Google Maps is becoming a Monopoly -- a Monopoly board game, to be exact. On Wednesday, Hasbro and Google launched Monopoly City Streets, a free, online version of what the game maker describes as "the world's most popular board game." Monopoly City Streets runs on top of Google Maps, and is also available using the open-source Open Street Map.
The online, massive multiplayer game is available only for a limited run of four months, as part of a promotion for Monopoly City, a new board game from Hasbro where a 3-D city is built from more than 80 3-D buildings.
'The Richest Property Magnate'
In the various Monopoly incarnations, the object is always the same: Make the most money in real estate through strategic use of properties to become, as Hasbro described, "the richest property magnate in existence."
In Monopoly City Streets, gamers can buy streets and place properties -- including houses, castles and skyscrapers -- anywhere in the world on Google Maps, and they play remotely against other participants. According to news reports, the starting price for London's Downing Street is $231,000, and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., begins at $2 million.
Each player starts by creating a profile at www.monopolycitystreets.com, and they get $3 million in play money. As with the classic board game, a player earns rent from streets and properties owned. Rent is reportedly $50,000 a day for a house and $100 million for a skyscraper.
However, at the beginning of Launch Day -- 09/09/09 -- the site was down, possibly due to over-popularity.
After buying a street, a player can acquire and set up houses, skyscrapers, hotels and other buildings. Players can increase property values by adding schools or even wind farms, or trash an opponent's holdings by setting up prisons or sewage plants through the use of chance cards. A prison or similar eyesore can only be bulldozed away, again via chance cards.
'Most Interesting Mashup Ever'
The game retains the "dealing and negotiating elements" of classic Monopoly, said Senior Marketing Manager Sarah Hoskin, adding that it brings "new creativity" that extends beyond the classic game's famous "green houses and red hotels."
The online game will be available in English, French, Spanish, Dutch and German.
Will Hasbro's online Monopoly lead to Google Maps being used for other games? Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at Interpret, doesn't think so.
While this may be the "most interesting mashup ever," he said, it feels "more experimental than anything else," more of a "one-off concept" than the beginning of a new gaming platform.
Mashups for Google Maps add a layer of data and functionality on top of the maps, such as showing all pizza parlors in a given neighborhood.