Scientific Game

Pachinko: The Next Generation

KYORAKU is developing a form of the legendary Japanese arcade game especially for casinos  

Wednesday, 03 August 2011 17:40
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When casino operators think about Japan, it’s probably in terms of the chance to build and manage casino gaming resorts in that country. Now a Japanese games equipment maker is offering to sell an essentially Japanese game concept to casinos in the Asia Pacific region.

KYORAKU, one of biggest vendors of pachinko games in Japan, says it is developing a pachinko-style game for the overseas casino market. An early prototype of the game—using balls in a sealed cabinet rather than allowing the balls to be fed into the machine by hand as happens in Japan—was on display at G2E Asia this year. Other adaptations for the casino market are likely to include ticket-in-ticket out capability (pachinko machines in Japan use a swipe card system for storing play credit that is unique to that market).

Pachinko is hugely popular in the Land of the Rising Sun, generating a staggering Y21.1 trillion (US$254 billion) in revenue in 2009—the most recent available figures. But the game has not so far spread much beyond the borders of Japan and South Korea. And in South Korea the commercial pachinko market has in recent years effectively been regulated out of existence by the government. But Japanese and South Korean television series, film dramas and pop music do travel well in terms of regional appeal. Every week millions of Asian viewers tune in to TV soap operas and music shows produced by those countries. KYORAKU believes it can take advantage of this cultural phenomenon by theming pachinko-style games around such material. The prototype game on display at G2E Asia was themed around Winter Sonata, a hugely successful South Korean TV drama that also generated an anime [animated] series as a spin-off product.

KYORAKU says it’s likely to take several years of development and regulatory review before its new hybrid game is ready for casino markets. But the company is confident that players outside Japan will be fascinated and entertained by this pachinko-style gaming. And judging by the response of visitors to this year’s G2E Asia, KYORAKU’s new game has a great chance of success. The prototype attracted scores of visitors, with players lining up to have a go.

Inside Asian Gaming met Masanori Fujii, KYORAKU’S Overseas Manager, Contents Project Department, at G2E Asia, to find out more.

IAG: Most foreigners think of pachinko as a Japanese and Korean game. Why do you think pachinko will be successful in other markets?

Masanori Fujii: Making systems loved by pachinko fans is our principle. Our aim is to deliver pachinko systems with enhanced entertainment. But we’re also determined to continue our efforts to make pachinko a game loved by more and more people across the world.

How did the idea of a casino version of pachinko come about?

KYORAKU first brought a pachinko machine to Macau at G2E Asia 2010. It was similar to machines used in Japan—but a bit different, to appeal to the international audience. I think it was the first time, actually, that any company has demonstrated pachinko to international buyers.

There was very good feedback at the show last year so we said we would come to the show this year too. We decided therefore not to bring the exact same model to this year’s show. We brought a little bit of a hybrid game, to target more casino owners, and more casino players. This is the first result.

Which casino markets in Asia are you targeting?

The main target would be those Asia Pacific territories that already have casinos, such as in Australia, and then Singapore, but also here Macau. We’re trying to expand the market for our products.

Have you spoken to any casino regulators to find out their attitude to pachinko? Have you had any indications that it will be acceptable to the regulators?

In traditional pachinko, the cycle of the play before you win can take some time.

This newer version of pachinko is similar to casino slot machines in terms of the cycle of the play. Like slot machines, you play this version of pachinko and you have the chance to win right away. That’s our approach to target more casinos.

With this version of pachinko for casinos, will the ball actually come out of the machine or will the ball stay in the machine?

The advice from GLI [Gaming Laboratories International] and the other compliance testing companies is that casino players shouldn’t touch the actual pachinko balls, so we’re not going to be able to have a casino version where players can handle the pachinko balls.

We don’t want to reveal everything about our plans, because it’s going to be the great surprise for next year’s G2E Asia. But the idea is to introduce something different from the nail and ball pachinko system. The advice from GLI is nail and ball wouldn’t be allowed in casinos.

How many years will it be before we see your pachinko-type game in Asia Pacific casinos?

At least seven years. Seven years sounds long but it’s a realistic estimation. Why? Because there’s lots of regulation in the casino industry. It will take time to get all the approvals from the regulation side. But also in order to localise the game for each Asian market, we need to do significant research.

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