Pachinko Is Not Doing Well In Japan

Pachinko Is Not Doing Well In Japan
Pachinko has become a visible sight in Japan's urban landscape. But will that change? (Photo: Prisma by Dukas/Universal Images Group, Getty Images)

Japan’s pachinko industry, a bulwark in the country’s amusement industry, has been hit hard during the pandemic.

According to pachinko news site Green Belt, nearly 640 pachinko parlors closed in 2021. As of December 2021, there were 7,637 pachinko parlors affiliated with the Japan Amusement Business Cooperation.

This has also meant fewer machines in operation. Inside Asian Gaming reported in April 2021 that the number of installed pachinko machines was 3,608,838, which was a decrease of 226,145 machines from a year earlier.

Pachinko was first developed in the years before World War II. In the post war era, it exploded in popularity. Video game companies like Konami churned out pachisuro (“pachinko slot”) machines with characters from their iconic games like Metal Gear Solid. In pachinko, players try to win metal balls, which they can then trade in for prizes, which can then be resold at another shop just outside the parlor.

Obviously, Covid-19 has impacted Japan’s amusement industry. Lockdowns caused parlors to shutter temporarily. New variants, no doubt, have driven away customers. According to Shintaro Kamimura of Inside Asian Gaming, “The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened this trend with not only small to medium-sized halls closing but also major industry players.”

Sega Sammy Holdings, which was formed after Sega merged with pachinko company Sammy, has seen “extraordinary” financial losses during the pandemic and asked 650 of its employees to retire voluntarily. The impact is felt even outside the parlors. Late last week, Sega sold off the remaining shares of its non-pachinko arcade business.

But it’s not just the pandemic that has hurt pachinko. As Nico Nico News points out, smoking bans at pachinko parlors and the creation of small smoking rooms might have also driven customers, who smoke, away.

There are some bright spots, Nico Nico News notes. Ten new pachinko parlors opened in December, so perhaps the Japanese amusement industry is on the rebound. But is that enough to overcome the losses?

Comments

  • Not sure how i feel.
    These are classic of (more modern) japanese culture and there are some actually entertaining licensed units. But also the big companies who profit off gambling addicted people suck.

    Wasn’t there also a small amount of movement on making gambling less illegal (some casinos allowed to open?). Could impact pachinko as well.
    Though i suppose those casinos would have been as impacted by covid, so these current pachinko closures probably aren’t yet due to other gambling venues.

  • What an enormously one sided article. Pachinko is harmful in the same way pokies are harmful. Calling it an “amusement industry” and circumventing gambling laws by awarding tokenistic prizes that you exchange for cash next door doesn’t doesn’t change that. The collateral damage of this industry dying is worth the social outcomes that would eventuate. But as usual in these shitty times we live in, big industry (representing the wealthy minority) garners more sympathy than the harm suffering of vulnerable people.

    • Don’t hate the game, hate the players – namely the political parties in Australia who continue to guzzle up those sweet, sweet, gaming industry donations.

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