One of the challenges for manufacturers has been keeping Monopoly fresh and appealing for new audiences, especially in an age of electronic games and video gaming systems. One of the most successful approaches utilized has been with specialty versions. License holder Hasbro further expanded the reach of themed games when, in 1994, it entered into an agreement with USAopoly to create unique versions of the game. These games have ranged from National Parks to Major League Baseball themes.
Here and Now
Monopoly Here and Now was the first time fans of the game helped design the game board. In 2006, Hasbro encouraged fans to vote via the Internet on which 22 popular destinations in the U.S. should be the properties on the board. The contest was a throwback to the original concept of the places on board, based on Darrow's favorite vacation city. Other key changes to the game included:
- A player started the game with $15 million instead of $1,500.
- Utilities were changed to Internet Service Provider and Cell Phone Service Provider.
- Tokens were a Toyota Prius, a Starbucks Coffee Cup, McDonald's French Fries, a New Balance running shoe, a Labradoodle, a jet airplane, and a laptop computer.
- Luxury tax was replaced with Interest Due on Credit Card Debt.
The Here and Now World edition in 2008 followed the same concept as the original except it used international destinations for the properties. The only other significant difference was the World edition also featured electronic banking instead of paper money.
In addition to the original version, Hasbro currently sells several themed versions. New games currently available for sale include:
- Cityville: Inspired by the online game of Cityville, this game plays by conventional Monopoly rules with a few Cityville twists. Unlike Monopoly's goal of bankrupting opponents, in this version the first one to build their Cityville community and its four skyscrapers wins. The game also includes $85 in digital community cash that can be used online in Cityville.
- Monopoly Despicable Me 2: This version, designed for children 5 and up, still centers around buying and selling properties but inside the Despicable Me world. There are 16 properties instead of the normal 22, and rather than paper money players collect Banana Bucks.
- Junior versions: You can choose from the classic Junior game or the Disney Princess edition. Both games follow the same rules, but the Disney version includes eight princesses as tokens. These games are designed for children ages 5 to 8 and use a smaller board with fewer properties. Properties are called amusement rides in the Junior game and are Disney characters in the Princess version.
- Electronic Banking version: This game is played the same as the original with the only significant difference being that players use debit cards instead of cash. This version does have a couple of intriguing tokens like a Segway and a space shuttle.
- Other themed versions: The list of themed versions offered by USAopoly is extensive and changes annually. The company maintains lists for out-of-print and current versions. To find a current list of games, filter your search by brand using the menu in the "featured games" section.
The secondary market is filled with out-of-print collectible games. The value and price of these games will vary widely, but most modern games only hold their value if the theme is highly sought after and the game is in New in Box (NIB) condition. In other words, unopened and unplayed, complete with shrink wrap.
- Clone Wars: Released in 2008, Monopoly Star Wars - The Clone Wars can still be purchased online. The game is played by original rules or optional Star Wars rules. Like all the themed games, the tokens are specific to the theme and in this game you build settlements and cities instead of houses and hotels.
- The Simpsons editions: USAopoly released two Simpsons-themed games: Treehouse of Horror Edition in 2005 and The Collector's Edition in 2001. The collector's version included six pewter tokens of Bart, Homer, Kang, Blinky, Santa's Little Helper and Jebediah Springfield. Hasbro released an electronic banking version of the game in 2009 featuring Homer's voice.
- Spiderman: Two versions of Spiderman-themed games were released by Hasbro, and USAopoly released a version in 2012. All of the games follow the same rules as the original, but collectors seek out the games for their Spiderman-inspired tokens, title deeds and game boards.
- Pokémon: The 1995 Parker Brothers edition seems to be the more collectible of the two Pokémon versions with unopened games selling for more than $100 on Amazon. The Pokémon Gold and Silver version was released in 2001. Both versions use original rules but have a variation on the double roll rule, replacing it with Pokémon Powers.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Released by Hasbro in 2005, the game centers around Bikini Bottom. Instead of houses, the game uses pineapples and instead of hotels, Krusty Crab restaurants. The goal of the game is to collect the most clams. Unopened NIB versions sell for $50-$75.
Spin-Off Monopoly Games
Over the years, Hasbro and Parker Brothers have tried to build off the popularity of Monopoly with various spin-off games. A few of the ones Hasbro currently sells are:
- Monopoly Empire: In this game players try to build a tower consisting of the world's top brands. One of the more interesting features here is noticing which brands did and did not make it into the game. For example, Yahoo did, but Google did not.
- Monopoly Hotels: A two-player game where you try to build your hotels faster than your opponents while simultaneously sabotaging their efforts.
- Monopoly Millionaire: Although somewhat similar to the original version in format, the twist to the game is that you no longer need to bankrupt opponents. Simply be the first to become a millionaire to win.
- Monopoly Zapped: This version pairs the game board with your iPad and ups the ante with a myriad of mini-games (apps). When players land in jail they have the option of playing a mini-game on their iPad to help Mr. Monopoly jump the jail walls and escape to his getaway car. This game also introduces touch-key banking.
Even the Tokens Change
In 2013 Hasbro decided to freshen up the classic game again, this time creating a month-long voting contest on Facebook to decide which of the tokens should be retired from the game and replaced by a cat. By securing only eight percent of the vote, the classic iron token was retired. While Monopoly remains a beloved game decades after it was first released, Hasbro continues to find new ways to change and update every aspect of Monopoly.