play: Game of Life really does take Visa
By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
March 8, 2007
In a move already being condemned by children's advocates
and credit counseling experts, Visa and Hasbro (HAS) on
Thursday will announce plans to make the Visa card an
integral part of Hasbro's newest version of the board
game, The Game of Life: Twist & Turns Edition.
This summer, "plastic" will replace cash in the new
edition of the nation's second-most-popular board game.
Last year, in Europe, Visa replaced money in a Monopoly
Behind the move: the supercharged growth of co-branding.
Marketers get big bang for their ad bucks by hitching
their names to other big brands. Co-branding can be very
effective with children's products, so credit card firms
have put their names on things from video games to
"Barbie" cash registers.
Under the two-year deal, no cash — just public relations —
"This is a way to help families talk about the ways people
pay," says Susanne Lyons, chief marketing officer at Visa
USA. "Rather than hiding the fact that kids are exposed to
money at a very early age, the right exposure at the right
age is very important."
Critics are howling. "The credit card companies have
already saturated the teen market, so they're going
younger," says Susan Linn, co-founder of Campaign for a
"Children need an understanding that five ones is a five,"
says Robert Manning, author of Credit Card Nation. "The
credit card confounds everything."
Visa and Hasbro say the game is educational and the combo
a perfect branding fit, considering the credit card's
slogan: Life takes Visa. "Visa is an opportunity for Mom
or Dad to talk to kids about managing money, and that debt
isn't a positive thing," says Hasbro marketing chief Matt
In the new version, the winner is not the person with the
most money, but the one who earns the most "life points" —
a mix of wealth and life experiences, he says. Instead of
cash, each player holds a colored Visa card. They're the
size of real cards, but numbers and letters are printed,
not embossed. Cards aren't swiped, but placed in an
electronic device that stores player data. Players can go
into debt on the card.
The customer name on each card: "Milton Bradley," the
company (now part of Hasbro) that created the game 47
years ago. A disclaimer on each card notes: "For amusement
The new game sells for up to $34.99. The original goes for
If this game with Visa is a hit, others likely will
follow, says Jim Silver, editor in chief of Toy Wishes, a
consumer magazine. "Certain kids will love the fact that
they can get a credit card."
But, he muses, "I wonder if it will make cheating harder —
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