(Credit: flickr user StockMonkeys.com)
UPDATE [July 26]:
It appears that The Wall Street Journal may have misunderstood Hasbro, and that Monopoly Empire will NOT actually jettison jail after all.
The WSJ initially attributed the jail controversy to Hasbro spokesperson Julie Duffy:
There is no longer a 'jail' for players to languish in while waiting for a lucky roll, says Hasbro spokeswoman Julie Duffy.
However, Hasbro has since contradicted this quote. Laura Trani, a PR rep working on behalf of the company, told Yahoo! Games that "the jail spaces are not being removed from the game."
"The Monopoly Empire game involves different game play where players buy and sell brands rather than real estate, but there are still the traditional ‘go to jail’ spaces on the board," she clarified.
So good news for Monopoly lovers, bad news for internet reporters, and, well, not much news at all for Hasbro.
Just as Monopoly fans come out of their mourning period for the dearly departed iron game token, Hasbro's tinkering with the formula again. And purists are likely to be outraged.
A new version of the game, Monopoly Empire, is tailored for the short attention span of today's youth. Among the changes? Plenty of real world brands to own -- and no pesky jail to slow things down.
The drastic -- and rather jaw-dropping -- changes are meant to make the game more appealing to younger children who don't have the patience for longer games, says Hasbro. Monopoly Empire is designed to be completed in as little as 30 minutes, a far cry from the marathon sessions that can take place with the original.
[Related: The one Monopoly rule you shouldn’t ignore]
You're no longer collecting properties in the new game, either. It's all about buying and trading the world's top brands, which opens the door for blatant marketing plays by Xbox, Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Samsung, among others. (Yes, one of the tokens is a miniature Xbox 360 controller, and yes, we're geeky enough to think that's kind of cool.)
But no jail? That takes away an element that seems essential to the heart of the Monopoly experience. The risk of going to jail adds nearly as much stress in traditional Monopoly as landing on an opponent's hotel-adorned property and having to mortgage your own holdings, though it can also act as a reprieve for players when cash is low and people are approaching your "neighborhood."
Time, however, is something kids no longer have. That's why Hasbro is making quickie versions of several other games as well, including Boggle and Scrabble.
"Parents and children tell us they want a quick in-and-out, frictionless gaming experience," Jonathan Berkowitz, vice president of marketing at Hasbro, tells The Wall Street Journal. "That's the snackable component."
Between 2004 and 2009, the media consumption of youngsters soared from 1.5 hours a day to 7.5 hours a day, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. And while a survey by Mattel found that 60 percent of parents would like their children to spend more time with traditional toys, kids gravitate toward social media, electronic games and television. They're focused on winning and moving on to the next thing, but those priorities come at the expense of socialization and face to face bonding time with friends and family.
Hasbro hopes that games like jail-less Monopoly will bridge the gap, though the company is doing just fine appealing to kids who prefer to play games on a screen. Revenues from their video game division are up nearly 20 percent this past quarter.