Dubai is getting its own Monopoly board next month, becoming the first city in the Middle East to unlock this feat.
“Today, we’re announcing officially that Dubai passes go and that it will have its own edition exclusively of Monopoly,” Robert Osborne, sales manager EMEA at Winning Moves, told Gulf News tabloid! on Monday.
“For the next month, Mr Monopoly should be on a tour of the city, visiting lots of different brands, lots of different locations, basically putting the board together, so that on the 4th of November when we launch the game, everyone will be breath-taken,” he revealed.
UK-based Winning Moves hold the exclusive rights to produce all customised editions of Hasbro board games in the world, except for North America.
Previous city-themed editions have included Durban (South Africa), Dublin (Ireland), Leon (France), Krakow (Poland) and Sydney and Melbourne (Australia). On November 4, Dubai will join the growing list.
“Of course with [Expo 2020] next year, we know it’s going to be a massive time in the city. All eyes of the world will already be on the city, so for us it felt like the right time,” said Osborne.
But Osbourne kept tight-lipped about what famous locations you might find featured in the game — whether that be the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab or some more obscure spots.
“Sadly, I can’t give any teasers, because Mr Monopoly is still putting the board together — even at the ripe old age of 85, he’s still whipping around the city,” quipped Osborne.
“What I can say is, everything you know and love and would expect to see will be on there, and perhaps a few surprises which will be known to locals [but] not necessarily tourists, because ultimately, the game is supposed to be for [both] locals and tourists,” he added.
WHAT GOES INTO MAKING A ‘MONOPOLY’?
Roughly five years in the making, the Dubai-centric board game is a result of extensive research and development. The Winning Moves team arrived in Dubai “two or three years ago” to begin exploring the emirate, according to Osborne.
“What we’re always looking at is how a city is developing. We want a Monopoly [board] to capture not just the city at that moment, but its past, its present and its future.
“We worked really closely with Dubai Tourism and Dubai Chamber [of Commerce and Industry], along with Atlantis and many other brands as well. We definitely reached out to all of the key players, spoke to everybody, as well as [conducting] our own research. It’s been thorough, it’s been very detailed and for us, most importantly, it’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
With his distinctive top hat and white moustache, Mr Monopoly will be hopping around Dubai’s hot spots until the game’s launch early next month. But will fans of the game have a chance to get a selfie?
“There’ll be definitely some private tours — of course, you’d expect Mr Monopoly to be given VIP treatment — but he’ll also be available for the general public at times. People should look out for him and when they see him, feel free to go and take a picture. He’s very friendly — but again, be gentle: he is 85 years old,” said Osborne.
However, not everywhere Mr Monopoly visits will be a clue as to what ends up featured in the upcoming game.
“Some will make it on, some won’t. It’s very tough to compress a city as unique and vibrant as Dubai into just 22 property squares — but that’s what Mr Monopoly is paid the big bucks for,” revealed Osborne.
THE ECONOMIC ORIGINS OF ‘MONOPOLY’
Monopoly is today known as a highly competitive and often lengthy game (the average play time is between 1-4 hours), which continues to test friendships every year.
The purpose of the game is to buy and sell properties, develop them further with houses and hotels, and continuously collect rent from opponents whenever their dice rolls land them on your plot. The winner is the one player who avoids going bankrupt.
Monopoly as we know it was first launched by Parker Brothers in 1935.
But, as the New York Times reported in 2015, the game has deeper roots. It was modelled after The Landlord’s Game, which was designed by Lizzie Magie in America in 1903. Magie’s game was an act of dissent against economic monopolists who existed at the time.
Over the decades, the Monopoly experience has shed most of its original connotations and developed into more of a party game.
For Osborne, the popularity of customised Monopoly boards such as the upcoming Dubai game comes down to familiarity.
“As opposed to just landing on a street which you might be connected to in some way, it’s actually about the places you shop, you eat, you live, you work and being able to own those positions on the board and create those lasting memories, which Monopoly has done for 85 years. I think it just makes it a little bit more special,” said Osborne.
MORE TO COME IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
As for the choice of Dubai as the game’s next big destination, Osborne referred to it as “my favourite city in the world.”
“At the risk of upsetting some other cities, Dubai is definitely what we see as the jewel of the Middle East, so we wanted to make sure we come out with a big game. It’s going to be something that every other city will look upon and they’ll want their own version,” he said.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say you can buy it absolutely everywhere... You’re going to be hard-pressed, certainly after next month, to go anywhere and not see the game.
“This is a game where [some] people will play it, some people will store it as a coffee table item, and some will just keep it locked away, sealed, unopened for life, because it [represents] that snapshot of what Dubai currently is,” he added.
In addition to Monopoly, Winning Moves will also launch a whole range of Dubai products, including two packs of the card game Top Trumps, and an edition of Top Trumps Match, a cube game where you must match five of your favourite characters in a row.
“There may be more Middle Eastern cities... We’re not quite sure yet. We have lots of different recommendations already, lots of people calling and asking. But ultimately, at the moment, our focus is on Dubai,” said Osborne.
Wherever you are in the world, however, keep an eye out — your city could be next in line.
“We have many more coming over the next couple of years,” said Osborne. “So those who haven’t had their chance yet, don’t worry, we’ll be coming to your city soon.”
WHO IS MR MONOPOLY?
Mr Monopoly — sometimes known as Rich Uncle Pennybags — is the game’s mascot and is known for his dapper appearance including a top hat, black suit and signature cane.