Why this popular card game remains relevant 52 years after its launch

LOS ANGELES — “Place your order.” As you read those words, another deck of Uno was sold.

This beloved family card game has been around for 52 years, but it may be more popular than ever. Almost everyone has played this game, and by some accounts, it's the best-selling game in the world.

One Uno was sold nearly every second in the United States last year, according to its publisher Mattel. This equates to 60 Uno decks per minute – up from 17 decks per minute in 2021.

Its popularity is due to the game's broad appeal, said Michelle Parnett-Dwyer, director of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

“Kids can play with adults and not get beat, and adults can play with them and still have a good time,” she said. “The gameplay is simple and easy to understand, and the action is very fast when playing a game.”

There are over 600 versions of Uno, but the core mechanics of the game remain essentially the same with each new version. Players grab a handful of cards and take turns trying to discard them; the first player to discard all their cards wins.

A player may put down a card if it matches the color or number of the previous card at the top of the game pile. Alternatively, to change the situation, a player can put down an action card – asking the next player to draw more cards or skip a turn.

Uno frequently makes cameos in pop culture. The game has appeared in many celebrities' social media posts, from Joe Jonas to Kylie Jenner.

The game was recently featured in an episode of the TV series Hacks, where protagonist Deborah Vance plays poker with some old friends in Las Vegas, only to discover that instead of playing poker, they're playing Uno . In 2021, Mattel announced that it will produce a live-action heist comedy movie based on Uno, starring rapper Lil Yachty.

Uno’s shelf life

Uno was founded in 1971 by Merle Robbins, a barber from Ohio. Robbins and his wife printed 5,000 copies of the game and sold them at campgrounds across the United States. The game became popular in the 1980s after Robbins sold the rights to the game. Then, in 1992, Mattel acquired it.

Uno seems to be one of those games that has remained popular for generations. It's often found in the background of people's homes—stacked on shelves with other board and card games or stored away in drawers, ready for game nights and camping trips.

The game is “relatively cheap and portable,” Parnett-Dwyer said. The cheapest version is available on Amazon for less than $6. This makes it easy to replace “a well-loved version with too many creases and bent edges” with a new deck, she said.

Uno currently leads the traditional gaming category, which includes all the games you'd find on the gaming aisle at Walmart or Target, including board games (except for trading cards like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Game! ) — according to retail tracking service Circana. It has received this title for two consecutive years globally and for three consecutive years in the United States.

The card game is now available in more than 80 countries. It comes in many versions, from Braille to nonpartisan versions, in which the usual red and blue cards are replaced with orange and purple to avoid association with American politics.

This year alone, Mattel has released 27 new Uno decks. These include the launch of Uno Fandom, a category that “celebrates fandoms large and small across television, movies, sports teams and pop culture,” Ray Adler, Mattel vice president and global head of games, told CNN . Designed to honor everything from Harry Potter to the NFL, these decks include special rules and collectible foil cards.

“The original Uno has lasting power because of its broad appeal,” Parnett-Dwyer said. “But different versions and variations definitely help attract new audiences and get kids excited for the first round.”

How Uno's new version affects the game's popularity

Adler said Mattel has long considered these new Uno versions to be “additive and non-cannibalistic,” meaning the new versions contribute to the overall growth of the game and don't harm existing products. Sale.

Mattel released a version called Show 'em No Mercy in October 2023, which was one of the biggest departures from Uno's traditional gameplay style. empty, while Mattel is still struggling to keep up with demand.

Show 'em No Mercy is the ultimate version of the game, featuring a host of new rules and new cards (56 more than the 108 in the traditional game). These include a “Draw 10” card and a rule: Once your hand reaches 25 cards, you are out.

It also allows for stacking, meaning players can put down multiple cards – yes, even draw 10 cards. Stacking is a hot topic at Uno, sparking a lot of debate both online and at real-life game nights because it's not an official rule. This issue has only been addressed in a few versions of the rulebook, such as Uno Attack Mega Hit.

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