PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A British version of the classic Monopoly board game released this week substitutes a Visa-imprinted debit card for the stacks of yellow, blue and purple play money long hoarded by children worldwide.
"We started looking at what Monopoly would look like if we designed it today," said Chris Weatherhead, a Britain.-based spokesman for Hasbro Inc., which makes the best-selling board game. "We noticed consumers are using debit cards, carrying around cash a lot less."
British players might not be the only ones switching to plastic. Officials at Pawtucket-based Hasbro say they're considering a similar change for American versions.
First offered in 1935, Monopoly offered players a form of financial escapism during the country's worst financial depression. Players become pretend real estate magnates who compete for fictitious property named after real places in Atlantic City, N.J. A British version released that same year featured London neighborhoods.
In the new British version of Monopoly Here & Now, players type amounts into a palm-sized scanner and swipe their debit cards to seal the deal.
While the change may startle some Monopoly fans, the game has been revised several times before. Consumers can now buy Monopoly editions inspired by the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies, or even a version featuring SpongeBob SquarePants, an animated TV character.
An earlier version of Monopoly Here & Now was released last year in England and still included paper money, Weatherhead said.
But the game had been modernized in many other ways. Some addresses have changed — and the game now includes Kensington Palace Gardens, near Buckingham Palace, and Notting Hill Gate, the setting of a 1999 movie starring Julia Roberts.
Cards that once rewarded players for winning a beauty contest now compensate them for winning a reality TV show. Completing a full circuit around the board is worth two million English pounds, not 200.
"Quite a nice bonus," Weatherhead said.
Hasbro no longer sells English retailers the paper-money versions of Monopoly Here & Now, but fans can still purchase the classic edition, which includes fake cash.
At least one Monopoly devotee seemed ambivalent about the potential changes.
Krisi Lee of Antioch, Calif., owns 19 versions of the game, including the electronic one on her cell phone. She sometimes competes in a Monopoly tournament run by her mother, which usually attracts about 50 players.
She wants her young daughter to learn how to count Monopoly paper money before touching the real stuff, she said. But Lee, 28, isn't a purist.
"That is the here and now," she said. "That's what we do. For a $3 purchase, I use my debit card."