Yes, there’s a slump in the real estate market. Tell that to the players who tried to log on Wednesday to a new online version of the classic Monopoly game that substitutes Google Maps for the board; gamers can “buy” real streets in cities around the world and build skyscrapers a la Donald Trump.
The temptation to own Broadway in New York or Colfax in Denver proved to be so popular that the game’s servers could not keep up with demand.
The Monopoly City Streets blog acknowledged that technical difficulties were making it hard for players to pass go on the first day of online activity. A blog post dated early Wednesday morning said, “We ANTICIPATED an opening rush when we launched the Monopoly City Streets online game, but the first few hours have surpassed even our greatest EXPECTATIONS. We are in the process of increasing our firepower and expect to be running more smoothly within the next few hours.”
A TechNewsWorld request for comment from Monopoly owners Hasbro was not received by press time. A forum on a Ning social group devoted to Monopoly City Streets showed some opening-day stumbles along with strategy tips:
“I’m in the UK and very few people appear to be able to play.”
“I haven’t been able to see the map yet. Some people report server errors.”
“This has the potential to be an awesome game, but there’s all kinds of cheating going on at the moment.”
Chance Cards and Mobile Apps
The rules for Monopoly City Streets differ slightly from the game played by millions of families on dining room tables around the world since the 1930s. Each registered player gets US$3 million in virtual cash to start. They can buy, sell and trade streets and can erect homes and office buildings on them. However, the goal for each player is the same as before: Get rich quick, and use Chance cards to cause trouble for other players by uncovering “hazards” on their streets. The game will run for four months before a winner is declared.
The 21st century mashup meets with the approval of Phil Orbanes, president of Winning Moves Games in Danvers, Mass. Orbanes has written several books about Monopoly, including The Monopoly Companion: The Players’ Guide, and he serves as a chief judge for national and world game tournaments.
“Monopoly is probably more popular than ever, not only in the states but also worldwide,” Orbanes told TechNewsWorld. “That’s because Hasbro has done a masterful job of keeping a shiny edge on the game. I particularly like this application because the world is now your oyster. The very fact you can go on Google Maps and find a street that you wanted to own is an unbelievable fantasy. And Monopoly being a real estate trading game is a perfect vehicle to tie that fantasy into something that is structured and will play well.”
Orbanes sees other technological tweaks for the game coming soon, thanks to social networks and mobile devices. However, it’s the core aspects of the game — the personal interaction, not the physical equipment — that will help it to translate well. Advances may enable gamers to use animations and 3-D technologies to allow buildings to rise on their properties. “Clearly, the electronic component to gameplay in general will be more naturally a part of the physical composition of the games in the future and be much more commonplace,” Orbanes said, “But the game is the same no matter where it is played around the world, and in no time you are feeling a sense of connection to the players, despite the fact you may have very little in common. I realize what a wonderful diplomat the game is. The game is this common bond.”
A Differing Opinion
However, Lon Safko, social media entrepreneur/consultant and coauthor of The Social Media Bible, doesn’t see the same sense of structure in Monopoly City Streets that Orbanes sees. He does acknowledge, though, the potential for the Internet to help the game make the leap to more modern times.
“Online participation, collaboration, virtual play, trusted networks and MMOG (massively multiplayer online gaming) is going to have a great appeal,” Safko told TechNewsWorld. “With Games such as ‘World of Warcraft’ exceeding 10 million registered users, there should be a short term appeal for this game.
“Yet from what I’ve seen it’s too open-ended; using any streets in the world. There’s no ‘track’ to follow around, no structure. The random surprises have to be balanced, but I didn’t see that. And really, the only difference between playing the tried and true version of the original Monopoly and Google Monopoly is instead of its recognizable square track and familiar street names, you play on a map — a confusing, unfamiliar, random geometry map,” Safko said.
Despite those concerns and the server issues on Day One, Monopoly City Lights may be a hot topic of conversation in Las Vegas in October for the world Monopoly championship tournament. Orbanes will once again serve as a judge. The sometimes-rowdy online world may have to make adjustments for a game with a true good-sport tradition.
“A lot of people think they can intimidate opponents, but the moment you start to browbeat opponents, the other players just naturally don’t want to deal with you,” Orbanes said.