a great opportunity to bring the two worlds together," said Jane Ritson-Parsons, the global brand leader for Monopoly.

The new game, which will cost $50 when it goes on sale this fall, isn't intended to replace the old version, but to help the company engage an audience that's quickly moving to new platforms.

Monopoly Live: No Rules Book, No Banker, No Dice

Monopoly lovers still enjoy the classic game that's been around for about 75 years, she said, but they're also opting for the higher-tech versions. The game exists on the iPhone and the iPad, and today Hasbro unveiled a version for Facebook.

"We're always looking to bring new ways to play to our audience because it is so broad," she said. "As you can imagine, the Monopoly audience is from 5 to 105."

The core audience for Monopoly board games are 8- to 12-year-olds, she said, but Monopoly Live is for kids and teenagers to play with each other and their families.

The basic premise of the game remains unchanged, but Ritson-Parsons said the new version "takes away the referee" -- no more rule books, no more banker, no more Community Chest or Chance cards stacked in the center of the game.

Instead, the Tower "hosts" the game. It knows if players haven't moved to the right spot on the board and it introduces unexpected opportunities.

Electronic Tower Introduces Surprise Opportunities

If it senses that players aren't buying up property fast enough, it could announce a surprise auction on Park Place. If you land on the "Chance" slot, the tower could tell you that it's your birthday.

But, Ritson-Parsons said, players can still negotiate over property and, of course, they still collect $200 when they pass go.

While some Monopoly lovers say that they would test out the new version, they admit that it will be hard to shake their allegiance to the tried-and-true.

"I don't think the original is ever going to go away," said Richard Marinaccio, a New York attorney who won the 2009 Monopoly U.S. National Championship. "My kids, I'm sure, will see this game and want to play that, but I'm likely to take them back to the original. Once they go back, they'll likely follow suit."

He said that since the original game has stood the test of time, the new version could find opposition from traditionalists.

Still, Marinaccio said, "It really is an update for the times."

This higher-tech game could appeal to a new audience reared on video games and computers and help players stick to the rules.

"One thing I noticed in a lot of regular players is they don't know all the rules," he said. "It could be used as a tool to teach players the appropriate way to play."

The electronic features in the new game might change the strategy a bit, he said, but, ultimately, what matters is that people have a good time.

"At the heart of it, it's not really about competition," he said. "It's about having fun and, if this is about people having fun, I'm all for it."

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