1964 - Origins of ACQUIRE Part II
The Origin of ACQUIRE
1964 – Sid’s Vacation is “Acquired” by 3M (Part II)
On June 3rd Sid wrote a letter to Bill Caruson in which he talks about his attempts at playing with the bonus for founding. He then tries to sell his next idea of stock options. “to give players the opportunity to fight their way back into the game…” “I then thought of another idea which eliminates the luck of the bonuses. It distributes an equal amount of stock to each player but eliminates the illogic of owning stock before chains are formed and, I believe, allows for the economies you desire. Use is made of a set of 25 “stock option” cards. These not need be more elaborate than those I am enclosing and I believe they would be inexpensive. The stock cards could, of course, be printed on a lighter stock and could be reduced in number – 20 for Continental up to 32 for Festival. The players are given an additional $2000 in money (For a total of $8,000 – 5 each of $1000, $500, $100) at the start of the game. The stock option cards are shuffled and dealt out equally. If other than 5 are playing there is one card unused. This is placed aside without divulging the chain. Players also keep the identity of their stock option cards secret until used.At the time in a players turn when he is purchasing stock he may, in addition exercise one of his stock options by surrendering his card to the banker and purchase two blocks at the prevailing price. A chain must, of course, be on the board before stock can be bought in it. Since the secret stock option cards introduce an element of uncertainty in themselves, we do not keep the number of stock cards owned secret. For players who have difficulty maintaining a neat pile, this is a welcome change. This method of playing has tested out perfectly in many games and I believe overcomes all the drawbacks of the other versions. I am very anxious to hear your opinion.”
Sid’s efforts were an attempt to try and keep the mystery and strategy in the game and minimize the luck. Yet one idea he was proposing caused more luck and he states that the idea of stock options “eliminates the luck of the bonuses.” If stock options are created to eliminate the luck of the bonuses, then why create the bonuses? Things were moving so fast that thinking was not at it clearest moments. Sid was trying to fix the changes made by 3M by using the method of addition by addition. This was a classic example of a need for addition by subtraction. Since 3M had eliminated the distribution of stocks before game play, then they also needed to eliminate the 2 for 1 trade during game play. Sid’s original idea needed to balance out. If one illogical rule is erased from the original idea, then the other needs to be eliminated to preserve the greatness of the original idea.
In this same letter of June 3rd Sid tried to erase the illogical thinking of giving free shares before opening, but still keep the semblance of mystery and balance, by replacing them with stock options. Since these stock options weren’t going to be free, he decided to give each player more money at the beginning to help pay for those stock options. Yet his method still called for the “shuffle” of the stock options. He tried to sell the idea of keeping the shuffle by claiming they could be printed on cheaper material. 3M already had their mind set on not shuffling any cards because they ultimately didn’t want to pay for the wax coating on the cards. This meant that no matter how hard Sid tried to sell his idea of stock options, 3M wasn’t listening. Well, they did ultimately listen to some of his ideas.
Sid still fights to sway them in this same letter by suggesting chipboard tiles instead of the wood tiles that were used by 3M. “In the interest of economy, have you seriously considered using pressed board, or even cardboard, for the tiles and reintroducing racks to hold them.” Sid then proceeds to make a pitch for tile racks even if they don’t change to chipboard tiles. It is interesting that he is trying to make a pitch to save his stock options, by reducing the costs of the tiles, but then suggests another production cost for racks that wipes out the savings of the tiles. 3M’s economy was based on the fact that the same wood tiles could be used in three different games. Sid’s world map idea needed to fit into their idea of mass production.
This letter was written to Caruson on June 3rd. From that point, there was only one entry in the diary about an advertisement for ACQUIRE and no correspondence with 3M until July 30th. This was a span of almost two months. Sid never wrote about it but he must have been on pins and needles. Especially after the 2nd quarter report came out on July 20th. It showed that sales of ACQUIRE had fallen to $191.72 with Sid’s 5% at $9.59. This figure seems almost impossible after 3 months of sales in large department stores, even if it was only in eight major cities. It tends to imply that either 3M was manipulating the figures or they had seriously under stocked the inventory in stores. This thinking is further amplified after the third quarter figures are released. If Sid was disappointed in January with December’s sales, imagine how he must have been feeling at this point.
On July 30th, Caruson sent a letter to Sid. “I must apologize for not acknowledging your letter of June 3 in which you forwarded several suggested changes for ACQUIRE. The only reason I have not done so until now is that we wanted to try your ideas out on test panels, who have been playing games for us all summer. You will be happy to learn that the over-all reaction of these groups, as far as ACQUIRE is concerned, is that it is one of the best games they have ever played. This has also been confirmed by the consumer reports we have received from people who have actually purchased ACQUIRE. Quite frankly, the basic concept of your game is so sound it doesn’t seem to make too much difference what we do to change the rules to make the game more interesting. However, after much play of several different versions, we have arrived at what we think, and what we are sure you will think, is a real good game. Incidentally, this is not much different than your original game concept.”
