You may deem it obvious as to why Monopoly GO is exploitative, as most live-service mobile games are these days. But what I’ve reflected upon goes so much deeper than being just another cash-grab.
Monopoly GO’s mere existence tells us that the corporate gaming industry has won, and there’s nothing we can do about it anymore.
Monopoly GO is shameless in its cash-grabbing
For you, the cash-grab event may only come around every once in a while, but for Scopely, they have a cash-grab event all the time. This may be obvious, but it’s important to establish just how predatory Monopoly GO’s practices are. The game isn’t the product, you are, and you’re being coaxed in with addictive gameplay and dopamine rushes. Bear with me, as once I’ve got through the many ways Scopely tries to get you to spend money, I’ll dive into what it means for us and the future.
I also want to quickly preface this by saying that I also play the game, and have managed to get all the way to Board 52 without spending a single penny. I don’t intend to judge the community, and I’m not even necessarily calling Monopoly GO a bad game. I simply want to highlight what Monopoly GO represents, and the damning conclusion that it brings.
Monopoly GO is not shy when it comes to pushing microtransactions. As soon as you log in, you’ve got to get through sometimes three ads for purchases before dismissing an attempt for you to add friends. Just after that, it entices you with all the rewards and freebies that are waiting for you. As soon as you run out of dice or cash, even more ads pop up to show you the incredible deals the game has to offer.
Even when claiming your free gift that refreshes every eight hours, you must scroll through all the other deals and offers currently going on. At almost every turn, there’s an ad, or deal, or something that involves you digging out your wallet.
There are many more examples of even sneakier predatory practices calling you to spend more money, such as the unlimited gift events. These events consist of an unlimited chain of gifts. The vast majority of them are free, but after the first couple of freebies, you’ll get a much better gift that you have to pay for. The game encourages you further by showing all the other free gifts in the chain you could get if you simply pay for just this one.
Aside from the core gameplay, there are also constant events going on — constant things to interact with, constant points to get, constant rankings to climb, constant boosts and buffs, and extra rewards that keep us locked in. That’s exhausting enough, and that doesn’t even include the bombardment of free gifts for achieving milestones and rankings. I must admit, this slew of free gifts has gotten me to where I’m currently at in the game, but it is all too easy to want more freebies when the well of dice runs dry. What will you do then? It’s only a couple of bucks, after all…
And finally, the only way you’re going to get far in Monopoly GO is if you’re rolling with a high multiplier. This consumes more dice but increases rewards by the same amount. So, you can breeze through events and get buckets of money, but you burn through the hundreds of dice you were “generously” rewarded with quickly. You will become used to receiving 50x the amount of cash and points, and so when you drop back down to the 3x or 5x multiplier, you’ll still be hungry for more dice.
Monopoly GO has few scruples in its constant attempts to get you to spend money for more dice and cash. God forbid you run out of something, as the game will remind you that you can always buy more of it.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, and these practices represent something much deeper.
Related: All Monopoly Go events, explained
Monopoly’s initial intentions are dead, and Monopoly GO killed them
It may surprise you to know that Monopoly, the board game, was initially idealized as the “Landlord’s Game,” made by Lizzie Magie, an anti-monopolist feminist. I know, it sounds crazy, but a board game centered around the ruthless and exploitative practices of capitalism and monopoly was made to expose the ruthless and exploitative practices of capitalism and monopoly. Who knew?
Naturally, this meaningful board game got picked up and turned into Monopoly, a game that wears its irony on its sleeve. At least with this corporate product, it is still possible to play the game with the initial intention in mind, as you are still being ruthless and performing exploitation and monopoly. Even though it became a family staple in the late 20th century, that original message could still be salvaged.
Monopoly was also merely an honest product. You purchased it once and got infinite value out of it for family fun time. Granted, they then released a million different editions, but they all still shared that one fact.
Now, we are met with Monopoly GO: the most vile representation of modern-day exploitation and unchecked capitalism I’ve ever seen.
The gameplay takes me back to games like Pirate Kings, which were other excuses to get people to buy stuff. But at least Pirate Kings had a theme that wasn’t so on-the-nose. Monopoly GO is a game with the theme of monopoly that allows you to partake in romanticized monopoly while being blatantly and transparently farmed for money to line the developer’s pockets. It cannot get any more clear-cut. It is so audacious that it’s almost comical.
Monopoly GO reminds me of an exaggerated dystopian game that may feature in media around the dangers of late-stage capitalism. It’s so caricatural and obvious for the viewer to understand the metaphor. And yet, it is a real product. That has over 100 million downloads.
Monopoly GO has become the very thing that it initially set out to destroy.
Monopoly GO has won a battle we didn’t know we were a part of
So, here we are now, knowing that Monopoly GO is the product of a corporation’s 180-degree spin on something that was set out against it. Knowing also of the many practices it utilizes to farm you for money, something they don’t even make an effort to hide. It’s all on display — like telling a baby you’re taking away its candy while taking away its candy.
It is crazy to me that this has been allowed to happen. Granted, it was a slow burn, but the fact that Monopoly GO exists shows we have gotten so acclimatized to these practices that they can just basically come out and say, “Hey, we’re exploiting you for money,” and we’re all fine with it.
The acute awareness of the practice juxtaposed with hardly being able to resist taking part in it is telling of the long process of grooming and adjusting us to this industry and culture. We’ll play anything that has a simple gameplay loop with free gifts and carefree music. We have also told these companies that we know and don’t care about these practices, so there’s no need to be sneaky about them.
We can no longer do anything about this process of exploitation, as Monopoly GO’s success is a testament that they’ve won this psychological war we didn’t even know we were fighting. We were resistant at first, but as it turns out, the more a game can give us free stuff with the promise of more free stuff, the more likely we’ll keep playing.
And what’s a few dollars, anyway?