Retro Coin Op Synopsis
There might not have been a Fonzie staring down at you while you played, but Pachinko was a relative of pinball nevertheless. It is believed to have descended from the “Corinth Game” in Chicago, but was definitely around in Japan in the early 1920’s—with plywood backing and a presence out on the streets, not just inside casinos. "Pachin" is a Japanese word that’s akin to the English "click"—the sound made by the dropping pinballs.
Pachinko was a beautifully simple and addictive game. Small 11mm steel balls were shot up and onto the playing surface, where they bounced down through a maze of shiny nails. Best-case scenario: they landed in winning pockets and the player was rewarded with more balls with which to play. Worst case: they dropped down to the bottom, never finding their warm pocket home. Some pockets made the task even tougher, opening and closing like a hungry (or not so hungry) mouth.
The pachinko player could only control how far he pulled down the trigger, and thereby, the speed with which the balls were shot up. After that, it was all chance. Clever casino owners frequently adjusted the arrangement of the nails, so that the oh-so-carefully-measured trigger length that seemed to get the most balls in the most pockets…well, it might not serve its pachinko patron as well the next day.
In the 80’s, pachinko machines were computerized, adding flashy graphics and sounds to compete with the growing video game market. The game is still enormously popular in Japan, where pachinko parlors house rows and rows of machines and a constant din of the metal balls on metal nails. Though gambling is illegal there, pachinko points can be redeemed for non-cash items. That’s all fine, but the real draw of pachinko remains the same: the hypnotic watching, and listening, to those little balls tap-dancing their way down the nail obstacle course.
Arcade Machine Release History1920s - Pachinko
Arcade Game Sub Categoriescarnival