3M had decided on the final version of Sid’s idea and they were sending him the set of rules. They settled on their choice, with no communication with Sid, yet they were convinced Sid would like their decision also. What choice did Sid have at this point? There were no choices addressed in this letter because “it doesn’t seem to make too much difference what we do to change the rules to make the game more interesting.”This is the version they were going to market. Sid’s vision of “Vacation” is now their version of “ACQUIRE.”
The majority of the letter focuses on the rules themselves. Sid had disliked the fact that the rules kept getting condensed and now they were just fit onto a box lid. “Perhaps the following is superfluous, since I am not sure whether you intend to have additional material on the other side of the rules.” He then outlined points that he saw as needing more clarification. He felt that it should be stated when the player purchases their stock, either before or after they play their tile. He also felt it should be stated who initiates the 2 for 1 stock trade. Since it is such an illogical practice anyway, “there can be quite a squabble as to who is entitled to a limited number of shares that can be traded for if there is no order.” Sid suggested that the trade starts with the merge maker. Sid, still convinced that they can’t just have condensed rules for this game, ends the letter, “We believe (and this may be just what you have in mind) that it would be an excellent idea to have the rules, similar to the ones you sent to us, followed by an amplification of points liable to be misinterpreted, and concluding with some remarks on strategy.”
There was no correspondence for two and a half months. Then there was a letter from Caruson on October 16th. “Under separate cover we are sending you a sample of the new ACQUIRE, which is from our latest production run. To date the national introduction of our game line looks very encouraging, but I am sure it will be several years before it is going in full tilt.” It would be interesting to know when the game of ACQUIRE actually reached “full tilt.”
This next diary entry on October 20 is a very interesting insight into Sid Sackson. “(Received) check for $818.59 for 3rd quarter from 3M for ACQUIRE.” This is the first diary entry by Sid since January that references his payments from 3M. In January he stated that he was disappointed with the statement. Yet he received $51.49 for only one month of sales. The entire first quarter of 1964 he only received $57.37 for three months. Then the second quarter of 1964 completely plummeted to a 5% royalty of $9.59 for three months of sales. Now Sid receives a check for the third quarter of 1964 for $818.59, or the equivalent of $6,700 in today’s dollars, and all he does is write a matter of fact sentence in his diary.
On October 31st Sid writes in his diary, “Played ACQUIRE (new rules) with Renee & Jack Clark. Worked well. Renee won.” Then on November 6th Sid wrote a letter to Caruson. “Unfortunately, Alice tells me she has jumped the gun. I spoke to her after only one game, a most unhappy one. It was a three-handed game in which all three player ran out of money early in the game. Then my son managed a good size bonus and was able to run up an unbeatable lead in all the chains before my wife and I could obtain enough money to start competing effectively again. With the addition of the points I covered in my last letter the rules are now, I must admit, remarkably complete, concise, and clear.”
It has to be wondered if Sid is being facetious in his comment about the rules. Considering 3M produced the rules as “bare bones” as they can, and they only fixed one out of three of Sid’s request, they are not as Sid says, ”remarkably complete, concise, and clear."
This letter reveals the need for a rule of strategy that should have been added in the final production of ACQUIRE. This is the time in the game that makes trading of stocks necessary. The inevitability of a player running out of money is the normal course for the game of ACQUIRE. It is at this point that a player needs a way to stay in the game or they might as well just “fold.” To make this game more exiting and competitive, players need a way to generate money when they have none. If the 2 for 1 method of trading stocks had been eliminated, then players could be allowed to trade stocks when they are out of money in order to obtain the three shares of stock they desire on their turn. The rule would allow the game of ACQUIRE to better utilize logical thinking. In the stock market, if a person has invested in a company that they no longer wish to retain ownership in, they can sell those stocks. This allows the investor to speculate and profit off of companies that grow quickly by purchasing the stocks when they are at a low price and selling them when they are at a higher price or just getting their money back to invest elsewhere. If this rule had been adopted in the game of ACQUIRE players would not be tasked with the threat of being stuck with stocks that do not benefit their quest to win the game and it allows them to try and stay in the game while other players have money.
The last diary entry in 1964 concerning ACQUIRE reads, “Looked at Gimbels. Had a lot of ACQUIRE and salesman said it was doing well.” The fourth quarter report for 1964 shows sales of $57,419.56 with Sid’s 5% at $2,870.98, or in today’s money, $23,578.50. The game of ACQUIRE was “doing well.”