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New board game lets you spend millions to make millions By Andrew Mitchell If you think your money troubles are bad now, wait until you smash up your Rolls and have to give $50,000 to the player on your left. You'll wish you never left Hawaii in the first place. Spendit! is the new board game and dot-com from Vancouver entrepreneur Mike Olson that starts you off in Hawaii with a cool $20 million and a Leer jet. The object is to travel the world, make investments, stick it to your competitors and return home first with more money than anyone else at the table. "The first rule of entrepreneurship is that you have to spend money to make money," says Olson. He should know — to date Olson has invested more than five years and $250,000 on Spendit!, as have his business partners, in the hope that his board game and web site will take off in the coming year. He is banking on the idea that everybody dreams of being a millionaire. And on long Canadian winters. And on the fact that board games and family nights are making a comeback. "Just look at the size of the games area at Toys 'R Us," says Olson. "It just keeps on getting bigger. When winter comes we head indoors. And every family has good experiences coming out of the game closet." Olson has chosen Whistler to be the Spendit! test marketing site. Copies of the game are available at Great Games & Toys in Marketplace and a promotion is in place with Subway and Pepsi where you can win free drinks, free sandwiches and the grand prize: a one-year subscription to Lotto 649 tickets. Why test market in Whistler? "We chose Whistler because it's one of the key affluent markets in B.C.," says Olson. "And because of the incredible numbers of international travellers who pass through here. These are people who really know how to spend it." Olson originally wanted Spendit! to be an interactive CD-ROM game, but says that the $500,000 price tag was too much. Then he hit upon the idea of making Spendit! into a board game, something that the whole family could enjoy. "Think of the board as the hardware, and the dice and the cards as the software. The interactivity happens between you and your opponents, rather than between you and a computer." To help promote the game — and give players a venue to explore the notion of being worth $20 million — Olson recently launched the Spendit! website. Among its contents are a magazine of affluent lifestyles, a library of more than 160 links to such big money sites as Porsche and Armani, and a shopping spree section where you're given $20 million Spendit! dollars to buy anything you want. A database will analyze and compare your choices with those of other users. "It's virtual dreaming at its best," says Olson. In the future, Olson hopes that the information gathered from users can be used as a sociological study and to create a consumer spending index that can track and predict trends based on peoples' dreams — what they would buy if they had enough money. Today, however, Olson considers himself to be just another dreamer. "I'm not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but if I were to make a lot of money, I doubt it would change my lifestyle all that much. I might fly first class a little more often..." "I got the idea for Spendit! from a friend of mine who was telling me about a $500 wine glass. I wondered 'Who buys a $500 wine glass?' Then I found out that it's from this famous crystal family in Switzerland, and that they break 10 glasses just to get one right. I caught on to the idea that wealth is about appreciating the finer things in life. Money alone doesn't make you rich. It's how you spend it."