McDonald's Game Gamble

Calling all lottery junkies and those who dream of winning big against very bad odds.

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , knowing full well how the lure of free stuff can bring customers in droves, is resurrecting an old promotion based on the classic board game Monopoly, offering customers the chance to win food prizes, cash, cars, and electronics from Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) .

First off, let's just say Mickey D's is pulling all the stops to keep its momentum going as a turnaround story. But with great ideas on the menu like reformulated McNuggets for a different kind of consumer, not to mention a health-focused adult Happy Meal, why rehash this old promotion, based on an even older board game? (Monopoly first hit the scene way back in 1935.)

And don't think for a minute that the media's letting anyone forget what happened during McDonald's last Monopoly game, when a Simon Marketing employee was sentenced for running off with winning game pieces and millions in cash and prizes.

Do not pass Go, go directly to jail!

Yes, McDonald's has worked to improve the security of its games, but memories of that last Monopoly fiasco may not rally that winning feeling from consumers. After all, who wants to be reminded of those childhood days when the banker invariably miscounted the funny money and ruined your chances for a hotel on Park Place?

To be fair, there are some appealing angles here. Electronic gadgets are hot with consumers, so the prizes redeemable at Best Buy could be a great hook. And if the game delivers the goodies, with more winning game pieces and better odds than in the past, maybe it could reel in interest despite the redundancy and stigma.

Either way, the promotion only runs from October 14 through November 10, so McDonald's hopes customers will line up fast, foregoing competitors like Burger King and Wendy's (NYSE: WEN  ) . But will Monopoly be a game people will go out of their way to play again... and again? Guess that's why they play the games.

Alyce Lomax, who never wins anything, welcomes your feedback at alomax@fool.com.


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