Mr. Monopoly has finally wrested total control of his eponymous game.
On June 20, Hasbro revealed that a new digitalized version of the famous board game—called Monopoly Voice Banking—will see the position of banker snatched from human hands and bestowed upon Mr. Monopoly’s battery-powered top hat, now voice-activated and equipped with painfully blunt phrases to boot. (“You’re bankrupt!”) It comes out July 1 and will cost $29.99.
The ground rules are unchanged—the goal remains to travel around the board and collect as many properties as possible, forcing other players into bankruptcy through unbridled capitalistic greed. Now, every single move is dictated to the almighty top hat, and there’s absolutely no physical cash. According to the instructions, you should press the button on the hat that corresponds to your token, then “clearly and naturally” voice a command. For instance, if you want to auction a property, you say, “Auction OFF.” Then, wait for a pinging sound, and then name the property. The same goes for actions like paying rent or trading property with another player. Other key changes: The maximum number of players was cut from six to four and there are now six fewer properties, no utilities, and no railroads.
This new format has brought some radical changes, ones that casual gamers and superfans alike might struggle to grapple with. On the official Monopoly Facebook page, some complained that going cashless “takes the fun out of it” and that they were “not interested” if they were truly being robbed of the ability to cheat.
But cheaters will find a way. Neil Scallan holds the Guinness World Record for the largest Monopoly collection—he currently has 2,493 sets to his name and boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of the many transformations of the game over the years. Scallan says that he and his compatriots in the Monopoly world don’t think that the top hat will be able to stop people from bending the rules.
“[W]herever a human is involved, there’s going to be cheating, corruption. … Someone’s going to find a way,” said Scallan. He suspects that it might involve players whispering surreptitious commands to the hat while others aren’t listening. If fleecing loved ones is really central to your Monopoly experience, though, you may prefer the Cheaters Edition of Monopoly, or you could simply skirt the rules in the traditional version of the game, which will continue to be sold by Hasbro.
Another concern is that the absence of cash means that kids are missing out on a valuable source of financial lessons. Laura Levine, the president and CEO of JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, which advocates for financial education in schools, called the change a “mixed bag.” Levine told MarketWatch, “Not having access to cash, both real and play money, does make it harder to teach younger kids about money and management.” Still, others argued that this new version mirrors the way that finances will work when these kids become adults, so it remains a valuable way to practice money management. Scallan also notes that it’s not the first time the brand has gone cashless. In a 2006 version released in the U.K., players used Visa credit cards instead of money.
More recently, Monopoly Millennial saw players competing for experiences, not property.
On a positive note, some Facebook commenters pointed out a unique upside to the new format—it’s now handicap accessible, so more players can be experience the outrage of being forced to pay rent on Boardwalk.