Monty Plays Monopoly
Cover of the Radio Shack version of Monty Plays Monopoly
- The original 19801 version by Ritam Corporation of Fairfield, Iowa, which was available for the 16K cassette and 32K disk Model I. This version was distributed by Personal Software. (Personal Software, later renamed VisiCorp, was better known for their VisiCalc spreadsheet.) Ritam also sold a version for the Apple II for both cassette and disk.
- Ritam Corporation also licensed Monty Plays Monopoly to Tandy Corporation. This version (catalog number 26-1952) cost $34.95 and seems to have been released in 1982. It was only available for the 32K disk Model III. This is the most common TRS-80 version.
Cover of the Ritam version of Monty Plays Monopoly
Unlike later Monopoly programs, Monty Plays Monopoly wasn’t designed to replace the board game but to supplement it. In fact, it requires “the board and all the equipment that comes with the game”, according to the manual. Monty Plays Monopoly does roll computerized dice, but it doesn’t display the Monopoly board on screen2, keep track of other player’s properties, or even the amount of money each player has. It is up to the human players to move their own tokens on the physical board and act as their own bank, just as in an ordinary Monopoly game.
What Monty Plays Monopoly does provide is an additional player who is quite good at the game. As a 1980 review in SoftTalk put it: “You don’t play Monty – you play with him!”
The manual stated:
MONTY provides a new dimension to your enjoyment of the game. You will come to know him as simply another player, a bright, entertaining guest who provides real excitement.
The Monopoly board game requires two players at a minimum, so Monty Plays Monopoly allows a single person to play a game by themselves, something not normally possible.
Monty Plays Monopoly on the TRS-80 Model III
One curious detail about Monty Plays Monopoly is that it wasn’t officially licensed by Parker Brothers, the owner of the Monopoly trademark at the time. The manual identifies “Monopoly” as a trademark of Parker Brothers, Inc. and “Monty” as a trademark of Ritam Corporation but also contains this statement:
MONTY is not sponsored or endorsed by Parker Brothers, Inc.
Ritam Corporation had tried to obtain a license but Parker Brothers was surprisingly hostile to the idea of a computerized Monopoly game. Lacking a license, Ritam took a different approach, according to a 1983 article in Inc.:
The manner they devised was to have the machine act as a player of the game – not be the game itself. Hence “Monty Plays Monopoly” rather than, say, “Electronic Monopoly.”
According to that article, although Parker Brothers threatened Ritam Corporation with legal action, they never followed through with a lawsuit.3
Monty Plays Scrabble
Ritam Corporation’s next product was more successful: Monty Plays Scrabble, an adaptation of the Selchow & Richter game Scrabble. In addition to Apple II and TRS-80 versions, there were versions of the IBM PC and Commodore 64 and also as a handheld device. Unlike Parker Brothers, Selchow & Righter did allow Monty Plays Scrabble to be officially licensed.
Some say that the TRS-80 version dates to 1982, but Ritam released their TRS-80 version the same year as the Apple II version. (Although the Apple version was written first.) ↩︎
Contrary to some sources, the Apple II version didn’t display the game board either. The Apple II version was almost identical to the TRS-80 version except for slightly better graphics and color. ↩︎
Ritam also benefitted from the pending court case concerning the Anti-Monopoly board game. Starting in 1974, Parker Brothers sued economics professor Ralph Anspach, the creator of Anti-Monopoly, to stop sales of the game. Anpsach produced evidence disputing the “official” Parker Brothers history of Monopoly and showing that the game was in the public domain. He initially won in 1979 and the Monopoly trademark was declared generic and unenforceable. This was reversed on appeal in 1981 and reversed again in 1982. The Supreme Court refused to take the case in 1983, which left the Monopoly trademark unenforceable. Congress reversed the court decision in 1984 with the “Trademark Clarification Act of 1984”, which made Monopoly into the valid trademark it is today. ↩︎