TOKYO -- Video game arcades will offer electronic money payment options starting this year, shifting away from a long tradition of coin-operated games in a search for more flexible pricing.
Physical currency has been the coin of the realm since the first Japanese arcades appeared in 1973. But now, as operators struggle to pass on the April 2014 consumption tax hike to players, e-money offers the promise of adjusting prices in increments as small as 1 yen.
Taito will introduce e-money payment at a Chiba Prefecture arcade in May, with plans to expand to 40 directly run locations by March 2016 and eventually all 100-plus of its arcades. Investment will likely total just over 1 billion yen ($8.25 million).
The idea is to raise profitability by cutting prices in the morning, when customer traffic tends to slow, and setting higher prices for popular games, for example.
Customers will choose between paying with coins and e-money. The system will accept e-money cards of transit providers and retailers including JR East's Suica, Seven & i Holdings' nanaco, Aeon's Waon and Rakuten's Edy.
Sega will start using e-money as early as July, aiming to expand it to 150 locations by the end of March next year.
Konami is working to launch its Paseli e-money as early as summer. Lacking its own network of arcades, the company will market the system to operators. Card readers could also be installed on competitors' units, earning Konami commission income. Gamers could make payments and track play histories in a single card, as well as earn reward points.