Pachinko

How a Japanese candy-catching game became a $200 billion industry

It’s funny how society often fashions the most surreal strategies to achieve its ends. The idea gives many examples, but one of the ones that always seemed craziest to me is that of pachinko and the gachapon.

Probably one of the most surprising self-deceptions Japan This is trying to avoid the laws against gambling and betting with something that clearly has more to do with gambling addiction than pure entertainment.

From a children’s hobby to a multi-million dollar industry

As surprising as it may seem, the origin of pachinko in fact, it is not in Japan . The invention first came from its creation in the France of Louis them until they achieved their goal, is also linked to the origin of what we would later come to know as pinball.

Exported to Japan in 1930, the idea was first adopted in the candy stores of Nagoya, where children had to play with these balls in an attempt to score them and win candy prizes.

However, the concept’s innocence didn’t last long, and it eventually grew into a multi-million dollar industry that today uses major franchises like those of Nintendo, Marvel or Star Wars to fill the buildings with pachinko machines which, in 1999, were more than 5% of gross domestic product from the country.

The rooms of pachinko called so – as it is generally the case in Japanese – because of the noise that the balls made when hitting these sticks, is a multi-million dollar industry which, although it seems to be in decline due to generational change , digitalization and new vices like porridge – another story for another day – continue to be a very important part of Japanese culture.

The trick behind the legality of pachinko

However, the surrealist part of self-delusion that we mentioned a few lines above comes precisely from an industry which, although it has entered 200 billion dollars per year -more than the cradles of gambling like Las Vegas-, it has in fact made a place for itself in a country where games and betting are completely illegal.

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Where is the thing? In this sense, as is the case today in recreational centers, the prices which are extracted directly from the pachinko These are not cash, but tokens which, once outside this same room, across the street and in an establishment managed by the same company that owns the machine room, you can exchange these tokens for more dubious prices.

It’s not just that the strategy is as rudimentary as it is obvious, it’s that the addiction to this type of machine, so common in Japan forces the companies behind these machines to play with strategies that alter the physics caused by ball collisions.

The idea is that those who have found a way to make a living with this vice do not take advantage of their prior knowledge of how much force you need to use to make the ball bounce the way you want and can make money as a result. The addition of sounds, images and slot machine mechanics completes a concept that, to anyone who has visited one of these rooms, seems more than questionable.