Pachinko is easily one of Japan’s best-kept secrets as the game is only available in that country. This may lead to the assumption that the pachinko gaming industry is therefore a small scale operation – this couldn’t be more untrue.
The 90-year-old pachinko gaming industry makes approximately $200 billion in a year – more than what Macau and Las Vegas combined make each year. Pachinko forms a big part of the Japanese culture and even accounts for 4% of the country’s GDP. This figure is mind-blowing when you consider that the industry only operates in one country.
What is a Pachinko Machine?
These loud machines resemble challenging pinball games. To play the game, you need to throw a ball on to the board, having it bumping against the pins to change its direction. The aim is to get the ball to hit certain reward spots.
Originally, the game was played using a wooden board and metal balls and pins, however, the entire process has now gone digital
The Development of Pachinko
Back in the 1920s, a simple candy store game named Corinthian Bagatelle, or Pachi-Pachi” was every kid’s dream as it gave them the chance to win different kinds of candies. This game was imported to Nagoya around the same time.
Fast forward to the 1930s and the first pachinko parlour was established and continued to grow for the next few years. In 1936 the industry boomed and in the space of six months, around 35 parlours were opened in Kochi alone.
During the war in China as well as WWII, the parlours were closed. When they reopened, the industry continued to grow and take over the nation. By 1953, 387,664 parlours were registered.
As the years passed, the game evolved and with it, the parkours as well. While the number of registered parlours may have decreased, the existing businesses grew, and the revenue increased. In 1999, the industry reached its peak and contributed 5.6% to Japan’s GDP.
In recent years, these games are often sponsored by movies and created using characters from the film.
Navigating Japan’s Gambling Ban
In 1907, gambling was banned in Japan. To get around the ban, pachinko parlour owners found a loophole, the law stated that games offering money as a direct reward is considered gambling and is therefore banned.
The solution? Players were awarded tokens that could be exchanged for money ar a shop outside of the parlour.
Don’t Underestimate Pachinko
This growing industry continues to thrive in Japan – and only Japan! The popularity of this old game continues to soar, more so now that casinos have made the move to the online space.
While the game is yet to leave Japan’s borders, it has established itself as one of the gambling industry’s biggest powerhouses. We can only imagine how this simple game will thrive if it ever has the opportunity to cross borders and entertain gamers worldwide.