Arcade games since the birth of Japanese arcades have been 1 play for ¥100 yen*. Starting this week, that has changed.
Sure, players could enjoy older games for ¥50 and some new, deluxe titles charged ¥200 and up. But generally speaking, 1 play was and has been ¥100.
Game center Taito Station in Shibuya is raising per-play-prices for arcade games, medal games, crane games and sticker pictures.
New per-play prices are:
Why is the price hike a big deal? Even though ¥120 yen is the same price as a can of coke, there's more than just a twenty percent price increase. There's the matter of two extra ¥10 coins.
This is ground I covered in Arcade Mania, but arcade games in Japan have been ¥100 per-play since the Space Invaders boom of the 1970s — a boom caused ironically by a Taito game, and a boom so big that was so big that it caused a nationwide shortage of ¥100 coins. One coin play is woven into the fabric of Japanese arcade culture.
The mere fact that while American arcades increased prices (and the number of coins), prices in Japanese arcades have remained steadfast with its easy one-coin system has certainly contributed to the success of arcades in The Land of the Rising Sun.
Times are tough, and everyone everywhere is feeling the pinch. Though, adding two extra coins of different value seems like it will making arcade gaming at Taito Station more of a hassle than a pleasure.
Taito was acquired by Square Enix in 2005 so the gut reaction is point the finger. However, we don't know if the blame falls with Square Enix, Taito or simply the cratering global economy.
Competitors SEGA and Namco might be best suited if they see how this plays out for this Shibuya Taito arcade. The reaction on the Japanese internet has been less than favorable.
Smart money says, this price hike will do more harm than good.
Update: We just called venerated game center Taito Hey Akihabara, which has not raised its prices to ¥120 and up and is still charging standard play fees. Don't jump to generalizations that all Japanese arcades have raised their play fees — or all Taito arcades, for that matter.
*¥100 = US$1.12