Monopoly: the debit card edition

People know me might know that I'm a bit of a fan of the board game Monopoly, having played it lots as a child. I've written about a 'real world Monopoly' game on this blog before, and even photoblogged a Monopoly-shaped cake that a flatmate once made for my birthday.

The thing with Monopoly is, I guess, that most people, or families at least, probably have a set in their cupboards. So every year we see a new release of themed versions of Monopoly, everything from the Simpsons to Star Wars to a myriad of regional variations (which seem to be sponsor-driven). I've only ever owned an original (London) version, a World Cup '98 version (which is quite fun), and a travel edition, with minature banknotes.

The thing with the different editions is that, whilst they are quite momentarily amusing, the names of the properties on the original London edition are so well known that you end up referring to hotels on Mayfair rather than stadiums on Brazil. However, I guess they must be popular gifts, as more and more versions keep coming out.

One of the most high profile variants launched recently is the 'Here and Now edition', celebrating the game's 70th anniversary. Updating the London edition for the first time, the game tacked a few zeros onto the end of every cash figure and changed some of the locations to give it a 'modern day twist'. So Old Kent Road became Portobello Road Market and Mayfair became 'The City'. Incidentally, the Science Museum appears as a replacement for Bow Street, just ahead of the Natural History Museum and the Tate Modern.

That was last year's news though (although the American 'Here and Now edition' is only just about to be released), and the new story that has only just hit the press is the release of an electronic version of the London Here and Now edition which replaces paper banknotes with a VISA-built debit card machine. It being the silly season, the media seemed to have lapped up the story as 'a sign of our times', although many reports, like the BBC News article, give the impression that cash is being phased out from the games altogether - which isn't true.

The 'manufacturer's description' on the product page on Amazon.co.uk contains the following exclamation mark and block caps filled sales pitch:

Starting from the famous "GO" space, move around the board, buying and selling properties, building apartments and hotels as you go. Watch out for players landing on your property – they owe you rent! And don’t forget to collect £2,000,000 every time you pass "GO"! That’s right, £2MILLION… on your BANK CARD!

The world has changed amazingly over the last 70 years. The rent has rocketed sky high in a much more recognisable London, and now you can wheel and deal without the hassle of carrying loads of cash on you – especially when it’s in millions! ! of pounds! Thing have moved on and, just like in the real world, all you need to do is SWIPE YOUR BANK CARD TO TRANSFER MONEY- it couldn’t be easier!

There's only one customer comment so far, Joyce Knox seems to point out a fairly important problem with this game update: namely that it becomes a lot more difficult to keep an eye on how much cash you've got - a modern-day problem if ever I heard one. She comments 'my family found the old fun of sitting with wades of £100 and £500 notes while your opponents were slowly going bankrupt was mostly gone and it was often harder to keep track of who was actually winning at any given time'.

It would also be fairly disastrous if the batteries on the swipe-card machine decided to pack up mid-game, leaving you in a similar position as when all the cash machines in your local area stop working on the same day.

Perhaps instead of updating the board game, Monopoly could do an olden-day version, with bartering of goods rather than cash...