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SNK Playmore halts pachinko production, becomes the anti-Konami

Why is SNK Playmore backing out of pachislot? It's a complicated tale of Chinese investors and dreams of becoming the next Marvel.

It shouldn’t be strange to hear that SNK Playmore has stopped producing pachinko games to return to its video game roots. After all, the company's The King of Fighters and Metal Slug series are still well-known among adult gamers.

And yet, it is strange.

In the wake of Konami's recent business decisions, all we’ve been hearing lately is how pachislot is where the money is; but if SNK Playmore’s loss of pachislot players are any sign, making pachislot games doesn't equal instant success.

It was only last August, however, that president Koichi Toyama stated in October a goal similar to Konami's current pachislot-focused agenda:

Currently, youths in their 20s are losing interest in the market, which has become a big issue, and has led us to believe that it is very important to develop machines that will appeal to this audience . . . We'd like to work hard to make video game fans into Pachinko Slot fans.

So what changed in three months?

The answer lies in SNK Playmore’s newest investors: Oriental Securities and Shunrong Sanqui. After forming a joint venture, the Chinese investors bought majority shares through SNK Playmore's parent company, Ledo Millennium. The CEO of Oriental Securities, Zheng Jianhui, has stated that their goal is to create the Marvel Comics of video games.

Given that Marvel has achieved record sales in theaters and almost singlehandedly revived the comic book industry, Jianhui's statement suggests he wants to use SNK’s IPs to create more games, shows, movies—the whole shebang.

In their decision to focus on an international market, the investors have probably concluded that the pachislot market was not worth pursuing. Gambling in China is also illegal, which may have informed their decision. The production of pachinko games would solely benefit Japan's economy.

Perhaps SNK Playmore's experiences with the pachinko market is a prediction of Konami’s own future. SNK was most popular in the '90s, but their focus on the pachislot sector allowed their IPs to weaken with time. Without strong IPs, pachinko games just aren’t as attractive to consumers. Unless Konami has a plan for keeping their IPs strong with younger generations, they too may find themselves bought out by Chinese investors with lofty goals.

SNK Playmore's future lineup will include The King of Fighters XIV, to be released on the PS4 in 2016. Follow our SNK Playmore tag for more coverage, and let us know in the comments what you think of the company's new direction.

Image source: neogeoforlife.com

Published Nov. 8th 2015
  • Ashley Gill
    Associate Editor
    Pachinko has been SNK's bread and butter for a while. It's very odd to see them dip out while Konami goes all-in on the pachinko/pachislot market. I'd be more inclined to trust SNK's judgment over Konami's in this area because they've been ingrained into the pachinko industry for so long, but who knows.

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