Monopoly Goes Cashless And Board Games Gain Popularity

Monopoly board

In this age of live multi-player online gaming, and virtual reality, and all things digital, it can be easy to think of board games as an artifact of the analog world. No doubt many households have a collection of board games in the closet or basement, but so many of them do nothing so much as collect dust, perhaps pulled out during the holidays after the presents are opened and the kids are getting fidgety.

Well, board games are having a bright moment. Not only that, but it takes only a look to the big dog of all U.S. board games — the venerable, 85-year-old Monopoly — to see that even those forms of low-cost entertainment are reflecting, in their owns ways, some of the hottest trends in digital commerce and payments.

Board Game Growth

Let’s get to that in minute. First, some context.

According to one recent report, “the global board games market is anticipated to reach values of more than $12 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of over 9 percent during 2017-2023.”

Among the reasons for that? The rise of so-called game cafés, which in turn are introducing new generations to board games.

As that reported noted, “the growing number of games café worldwide is helping companies attract a large number of consumers is the global board games market. These game bars and cafes are witnessing a remarkable success and gained immense popularity across the globe over the past few years. The rapid proliferation of game cafes is encouraging adults and teenagers to connect for meaningful interactions and discover new games in the global market.”

Such cafés are especially popular in the U.S. and western Europe, and often attract millennials looking for some old-fashioned entertainment and a way to spend their increasing amount of disposable income, according to that report and other sources. Such consumers are attracted not only to traditional board games but also collectible card games, role playing games and other similar forms of entertainment, according to another analysis of this market.

Other Growth Factors

Indeed, part of the reason for the current popularity of board games — including traditional ones such as Monopoly — comes from the massive popularity of Magic the Gathering, at least according to a March article from Stonemaier Games. Its ongoing popularity has apparently led players to try out other tabletop games.

As well, the article continues, younger parents today grew up with board games (and early video games, of course) and are passing along that tradition to their own children. Online commerce (well, fundraising) also has played a role: “From the creator perspective, Kickstarter and Chinese manufacturing has greatly decreased the barrier to entry to become a game publisher,” the report stated. “As a result, there are many, many more games — great games — available today than yesterday (or last month, last year, last decade, etc.), with each new game potentially bringing new gamers into the hobby.”

More generally, the ever increasing spread of online and other video games has led to even more love of all types of games in general, the author argues, which has also helped with the ongoing popularity of board games. And those games can provide a kind of escape, too. As the author put it, “more than ever, I think it’s nice to have an excuse to turn off the screens for a while, whether you’re playing games with other people or solo.”

Monopoly Upgrades

That doesn’t mean board games — even the most famous and enduring ones — can simply rest on their laurels, though. And that brings us back to Monopoly, launched during some of the darkest days of the Great Depression and borne of an effort to teach consumers about the single-tax theory of Henry George, a U.S. progressive who lived in the 19th century.

The newest version of Monopoly is called “Monopoly Voice Banking.” What makes it stand out from earlier versions — and what probably makes it most interesting to PYMNTS readers — is that it gets rid of all that Monopoly paper cash in favor of a voice-activated banker in the center of the board that keeps track of player transactions. That reflects the hot retail trends of going cashless and relying on voice-activated devices.

That Monopoly banker, being electronic and neutral, supposedly also prevents human mistakes and keeps players from cheating. Depending on your own personal preferences when it comes to Monopoly, that could be a good thing or a serious negative. (We at PYMNTS acknowledge the somewhat shameless joy that can be derived from cheating during a robust game of Monopoly.)

As put it, in this version of Monopoly — released on July 1 — the basic rules and process of the game remain the same. When a player presses a button on the top hat that is the electronic banker and voices a command, such as “Pay rent on Marvin Gardens” or “Buy St. James Place” — “the artificially intelligent Monopoly Man will take care of the rest.”

No, this new Monopoly is not nearly as sophisticated as voice-activated devices sold by the likes of Amazon and Google. But this new version of the classic game shows how board games in general are keeping up with the times and trying to hold their own in the 21st century digital age.