Just in time for the holidays… and the Twitter outrage!
Hasbro rocked the Twitter-verse and left Walmart shelves empty this week with the launch of its newest update to its flagship board game: Monopoly for Millennials. The box features technicolor pro-vegan icons, a farmer’s market stand overflowing with avocados, shiny hashtag and smartphone game pieces, and perhaps the most controversial image of all – the iconic white-haired Uncle Pennybags posing for a selfie with his latte, earbuds and participation medal. Over the top? Maybe a little. But wait, it gets better (or worse). The game’s tagline reads, “Forget real estate, you can’t afford it anyway.”
Yep, Hasbro came to play.
Not surprisingly, Milliennials lashed out on Twitter (seriously, take a look… some of these tweets are so on point!). Here’s where I think Hasbro fell down:
1. The game relies on tired stereotypes
Millennials are entitled. Millennials like bicycles. They take selfies and use hashtags. Seriously, is any of this even remotely interesting at this point? There is no shortage of viral videos and memes that play out these stereotypes in quicker, fresher ways. It’s a potentially interesting paradox for a board game built on the premise of real estate to play with the notion of accruing a different type of “wealth” (collecting experiences in this case) when real estate is not an option. But, without addressing the intricate web of challenges that took home ownership off the table for most Millennials, the point falls flat.
2. It’s kind of mean
One of the suggestions in the game’s oh-so-clever copy is to “play it in your parents’ basement.” Yet another dig at how Millennials will never afford a house. But again, the reality of that assumption isn’t solely the fault of avocado toast. You know how much college tuition has increased since Millennials’ parents were enrolled back in the 70s? Oh, only somewhere around 1,140 percent. So yeah, Millennials are the most educated generation but also buried in crippling student debt. Then there was that whole financial crisis that happened right when Millennials graduated college. And the broken healthcare system.
Speaking of debt, Monopoly for Millennials dictates that the player with the most debt rolls the dice first. What gang wouldn’t want to kick off a fun board game by publicly shaming each other for their financial sinkholes?
3. Um, who’s this for exactly?
OK, so thus far we’ve decided that Monopoly for Millennials uses lazy stereotypes to be somewhat unkind to its own namesake. I don’t know about you, but it leaves me feeling like there is a very real lack of intention here in terms of target audience. Is this game for Millennials? (Hello! It’s Gen X-ers who own self deprecation.) Is it for older generations (who tanked the economy IRL)… in which case it’s just a bunch of wealthier, more experienced people sitting around laughing at their younger counterparts who don’t quite have life figured out yet? Yikes. That’s a game night I’ll sit out. In any case, if your target audience is unclear – or if you’re offending a big portion of it – that’s an issue.
4. The timing is questionable
Hasbro released Monopoly for Millennials for the holidays, but it can’t go unnoticed that it also happened to drop one week following a midterm election with the highest youth turnout in the last 25 years in an ongoing contentious political climate. And, according to the Pew Research Center, that youth vote was largely liberal (67 percent in the 18–29 age range, 58 percent in the 30–44 group). So, affectionately, these are our “snowflakes,” right? Monopoly for Millennials pokes fun at experiences like being vegan, taking part in a bike share and practicing yoga. I don’t know… feels a little off to create more divisiveness by laughing at behaviors that are rooted in kindness and self care.
5. Millennials are old news
Millennials have been an exhaustive focus of marketers for years and with good reason. However, in 2019, Generation Z (born after 1996) is slated to overtake Millennials and will comprise 32 percent of the population. In the U.S., that means 61 million Gen Z-ers will be entering the workforce, suddenly equipped to make purchasing decisions. That’s right, they’re here. They’re freakishly tech savvy, refreshingly entrepreneurial and genuinely creative. And brands that want to stay relevant will start taking a razor sharp look at Gen Z… and maybe avoid alienating them.
Still, Hasbro stands by its new game, even revealing in a statement made to Fortune that Millennial staff members were part of the development process. And, at $19.82 (a clever nod to what some claim as the defining birth year of the generation), the game is flying off the shelves and currently out of stock on Walmart’s website. Looks like Hasbro may keep its monopoly over the board game market after all.
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