Man, was I ever excited when I saw that McDonald's Monopoly was back this year! I had a blast looking at the Roll Up the Rim stats last year, and hoped I could do the same for Monopoly this year.
AU Editor's Note: This story comes from our sister site Gizmodo US, where McDonald's Monopoly is in full swing. We have Monopoly here, but the pieces and prizes are obviously very different. Check out the list of rare pieces in Australia's 2014 edition right here. Does anyone have a Park Avenue I can borrow?
Then, I was pretty disappointed to realise that Business Insider had done their own analysis. I was all set to just read theirs contently, until I realised that they just copied and pasted their same article from the year before (hint: the prizes changed this year, dummies). So, yay — I get to do my own!
(By the way, a less fun breakdown of the stats is done in the official McDonald's rules, so feel free to check my sources as we go along). So how this all works is that whenever you buy certain food items (like a medium fountain drink, medium coffee, Big Mac, etc), you win two game stamps. Stamps either have a property, an instant win for food, or an instant win for some sort of other fancy prize. The breakdown for how this looks is approximately this:
A total of 1,303,683,256 stamps were printed. McDonalds' claim that one in four purchases will result in an instant win is bang on then, which is nice. The reasons these numbers may not line up 100 per cent (unfortunately) is that some of their prizes are listed for the U.S. only, and they haven't indicated the exact distribution for Canada.
So one quarter of the time you buy anything, you'll win something. That's kinda nice. I mean, chances are it will be medium fries (they're 50.2% of all food items, after all), but you could always hold out for that rare Royale with Cheese (you have a 2.2 per cent chance any given time you go!).
The other three quarters of the time, you'll get a property, and if you collect all in a property group, you win big! The problem is that McDonald's doesn't distribute their properties in an even manner, instead they distribute them in such a way as to give you hope. Each colour group has a handful of very common properties (typically a 1 in 11 chance of getting them for any purchase), and one property that's very nearly impossible to get.
How Many Times You'd Need To Play To Have A Reasonable Chance
For instance, McDonald's has printed off approximately 60,670,043 Baltic Avenue stamps, so the chance of getting at least one any time you play (remember, 2 stamps per play) is 9.09 per cent. Those are pretty good odds - it won't take you very long to get yourself a Baltic Avenue stamp. They only printed off 1,000 Mediterranean Avenues though - so your odds of getting one of those any time you play are only 0.00015 per cent. A wee bit tougher - and don't forget, that's only for the cheapest property prize ($50).
Similarly to how I looked at Roll up the Rim, we can take a look at just how many times you'd need to play Monopoly to have a reasonable chance (>50 per cent) of winning any given prize. The average price of eligible McDonald's items ranges from $US1.00 (hash browns) to $US4.49 (Bacon Clubhouse), but I'll use the average of all eligible items as $US3.17 for calculations (because who wants to eat millions of hash browns?). If we start with the properties, we'd get:
Mediterranean Avenue Need at least 451,666 plays to have a shot at getting... a $50 gift certificate! In the process you'll likely win about $US170,000 worth of prizes, but it will result in a net loss of $US1,300,000. Maybe not worth it.
Vermont Avenue Need at least 112,955,548 plays, but you just might win gas for a year! Never mind the net loss of $US316,000,000.
Virginia Avenue Better get ready for 90,364,438 hash browns (or equivalent), for your very own chance at $5,000! Fortunately, by that point you'll likely have had 4 million each of the other two properties for that group, so you're good to go!
Tennessee Avenue Pretty easy with only 1,895,651 plays needed, and you just might get a Samsung Galaxy! Fun fact: the caloric value of 1,895,651 hash browns is enough to feed you for about 415 years in a row.
Kentucky Avenue Enjoy the necessary 22,591,110 plays you're likely going to need to win your very own 5-night Delta Vacation for Two! If you got that in medium fountain drinks, it would fill five and a half Olympic swimming pools (everyone's favourite measurement of volume).
Ventnor Avenue Another relatively easy one - only about 6,024,296 plays for a 50 per cent shot at nabbing a Beaches Resort Vacation for your family! If you bought all your plays with bacon clubhouse sandwiches, that would only cost you about $US27,049,089, which is actually a pretty good deal (sarcasm).
Pennsylvania Avenue A bit tougher, but it will take about 225,911,096 tries for a reasonable chance at a trip in a Cessna private jet! You might think that's tricky, but wait until you put effort towards:
Approximately 451,822,158 plays needed, but you'd have a glorious chance at nabbing
A MILLION DOLLARS $817,572*! Even at the lowest rate of $US1.00 per play for hashbrowns, this effort would require your Monopoly opponents to land on your Boardwalk 225,911 times (in original Monopoly, assuming you had a hotel there).
The million dollar prize is misleading. Because it's paid out in $US50,000/year installments over 20 years, the present value of the money is much less than a million dollars once you take inflation into account.
Adding everything up, the total value of all prizes offered in Monopoly is $US488,423,499.28. With a total of 651,841,628 plays, that means that the expected return of any given play is about $US0.75. This may be pretty reasonable if you're buying $US1 hash browns (get a hash brown, plus an expected loss of only about 22 cents), but at an average eligible food item cost of $US3.17, the loss to McDonald's on each purchase is about $US2.42 or 64 per cent, giving it a worse house edge than Lotto 6/49.
So, much like Tim Horton's Roll Up the Rim (or any large promotions, for that matter), I wouldn't recommend McDonald's Monopoly from an investment point of view. If you're already out there gobbling up hash browns, carry on though!