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Monopoly GO! celebrates its first birthday and shares its behind-the-scenes story

And with a $3 billion revenue milestone in its sights, the world’s favourite board game-turned-mobile smash deserves a party
Monopoly GO! celebrates its first birthday and shares its behind-the-scenes story
  • “We’re beaming with pride about everything our fantastic team has accomplished from a seven-year journey to becoming a number one mobile game and beloved experience with MILLIONS of people playing EVERY DAY!"

Monopoly GO! Is one year old… already. After blazing a trail past $1 billion in earnings, then two billion in record time, the team have taken stock of their success and posted a celebration video on LinkedIn outlining the game’s story so far.

“We’re beaming with pride about everything our fantastic team has accomplished from a seven-year journey to becoming a number one mobile game and beloved experience with MILLIONS of people playing EVERY DAY!,” the Scopely team write. “To commemorate the passion and creativity our Scopeleans have poured into this game, we’re looking back on the adventure.”

Rolling the dice

“There’s an old saying that most overnight successes are actually a decade in the making and for Monopoly GO! I think that’s very much true. It’s been a long journey, thinking about this game to when we brought it to a global launch," says co-CEO Walter Driver.

For, what may be a surprise to some, is the fact that Monopoly GO! Is no flash in the pan or soft launch that got lucky. Scopely actually put the wheels of the game in motion and the team who built it together seven years ago, with the game taking six years to complete and reach the outside world.

“There’s an old saying that most overnight successes are actually a decade in the making and for Monopoly GO! I think that’s very much true.”
Walter Driver

In fact the team’s first attempt at a Monopoly-inspired game was a midcore experiment codenamed Boardwalk back in 2016. Jeff Liu, lead game designer who joined the team in 2018 to work on it, explains that “when I first joined Scopely our space was a few cubicle walls put up in the hallway on the way to the bathroom.”

But working with Massimo Maietti SVP and GM of Monopoly GO! The game changed direction and took shape. “We made an OK game… Maybe a good game, but not the great game that the audience for Monopoly wanted so we decided to stop development on Boardwalk and we knew that we had to start from scratch,” says Maietti and with that the project flipped into a casual experiment codenamed Top Hat.

It’s worth noting that Maietti didn’t even want to join the team back when he was approached in 2016. He was very happy in his role as creative director at Zynga in San Francisco, “But Scopely were very insistent,” he explains. “I made a decision to visit them in person and tell them ‘no’ but I remember leaving their office and thinking, ‘oh no, I have to come here now, I have to change my life,’ because when you feel a connection and commitment to people you have to respond to the call.”

Taking a chance

And with Top Hat taking shape, chief technology officer Ankur Bulsara took up the next challenge. “How do you take a four to six hour game that happens in real life and translate that into a mobile first experience?” he pondered. “But [Top Hat] really laid the groundwork and gave our team the experience to make the property for the audience we were trying to serve.”

Thus, spurred on by internal success, Scopely bit the bullet and put together their Monopoly dream team, pulling in talent from Scopely, PierPlay, High Jump, GSN Games and later Genjoy to help build their dream. “I think we built one of the top casual studios in the world,” boasts Bulsara.

“I had to buy Monopoly to remind myself of the rules! But what I did remember was that there’s a real human quality with Monopoly and that made me feel that we had a shot at doing something big,” says director of product design Holly Grothues who joined the team in 2020.

Go directly to fail…

“Sometimes the game didn’t feel fun to play and that would have been the perfect place for the team to break down.”
Apel Keshishian

But it wasn't all plain sailing. “There were periods where the game was pretty unstable or buggy,” says Apel Keshishian, the game’s senior technical artist. “Sometimes the game didn’t feel fun to play and that would have been the perfect place for the team to break down, but it actually the opposite happened.

“If you like the game that you’re playing then you know you have an audience of one… and there’s a chance that other people will like the game too.”

“It took us a year to fall in love with this mechanic and gameplay,” continues Maietti. “We decided we didn’t want second prize, we decided to take more time and more risks and go for the first prize.” “We had a soft launch and we had high retention metrics and at that point we said ‘ok, we have a great game’, let’s play,” adds Dudu Dahan, president of games for Scopely's casual division.

Pass go… Collect $200…

“We hit our first million dollar day… then five million dollars, then these crazy numbers that we never would have expected,” remembers Dan Wilkins, lead software engineer.

And the rest is history: Over 150 million downloads. Over 10 million players every day. The biggest casual mobile game launch ever. And a game that’s on its way to earning $3 billion and beyond.

“I’m enormously proud of Monopoly GO! as one of the largest game launches of all time. I think everybody at Scopely should be enormously proud of the result. We’ve always thought of Scopely as a ‘journey’ company, not a ‘destination’ company, and I think Monopoly GO! Is a great testament to that” says Walter Driver. But perhaps the last word on the team’s success and game’s intention for where to go next really falls to Massimo Maietti to push home: “I don’t think we’re ‘great’ yet. We still have a lot of iterating to do.”

For a deeper dive on the game check out our deconstruction analysis here.