Update 5:29 p.m. [July 25]: I wanted to get to the bottom of this controversy (see below), so I e-mailed Hasbro's Nicole Agnello, a publicity manager at the company. We exchanged e-mails, and she assured me that the "jail" spaces are intact in Monopoly Empire:
The Monopoly Empire game has a different game play where players buy and sell brands, rather than real estate but there are still the traditional ‘go to jail’ spaces on the board.
I also asked her about a colleague's quote in The Wall Street Journal, wondering if it applied to any Monopoly game on the market. She wrote back:
The jail spaces have not been removed from any Monopoly games.
So there you have it. Jail spaces, according to the Hasbro people themselves, have not been removed from Monopoly games right now. The free world can rest easy. For now.
Update 4:34 p.m. [July 25]: There is perhaps hope for fans of Monopoly who believe in jail. Fast Company is reporting that an unnamed Hasbro employee is saying that the jail for Monopoly Empire, the alternative version of Monopoly featured by The Wall Street Journal, remains intact. "I just wanted to clarify that the Monopoly Empire game does have a jail space. It has not been removed from the game," the rep told Fast Company's Alice Truong. That runs counter to what spokesperson Julie Duffy told The Journal, which reported:
There is no longer a 'jail' for players to languish in while waiting for a lucky roll, says Hasbro spokeswoman Julie Duffy.
We don't know if Duffy is referring to a different set of rules or some other aspect of the game entirely. We're currently reaching out to Hasbro to get to the bottom of the jail mystery.
Original: Really, nothing is sacred anymore — not even Monopoly. Because kids' days are filled with obligations and organized activities, young children today are apparently busier than any of their predecessors in history, toy manufacturers like Hasbro are tailoring board games to make them faster to play.
"Hasbro's new Monopoly Empire, in which players compete to amass the most big-name brands, such as Coca-Cola Xbox and McDonald's, can be completed in as little as 30 minutes, compared with the hours that traditional Monopoly could take," reports The Wall Street Journal's Ann Zimmerman. Hasbro accomplished this depressing feat in part by removing the jail, which speeds up the pace and also removes a crucial safe zone in the latter stages of the game.
Monopoly isn't the only game adopting to changes changes in kids' time commitments. Scrabble, Zimmerman notes, has a fast and furious version of the game that can be completed in two minutes and 30 seconds. And there are speedy versions of Boggle and Rubik's Cubes on the market, too. These are all designed to fit into the pockets of time allotted to kids these days in between gymnastics classes, test prep courses, and whatever else they're signed up for.
But at the heart of it, these "fast" games undermine the whole notion of board games, which are supposed to encourage bonding and silly fights about whether the "bank" is stealing money or if "knifes" counts as a word. Winning as quickly as possible was never the issue. At least not until recently.