It’s hard to imagine what the gaming industry would be like today without Japan’s influence.
As the country with one of the best-developed gaming industries in the world, Japan has made major contributions: from launching some of the most iconic games that are still being played today to inventing the Switch. Japan also started the arcade hype, with games such as Space Invaders and Pac Man, and the first console, Nintendo’s Famicom, came from Japan. Even games that are still being played today, such as Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda, started in Japan. Sonic the Hedgehog, the Nintendo Game Boy, and the PlayStation were invented in Japan.
Whether you’re a gamer or you simply love learning more about technology, Japan’s contribution to the industry is worth analyzing, and it could fill entire books. But when it comes to the casino industry, Japan’s contribution is much more understated. The country isn’t exactly known for its casinos, and many people assume that casino culture isn’t present in Japan. It is, though, but it’s different from what we have in the West. For example, Japan’s Pachinko parlors, which are the equivalent of slot machines, are a major phenomenon there, and in 2015, they generated more revenue than the casinos in Las Vegas, Singapore, and Macau combined.
For many years, the Eastern and Western casino industries grew parallel to each other, which is why when casino enthusiasts from the US visit Japan, they’re surprised to see how different gambling is there. However, recently, elements from Japanese casinos are making their way into the Western market, especially online casinos, and we’re beginning to see how the industry is changing.
A new take on slot machines
Slot games generate huge revenues for the casino industry. Players love them because they’re fun, they keep them on their toes, and, of course, you can win real money by playing them. For many years, slot games offered pretty much a variation of the same thing, so, as a downside, they could also get very repetitive. But, when operators started looking at Japan’s pachinko games for inspiration, things started to change. Slot games became more interesting, offering not only a wider variety of themes but also cool features that give a twist to the gameplay.
We’re already beginning to see some of these innovations in online casinos, together with other perks, such as bonuses and promotions. For example, LeoVegas, which is one of the most influential online operators, now offers a wide range of slot games and bonuses for players of all levels. LeoVegas withdrawal is also easy to do, and the casino has leveraged the power of new technologies to make the online platform more secure.
The Japanese pachinko industry has also influenced traditional slot games story-wise. Traditionally, slot games do not have a story; they’re quite linear, and apart from the possibility of hitting the jackpot, there aren’t a lot of things that kept the player engaged. Japanese games, however, are much more immersive and even feature RPG elements. For example, modern pachinko games have different modes, including rare ones that can only be unlocked once the player reaches a certain level. Japanese slot games often feature themes from movies and anime, such as the Evangelion games, which even have a mission mode.
Western casinos are starting to draw inspiration from Pachinko, and some of their features have already been incorporated into regular slot games, creating the perfect mix between storytelling and financial rewards. You can see for yourself how far the innovation in this field has come by visiting platforms like LeoVegas. The LeoVegas withdrawal limit is quite low, and you can access great bonuses and promotions all year round, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they received the Casino Operator of the Year award.
Fans of traditional computer games often cite simplicity as the reason why they don’t try out slot games but, as the lines between casino games and regular games are starting to be blurred, that could change. Many AAA titles have microtransactions, which many people consider to be gambling. If you log into GTA Online, you’re even able to gamble in a casino. Similarly, slot games, which have always been rather simple, now have story modes, co-op modes, and even RPG elements. You can fight enemy characters, level up, and as you win, you move the story forward. It’s a new take on casino games, and the fact that you can also make money from it makes it even more interesting. Even without the features inspired by Pachinko, Japan has still influenced the Western casino industry. Titles like Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Naruto, and other anime were big hits, and just about every casino has slot games with these themes.
New future opportunities: AI and VR
It’s been a slow year for physical casinos but, online, the industry has continued to thrive, and innovations such as AI and VR have made their way into the gambling sphere. While not quite mainstream yet, VR has received a lot of positive user feedback because it makes the experience even more engaging and exciting. Plus, as more and more people are moving from brick-and-mortar casinos to online casinos, VR could make the transition smoother. VR got off to a slow start, but the number of people who own a VR headset is growing, so we could be seeing more operators explore its opportunities in the future.
As for AI, Japan was one of the first countries to ever implement it into casino platforms, and now every respectable platform has AI-powered features. This might not be too obvious on the users’ side of things, but AI is used to analyze player behavior and develop better games. Security-wise, AI is used to spot suspicious user behavior, kick out cheaters from online casinos, and reduce the risk of cyberattacks.