The Origin of the Game of ACQUIRE - Part V: February 1964
The rapid progression that was happening at 3M became evident when Larry Winters, the designer of the game AUCTION BLOCK, received six copies of ACQUIRE a few days later by mistake that were heavily damaged. He brought them over to Sid’s house on the 7th of February. Sid sorted through them the next day and was able to make five complete games.
By the 12th of February, 3M had sent Sid six more good copies. These games were different variants of the game. 3M was testing many different versions and wanted Sid to try them out and offer his feedback.
On February 21st, Sid received a letter from Caruson. This letter covered many different aspects about 3M’s desire to make changes to the game. It also illustrated how fast things were moving at 3M since the games had arrived to Bill Winters over a month before, yet it is not until now Caruson is telling Sid the reason for them.
“I have recently tried many variations of the game; and I would like to have you try them out, if you have not already done so, and give me your thinking on some possible changes.”
This letter finally explains the reason for sending six games to Sid. This is also where the idea to not distribute stock at the beginning of the game is introduced.
“At the beginning of the game do not distribute any stock. Realistically, in investing money in any venture that has not been developed yet, you would not possess any stock. Instead distribute an additional $3,000 to each player.”
Then the letter took a turn into the corporate world of thinking. The next suggestion for the game that Caruson offered was a classic view from the top.
“Permit any player during his turn to buy as much stock as is available in any established chain that he wants.”
Caruson goes on to say, “The game takes on an entirely different complexion and in my estimation becomes a better game in the sense that it is a real struggle for bigness and power.”
This letter addressed another aspect of the game that was sometimes, but not always, clarified in the rules of later editions of the game.
“Also, in order to give the game a faster start, we have the tiles that are turned over to designate who goes first actually placed on the board.”
Mr. Caruson also explains another reason why he does not want to distribute stock at the beginning of the game.
“I am proposing these changes would be to permit us to print the stock certificates on lighter weight material, since shuffling at the beginning of the game would no longer be a factor. This is almost going to be a must if we are able to produce the game profitably.”
This introduction of “lighter weight material” into the game of ACQUIRE didn’t come to fruition until the 1966 production runs. It was not a good decision. It seemed that the games produced in 1966, with stock certificates that didn’t have wax coating, were a factory error. This letter suggests that it was a corporate decision to try and save money. This move by 3M severely cheapened the game of ACQUIRE with those production runs. Just because 3M eliminated the idea that the cards would be shuffled and dealt out doesn’t mean the remaining cards weren’t going to be handled continuously and wear out quickly. It is an age old trade off in business: Do you make cuts in production costs hoping to maintain, or increase, sales with an inferior product?
Three days later on February 24th Sid wrote in his diary, “They want to make changes to ACQUIRE to eliminate dealing shares at the start so that paper can be used instead of cardboard. They want to allow purchase of as many shares as you wish on a turn. This is horrible. I was thinking of having 25 “stock option” cards which are dealt out at the beginning, instead of shares.”
The next day, on the 25th, Alice from I/S called saying she had received a letter from 3M and Sid wrote in his diary, “They are continuing with the game…told her of yesterday’s letter. Prepared a rough set of “stock options” cards for ACQUIRE.”
3M had allowed Sid to linger for over a month wondering if they were going to continue with his idea. 3M knew they were going to continue; they just used this month to make Sid sweat and to gain leverage on their ability to further change his original ideas without his opposition. Yet still he held steadfast in his idea to keep mystery in the game with his attempt to make stock options. It was his concession for losing the shuffle and distribution of cards at the beginning of the game. He wanted to keep his creativity and balance in the game.
By February 29th, Sid was tirelessly attempting numerous versions of ACQUIRE as he wrote in his diary, “Played ACQUIRE with BB, Dana, & Dale with unlimited stock purchases. No good. Then the 4 of us played with a bonus of 2 shares for starting a chain. (See 3M correspondence.) Good. Played without Dale. Then in evening 5 hand with Phil, Annette, & Dana. All worked well.”
BB is Sid’s wife. Dana is Sid’s son; Dale is his daughter. The dedication of this family to Sid’s dream was very admirable. This was something that could become enormous for this family.