It’s another special sale. Monopoly — the classic dice-rolling, property-buying board game — is now available on the Kindle for just 99 cents! (First released in December, the game normally sells for $4.99.) It’s a special promotion (which ends Sunday night), but it’s also part of a larger publicity stunt by the game’s manufacturers. “April 7th is Global MONOPOLY Day,” announces Electronic Arts in the game’s product description at Amazon.com. “Join the fun and play MONOPOLY on Kindle for just $0.99…”
And there were more strange details in their official press release yesterday. Hasbro, the original makers of Monopoly, and Electronic Arts (the maker of several digital variations) formally declared Thursday to be “Global Monopoly Day” — but only on Facebook. “MONOPOLY fans around the world are invited to play MONOPOLY Millionaires on Facebook,” they announced in a press release, “to win more than $20,000 in prizes and participate in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Records title.” They’re giving away exactly $20,580 in prizes — the dollar amount that’s in the bank in the board game version of Monopoly — and the prizes include a free Kindle, a Macbook Pro, or an iPad 2. (They’re also giving away versions of Monopoly for the iPhone and Android smartphone, as well as $500 Visa gift cards, and $5,000 in cash.)
“Does this mean we get a day off work to play Monopoly?” joked one game blogger. (Adding “No? Dammit!”) But dig deeper into the press release, and you’ll realize two dirty secrets. First, “Monopoly Day” has nothing to do with the Kindle version of the game. And second, the game they’re celebrating isn’t really Monopoly.
Instead, the companies are trying to set the world record for the most simultaneous players for an entirely different (but equally complicated) game on Facebook. “Monopoly Millionaires” strands each player alone on their own individual Monopoly board, where they’re already the owner of all the colored properties. But at timed intervals, they can make a temporary visit to another player’s board, where they’ll have a chance to earn money or win extra upgrades to their own board’s properties. Unfortunately, the extra upgrades are only awarded at random through a Three-Card Monte-style game that’s triggered by landing on any colored property square.
Confused? I sure was. Especially when the game asked for my credit card number so I could buy more play Monopoly money using real money from my Mastercard. And while you’re playing the game, you’ll see pop-up advertisements urging you to visit the Facebook page for the real Charles Schwab investment brokers. While it’s free to play the game, “Monopoly Millionaries” apparently still earns money for its creator in other ways — and several times, it’ll ask you to lure your friends into playing the game too.
It feels much more like a Facebook game — for example, Farmville — than the classic board game of Monopoly. (Although it’s already racked up 5,880,579 active users just this month, according to statistics on its Facebook page.) Electronic Arts claims Monopoly Millionaires has now reached an audience of “tens of millions of people on Facebook.” Though maybe this is just their way of making you want to play the original classic version of Monopoly on your Kindle!
In fact, by yesterday Monopoly had become one of the top 10 best-selling items in the entire Kindle Store. (34 days ago it wasn’t even in the top 100, presumably because buyers were discouraged by its higher $4.99 price tag.) “I bought this because it was a buck,” joked one reviewer this morning on the game’s page at Amazon.com, “but then remembered that I hate the game.” But other responses were more positive, including one reviewer who posted today that “I bought it for a dollar, and my husband and I just started playing and couldn’t stop. If you like Monopoly, this is an excellent and easy to use version.”
Though she also added that when playing it on her Kindle, “I do miss the pretty colors…”