In April, Scopely launched Monopoly GO!, a fully immersive Monopoly experience that blends classic gameplay with entirely new worlds to explore. The game instantly rose to the top of the charts, and has staked its claim as the top casual game launch of 2023.
We sat down with the game’s general manager and vice president of product, Massimo Maietti, to deep-dive into what makes Monopoly such an enduring franchise, how Scopely’s game team captured the emotions of the original board game, and how community is baked into the game’s DNA.
Pocketgamer.biz: Tell us about your role at Scopely and what you've worked on previously? What does your day to day look like these days?
Massimo Maietti: I’m a VP of product and general manager of the free-to-play mobile game Monopoly GO! at Scopely. I’ve worked in the games industry for over 20 years and have spent the last seven of those at Scopely.
My primary focus during my time at Scopely has been to create a chart-topping, evergreen game, which ultimately led to Monopoly GO!Massimo Maietti
Beyond Monopoly GO! we have games across mobile, PC and web, including Star Trek Fleet Command, Stumble Guys, and Marvel Strike Force, just to name a few. Before my time at Scopely, I was at Zynga for five years, where I served as the Creative Director for FarmVille 2 and co-founded two gaming startups, Outer Space One and 1bit Garden.
My primary focus during my time at Scopely has been to create a chart-topping, evergreen game, which ultimately led to Monopoly GO! During the game's development, my primary focus was and continues to be, leading a global team of talented game makers to create an entirely new Monopoly experience from the ground up. Now that the game is live, I’m also focused on evolving our game alongside our players and ensuring that they are delighted to come back to Monopoly GO! day in and day out.
Did you play Monopoly much growing up? I think I've played it thousands of times…
I played quite a lot of Monopoly growing up and have always been amazed by the game’s ability to generate enduring memories.
In particular, I remember being surprised at how Monopoly games were relatively peaceful when played with my friends yet highly emotional when played with family members. Maybe the fact that family is more likely to stick around caused household emotions to boil closer to the surface!
Did you have a favourite Monopoly piece/character? Are you a Boot? Car? Top Hat?…
During development, our team was very inspired by Monopoly's beloved tokens. We have always believed that these timeless characters are essential to our goal of blending classic Monopoly gameplay with entirely new experiences. Players are so invested in each character because there is a narrative and humour behind every piece. By placing the tokens at the forefront of Monopoly GO! we were able to bring the game’s humour to life while highlighting the different narratives and archetypes of wealth.
While I don’t personally have a favourite piece, I like to use the Iron in the board game because it is most likely to stay upright after table-flip moments!
What core gameplay do you think has made Monopoly such an enduring game that's adaptable to so many spin-offs?
Hasbro’s enduring Monopoly board game deals with themes that are truly universal. What I find particularly interesting is how, for some players, the concept of wealth first enters the household through Monopoly as a means to negotiate relationships. Many people vividly recall the first time they paid rent to their mother or bankrupt their father. Those are very memorable experiences!
Monopoly also represents a guilt-free way to experiment or take pleasure in attaining wealth and power. There’s a certain “naughty” pleasure in wielding financial power over your family members. And the anticipation of being the first monopolist, plus the cascading rewards that come your way if you succeed, is enthralling.
At the same time, since the relationship between player and wealth is mainly - although not exclusively - driven by luck, the game experience is very accessible. Regardless of skill level, every player can always hope for a lucky break.
We realised early on that in order to succeed with Monopoly GO! we had to capture the emotions and experience of playing the board game. Monopoly is a true emotional rollercoaster, and we wanted to recreate these ups and downs in our mobile game!
What was the goal with Monopoly GO!? What makes it a unique spin on the famous game?
Monopoly GO! features the only complete Monopoly universe on the market today.Massimo Maietti
We saw Monopoly GO! as our opportunity to take the game that we all loved and felt was very relevant today and turn it into an experience that can engage players for a very long time when played on a mobile platform.
Monopoly GO! features the only complete Monopoly universe on the market today. The game is filled with classic Monopoly imagery, but there are also new characters to meet and worlds to explore. It’s also a highly-social experience - you can play with all of your friends and family from around the world, rather than just six people at a table.
While we tried to feature as many of the original mechanics of the board game as possible, we were even more focused on bringing to life the emotions a player feels when playing Monopoly. One of the benefits of a mobile platform is the opportunity for world-building and creating a richer narrative. We wanted our players to feel deeply satisfied seeing how money and investments can transform a landmark or a building. We also wanted the experience to feel lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, capturing the essence of the Monopoly brand.
We are still evolving and experimenting with ways to make the game even deeper. We are looking forward to adding new game-play modes, features, boards and more. The journey is just getting started!
How did you embrace the mobile platform and tailor the game to take maximum advantage of the format?
Our goal with Monopoly GO! was to deliver the most accessible experience possible. We’re proud that the game can be played anytime and anywhere, from two minutes to two hours in a row, using only one hand. We also wanted to create a game where playing with friends is central to the experience - while making sure that players never have to wait around for friends to take turns.
One of our biggest challenges was making sure that the movement of the token and the camera felt as seamless as possible while reducing eye movement. We also put considerable effort into the roll experience, and we’re now proud to say that, while a lot of design and engineering went into it, it now looks and feels very natural.
Ultimately, we believe that paying attention to and optimising every detail helped us create a fully immersive Monopoly experience, which was critical to the success of the game.
What's your favourite part of GO!? Any aspects that are you particularly proud of, and what has made the game such a hit?
Community is baked into the DNA of Monopoly, and I’m most proud of the game’s social aspects that bring families and friends together (or spark heated rivalries!)
I feel that we are just at the beginning of delivering on the full promise of what Monopoly GO! can become.Massimo Maietti
For example, social is an integral part of the core loop, as players see their friends’ faces on the board and interact with them by charging rent or benefitting from their contribution to the Community Chest (which requires a minimum of five friends to unlock). We also created an off-platform Facebook trading group for stickers, which are beautiful collectable items found within the game and exchanged for rewards. This Facebook group is incredibly active today and has connected MONOPOLY fans around the world.
These communal features have been integral to the game’s success, and we are going to continue investing in creating deep and meaningful social experiences. This is an area where I think we will be able to bring interesting and compelling innovations to our community of players!
What next for you and your team?
I feel that we are just at the beginning of delivering on the full promise of what Monopoly GO!” can become. We are going to continue talking to our players, understanding their needs and further developing the game in partnership with our community.