25 Years Ago: McDonald’s Met Monopoly

I almost posted this in April which was the actual anniversary of the first Monopoly game at McDonald’s. But since the game appears toward the end of the year I thought this month would be better. The past two years it has started in September but previously it has started in October.

A couple of times a year I tell myself I’m going to cut back on McDonald’s. I’m not like the “Super Size Me” guy but eating McDonald’s or other fast food a couple of times a week for the year gets to be expensive. But then the Monopoly game comes around in October and I have to play. I love the board game and I love McDonald’s so the temptation wins. However, I never win anything good at the game. Sure I’ve won a few minor food prizes here and there but never anything worth bragging about. I usually end up losing the winning small fries game piece before I use it anyway.

For some reason the two pop culture icons just go together. I’m not the only one who thinks so as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the cross-promotion. As with any board game that is adapted for another medium, the game play is a little different. Instead of trying to own all of the properties you’re just trying to own a series of properties in order to win a prize. You just purchase a food item that has game pieces on it and hope that each time you acquire them you’ll be a step closer to completing the property set.

Prizes throughout the years have included cash in increments up to $1 million, trips, food, DVD players, TV sets, video game systems, iPods and cars. Of course the $1 million prize is tagged to collecting both Boardwalk and Park Place. And Boardwalk is normally the game piece that is harder to find than the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket.

Originally, McDonald’s gave out a mock game board to stick the game pieces to as you collected them. The restaurant still does that but now adds an online version to where you enter a code printed on the game piece on the Internet to increase your chances of winning a prize.

The promotion has been so popular that in 1996 McDonald’s produced a pair of collector glasses, one color and one black and white.

The game hasn’t been without controversy though. The promotion was suspended in 2000 after the chief of security of the company hired to promote the game weeded out the valuable game pieces and distributed them among co-workers who then redeemed them and shared the prizes.

That hasn’t stopped the popularity of the game and its longevity. It’s even spawned a copycat. The past few years Subway has had Scrabble as a game promotion. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?

I’ll keep with tradition and play again this year. Like with any game, you don’t win if you don’t play.

Anyone ever won anything from this promotion?

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