No coins? No problem. Two of Japan’s largest video game arcades today announced the introduction of electronic money payments, set to go into effect before the end of the year.
Taito Station, one of the country’s leading arcade chains (instantly recognizable by its giant Space Invaders logo), will roll out emoney terminals at one of its locations in the Tokyo suburbs from May. According to Nikkei, the company will expand the service to 40 additional locations by March 2016, with all of its 100-plus arcades set to receive the upgrades at some point in the future.
This will provide a high-tech alternative to coin payments, which have been in use since Japan’s first video game cabinets hit amusement spaces in 1973. It will cost Taito roughly JPY 1 billion (US$84 million) to put in place – and it’s not just for convenience’s sake. Because most games only accept 100 yen coins, arcades have struggled to recoup losses from Japan’s consumption tax hike last April, the first such increase in 17 years.
While most stores can simply raise prices by a few yen, arcades are forced to either keep prices as they are or double the cost to 200 yen per play. The addition of emoney terminals will allow Taito to raise prices in a more flexible way. Plus, the company aims to charge different prices at different times of day – kind of like Uber surge pricing for video games. Less popular games could also be discounted, with the most popular machines charging a premium.
Taito’s proposed emoney terminals will accept four of Japan’s most popular emoney options: Suica/Pasmo (transit passes), Edy (Rakuten), Waon (Aeon), and Nanaco (Seven & I Holdings). Each offers physical cards that can be recharged with cash, as well as companion apps for compatible phones with an NFC chip.
Sega is also planning to introduce emoney payments in July, with more than 150 of its arcades scheduled for the upgrade by next March. Japanese game developer Konami already offers its own rechargeable emoney card, called Paseli, but it only works with select Konami game machines.