Do not pass Go if you want to remain unspoiled.

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In what is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon in the heavily merchandised world of modern Hollywood, it appears that a licensed product has spoiled the plot of the upcoming content it was designed to promote. In this case, it’s Stranger Things, whose fourth season is set to premiere on Netflix at the end of the month after a three year break between new episodes.

After all that time of protecting the plot of Season 4, it appears that at least some spoilers are revealed by, of all things, a Stranger Things version of Monopoly that is currently on shelves at some retailers. Someone who purchased the game posted photos online, and The Hollywood Reporter claims that the fact that details of the upcoming season were somehow included in the game has caused a lot of behind-the-scenes consternation:

Netflix wasn’t happy about the mishap. But they weren’t nearly as displeased as the show’s creators, The Duffer Brothers, who sources say weren’t consulted about the game. Matt and Ross Duffer have long valued maintaining story secrecy and were said to have had a ‘total meltdown’ about the mishap.

THR speculates that moving forward, “lessons have been learned” and you likely won’t see this sort of snafu again, at least from Stranger Things.

It’s bound to keep happening elsewhere though. It takes a long time to bring a toy to the market, and since cross-promotional merchandise needs to be manufactured long before a show or movie is finished so that it can be sitting on shelves when said show or movie gets released, that can cause inadvertent spoilers when the timing of either the content or the merch gets thrown off. In the age of Covid, that is an increasingly common situation. To name just one recent example, none of Marvel’s teasers have shown an image of Christian Bale’s villain from Thor: Love and Thunder yet, but the figure based on his toy is already available in stores. If the movie had come out when it was first intended (either in November of last year or February of this year, as was previously planned) it wouldn’t be an issue.

The only way to ensure no spoilers are leaked through merchandise is to have no merchandise at all. That’s why there were no Baby Yoda toys for about a year after the character debuted on The Mandalorian, and that’s why there were no figures of Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man on shelves around No Way Home. Hasbro is making them now, but they won’t be available until 2023 — which gives you a sense of how long these things take to make, and why so often plot details get ruined by them. But having no merchandise at all means making a lot less money, something Hollywood studios are understandably hesitant to do.

Stranger Things 4 premieres on Netflix on May 27. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, just play your regular Monopoly set until then.

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