Mayfair voted off the board
The smart London area has always been a mainstay of Monopoly, but now an upmarket usurper has replaced it. It's an unexpected roll of the dice, says Sophie Robehmed
Monday 18 July 2011
Passing Go will never be the same again.
While for years avoiding a heavily housed or hoteled Mayfair has been the aim of every pseudo-property tycoon charging around the streets of London from the comfort of their living room, a new edition of Monopoly sees that staple of British board game life gone forever, replaced by an upstart. Mayfair has lost its monopoly in Monopoly.
A new edition of the game sees the £400 location gazumped by Kensington Palace Gardens, which is listed for a whopping £4m. In real-life London, the Gardens run up the western side of Kensington Gardens and are home to a number of embassies and mega-mega-rich tycoons like Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.
The Monopoly move reflects a westward shift in prestige in the non-board game capital. Andrew Weir, central area director at estate agents Foxtons, believes this shift in property power is entirely warranted: "This street [Kensington Palace Gardens] boasts sensational period buildings, many with movie-like features such as underground swimming pools and marble pillars made from the same quarry as the Taj Mahal.
"With the average price of a property fetching a staggering £19m, this street has become one of the most sought-after in the world."
Although Monopoly is constantly launching new editions with various gimmicks, the basics of the game have changed very little since Charles Darrow invented it in 1933. The prototype was based on Atlantic City and mocked up with materials lying around Darrow's home.
The game was launched two years later in the US and in the UK when a sample was sent to game maker Waddingtons. Crucially, the firm's chairman Victor Watson realised that the place names needed to be altered for a British audience and London was the obvious choice. Victor and his secretary, Marjory Phillips, went to London and chose the place names based on their trip around the city's streets. The Angel, Islington is the area where the pair lunched on the day of their tour.
Since Monopoly's small beginnings, more than 20 million sets have been sold in Britain. So why change key components of the original game?
A spokesperson for Hasbro, the company that acquired Monopoly from Waddingtons in 1994, believes changes make sense: "Monopoly's enduring appeal comes from the game's ability to evolve to fit any platform. The new Monopoly Millionaires Facebook game launched earlier this year and now has more than four million active users."
With online game play increasingly popular (there are also iPhone apps galore), does this mean that it's the end of the original Monopoly game? Of course not. Indeed, old traditions die hard for Monopoly fans and those living in Mayfair in particular. Pol Ferguson-Thompson, membership secretary on the committee of the Residents' Society of Mayfair and St James's and a local for 11 years, thinks the only way is W1: "Although Kensington Palace Gardens is home to Britain's richest clan, there are many more millionaires in Mayfair. "Mayfair is unlikely to ever be usurped in the original game, as Monopoly's bluest buy by Ken Pally Alley, which is not a community, but merely a row of guarded and gated Gormenghastic garages with houses attached." Quite.
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