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February 18, 2015

February 2015 Newsletter

Table of Contents

  1. Game of Thrones Monopoly—More Fun than Star Wars Monopoly?
  2. Good News about the Ektron–EPiServer Merger

Game of Thrones Monopoly—More Fun than Star Wars Monopoly?

By Brendan Magee
I have bad news for you: Monopoly is not a very good board game. In fact, it’s not even a mediocre board game. I know, I know—it’s a cherished childhood memory, a timeless classic that evokes fond memories of watching the joy drain out of the face of an opponent who lands on your hotel at Boardwalk: “Ha! That’s two grand, buddy! Pay up!” I’ve been there; I’ve lived both sides of the sudden bankruptcy that results from an unfortunate roll of the dice.

To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about Monopoly in ages until I read a piece on Mashable about a forthcoming Game of Thrones version of the game. The article intrigued me because I love the TV series and am an even bigger fan of the books on which the show is based, A Song of Ice and Fire. You’d think it’d be an obvious purchase for a guy who owned the original Star Wars Monopoly, wouldn’t you? After all, I used to delight in moving little Boba Fett around the track, snapping up Bespin, Hoth, and other planets to my heart’s content, all the while raking in those famously variegated denominations of cash. “Used to” is the operative phrase here, because there’s no way I’m buying that HBO schwag.

I can tell you why my opinions have changed. Essentially, I liked Monopoly when I was a kid because it tapped right into my competitive nature and allowed me to enjoy the thrill of victory. It also taught me some tough but important lessons about American capitalism (e.g., the fact that there are plenty of losers for every one winner).[†] Now, I’d sooner watch a marathon of Keeping up with the Kardashians than spend an afternoon on any version of Monopoly—the game has lost its luster for me.

The problems with Monopoly aren’t really obvious until one becomes aware of the existence of better games. By “better” games, I mean ones that avoid the pitfalls of Monopoly and games like it, here described by FiveThirtyEight’s Oliver Roeder:

"Monopoly has become a bête noire for many serious board gamers. It suffers from problems that most game designers nowadays try to avoid. First, players can be eliminated. This is no fun—unless, of course, the eliminated player finds something better to do than play Monopoly—and games are meant to be fun. Second, there is often a runaway leader. Someone can snap up a juicy monopoly early on, and that quickly becomes that. The rest of the game is pro forma and boring. And games aren’t meant to be boring. Third, there is what’s known to game designers as a kingmaking problem. A losing player can often choose, typically via a lopsided trade of properties, who wins the game. This is also no fun and negates whatever skill was required to begin with . . . Oh, and it also takes a really long time to play."

When you compare Monopoly to a more well-designed game—Settlers of Catan, for example, which has become popular enough in certain circles to be referenced on shows like Parks and Recreation—the difference in quality is obvious. Good, enjoyable games keep players involved in the action, and they don’t exclude anyone through outright elimination. They also require players to make decisions and strategize, keeping everyone engaged in the action.

Instead of buying Game of Thrones Monopoly, you’d be better off buying A Game of Thrones, the Board Game, which will satisfy your cravings for Stark and Lannister intrigue without subjecting you to the endless frustration inherent in Monopoly. If you’re looking for even better games to play with your kids, I’d recommend that you review another piece by FiveThirtyEight’s Oliver Roeder, in which he offers a number of good suggestions, including Dixit, Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Mice & Mystics, and Summoner Wars.

If you do try one of these games, we’d be very intrigued to read your thoughts. As always, leave a comment on our Facebook timeline. Monopoly apologists may state their cases, but they should be prepared for a vigorous debate!
[†] The Parker Brothers version of Monopoly from the 1930s encourages players to enrich themselves at the expense of their fellows, with the losers being eliminated via bankruptcy. While the most familiar version of the game seems to be a celebration of monopolistic practices, the original Monopoly was actually created as a critique of those same practices. In 1903, a woman named Elizabeth Magie Philips filed a legal claim for a game called the Landlord’s Game, which, according to Mary Pilon of the New York Times, was “designed . . . as a protest against the big monopolists of her time—people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.”
Magie didn’t want the primary goal of the game to be sending one’s opponents to the poor house. She had two different victory conditions: one in which all players prospered when wealth was created (the “good” outcome), and another in which the goal was to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you,” etc. (the bad outcome). Unfortunately, the “bad” version of the game caught on, and Magie’s critiques of land-grabbing and extortion were largely lost to history.

Good News about the Ektron–EPiServer Merger

By Brendan Magee
A February 4th partner webinar shed some light on the future direction of EPiServer, and the news for existing Ektron and EPiServer customers is all positive. Let’s start with the facts.

First, Ektron and EPiServer CMS products will continue to be supported going forward. If you have Ektron or EPiServer, and it’s getting the job done, you can keep it! The EPiServer product team will provide updates for existing Ektron and EPiServer implementations, and they will also support Hodgson as we maintain Ektron and EPiServer websites. This means that whatever plans you had for your web properties in 2015 can proceed as expected.

Not only will you be able to count on future updates, but you’ll also have access to the best features of both platforms. Ektron customers will be able to use EPiServer Commerce (robust .NET e-commerce) and EPiServer Find (advanced, cloud-based search), while EPiServer customers can take advantage of the Ektron Digital Experience Hub (CRM connections, marketing automation, and web analytics) and eSync (automated syncing of content, code, assets, and templates from development servers through production servers).

While EPiServer maintains their existing product line (both Ektron CMS and EPiServer CMS), they will also soon be introducing the successor to both of these systems: the Digital Experience Cloud. This new platform will ultimately replace its predecessors by combining their best assets and adding new features. We don’t yet know what specific features are on the horizon, but we do know that Ektron and EPiServer as independent companies had very similar product roadmaps prior to this merger.

You can expect the new Digital Experience Cloud to combine digital marketing, web content management, and digital commerce features into a single solution that will integrate seamlessly with your CRM systems and other third party software. Also, as the name suggests, this platform will be licensed monthly and hosted in the cloud, so you won’t have to worry about on-premise IT and additional infrastructure costs.

We have a lot more to learn in the coming weeks about the new EPiServer and the Digital Experience Cloud—pricing of features, product roadmap, etc.—but everything we’ve heard so far is positive. We’re sure you’ll have questions, and our team is standing by to answer them. Call us at 301.942.7040, or email your project manager, and we’ll set up a time to talk.