4 Lessons McDonald’s MONOPOLY Teaches about Learning Games

By: Erin Krebs

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Anybody out there a closet McDonald’s® MONOPOLY™ player?

I’ve been out of the Midwest for several years now, but nothing beats a fresh brewed iced tea and a good one is hard to find on the West coast. While I’m not a big McDonald’s fan for a variety of reasons, come MONOPOLY season, there is no other place I’d rather buy my large unsweetened iced tea.

Like them or not, it’s interesting to take a look at what makes McDonald’s MONOPOLY so effective, and as learning game designers, what can we learn from this popular game?

#1 – Keep the game simple. We are all busy and have demands on our time. Your average learner does not have time to learn the rules of a complicated learning game, and then apply them. One thing that McDonald’s does brilliantly is keep the game very simple for consumers to understand. Want to play? Buy some fries. It’s as simple as that.

#2 – There are rewards aplenty. One out of four players in McDonald’s Monopoly is a winner of some kind. Everyone else receives a MONOPOLY playing piece to use on their game board. This means every time you make one move in the game, you have something to show for it, whether it’s Baltic Avenue or a chicken sandwich.

#3 – Have a clear start and end. The fact that McDonald’s only runs its game a few weeks out of the year creates a sense of urgency among players. Better hop on over to my local Mickey D’s™ ASAP and buy that large iced tea, so I can win a game piece (which I will most likely not keep) because this is a limited time offer! By having a clear start and end point to your game, learners have a sense of urgency to quickly become involved in the learning game.

#4 – Keep it fresh. Just like their French fries, McDonald’s knows things are better served up fresh. This is why each year, while the general theme of the McDonald’s game is consistent, how players win prizes changes. Each year game pieces have new values, and new prizes are added. Investing in building learning games can be easy (think homemade trivia for instructor-led training) or complex (3-D character-based simulation games). In particular where there is a large financial investment made, it’s important to develop a learning game you can refresh year after year, perhaps by re-skinning or re-populating with new data, which provides a fresh experience for learners. Work with your vendor partner early on when developing the learning game to ensure it has a shelf-life that lasts as long as you need it to. (Extended shelf life = enhanced ROI.)

It’s a good thing it takes me 30 minutes to get to the nearest McDonald’s, because I am seriously craving some fries and an iced tea right now!

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