A Complete History: From Pachinko Parlors To Plinko Screens

The gaming world has evolved significantly from the days of Pachinko parlors to modern-day digital games. Technology has revolutionized how people play games, with advancements in hardware and software providing new ways to engage with gaming. This article offers a complete gaming history, exploring how it has evolved over the years and the various practical examples of this evolution.

Gaming in the early days

Gaming has evolved over the years and has become one of the most loved leisure activities worldwide. Since the earliest days, people have found ways to play games. Read on for more information about the gaming history:

The popularity of Pachinko parlors in Japan

The Pachinko game is one of Japan's most popular forms of entertainment. It has also garnered interest among tourists visiting the country—most search for Pachinko Parlors to play and find out what's fascinating about the game. Pachinko was derived from the "Pachi Pachi" sound produced when playing it.

The Pachinko game crosses the classic pinball game and slot machines. Players launch small steel balls into the Pachinko machine, which roll down through bumps and barriers. If the balls land on special sockets, you'll win new balls. Therefore, you can keep playing with more balls for bigger jackpots or trade your current winnings for cash and other prizes.

The basis of this prominent Japanese game originated in the United States. It was an American Children's game played in the 1920s and popularly called the "Corinth game." It was imported from the US to Nagoya, Japan, in 1924. At first, it became a popular game in candy stores, and children played it to win candies.

The opening of the first Pachinko parlor in Nagoya in 1930 turned into a mechanical game of chance for adults. The game gained immense recognition, and about 35 parlors were opened in less than six months. However, the Second World War interrupted most activities, and all parlors closed.

After that, the industry skyrocketed, and by 1953, there were about 387,664 commercial parlors with Pachinko machines. And as decades passed, the Pachinko parlors evolved, and in the 1980s, electronic and stylish machines were introduced. The 90-year-old Pachinko industry generates approximately USD$200 billion annually in revenue, accounting for about 4% of the Japanese GDP.

The game has become a large part of Japanese culture, and today, you're bound to find a Pachinko Parlor nearby, irrespective of the town or city you're living in. And with the bright decorations and lively colors outside, they're easy to spot when passing by.

Moreover, the Pachinko game has significantly transitioned from the physical and mechanical Pachinko parlors to digital Plinko screens. Plinko is a digital game that’s based on the physical game of Pachinko, but it has been adapted for the online environment.

Players bet on where they think a ball will land after being dropped from the top of the game board. The game has been a signature hit on the betting platform Stake.com, which coined the term 'Plinko' in 2017 based on the inspiration from traditional Pachinko mechanics.

Introduction of mechanical arcade games in the US

Arcade machines are coin-operated game machines programmed with games to play and are mainly designed for public places such as amusement arcades and malls. They include pinball, skeeball, arcade video games, and redemption games. Once you drop the coin in the slot, the machine lets you play the game.

Arcade gaming started in the 1930s with the invention of the first pinball machine. However, pin-based games gained popularity as games of chance and were banned from many playing spots in the 1940s and 1960s. Coin-operated Electro-mechanical games were introduced in most amusement arcades in the 1960s and gained a reputation as a game of skill.

By the late 1960s, game developers created shooting and racing games such as Duck Hunt and Grand Prix, which were more fun. Generally, as time passed, arcade games revolutionized and inspired the invention of video games.

The rise of video games in the 1970s and 1980s

Arcade video games were introduced in the 1970s, and "Pong" was the first successful commercial arcade game. It was produced in 1972 by Atari Inc, the famous American game manufacturer. It became increasingly popular and expedited the launch of the video game industry.

During the 70s and 80s, there was the rise of video games that kids could even play. Most children became obsessed with video games and left toys, bicycles, and sports balls aside. The 80s kids are now adults, and a recent study shows they're still obsessive about video games. In fact, in the US, 79% of the current video gamers are adults, and 64% of adults play daily.

Also, many food chain operators included coin-operated arcade machines in their hotels and restaurants for fun games and to encourage customers to spend more time there.

Below are other popular video games played in this period:

Space Invaders: It was created in 1978 by Japanese engineer and game designer Nishikado Tomohiro and released by Taito Corp, a Japanese game producer. Space Invaders was one of the most wanted items on the gaming market. It entails players battling swarms of aliens to prevent them from descending to the bottom of the screen. Sequels of the game have been released over the years, including Space Invaders Get Even, produced in 2008 by Nintendo, a Japanese Multinational Video Game Company.

Pac-Man: Classic Pac-Man was produced in Japan in May 1980 and introduced to the US by October of the same year. Players control the pie-shaped Pac-Man character, who should eat all dots inside an enclosed maze and avoid four hunting ghosts. The game became an immediate hit after its release in the US, probably due to its innovative design. By 1981, about 250 million Pac-Man games were being played weekly on 100,000 Pac-Man machines.

Donkey Kong: It was created by Nintendo and released in 1981. Donkey Kong introduced gamers to the famous title character and hero, Mario. In Mario, the player navigates platforms and ladders to rescue Pauline, who is being held captive by Donkey Kong, the giant gorilla.

Arcade video games in the 1970s and 1980s pioneered the games that would become console classics.

The transition from arcade games to home console gaming

Home consoles became a sensation when they were first released in the 1970s. The popularity of these video game consoles is attributed to the rise of home computers in the market in the 1970s. Below are the examples of home console game systems released:

Atari 2600: It was one of the first home console games released by Atari in 1977 and is also referred to as the Video Computer System (VCS). It featured a main console unit, two joystick controllers, two paddle controllers, and interchangeable game cartridges that stored the games. Some video games that launched during its release included Blackjack, Air-Sea Battle, Basic Math, Combat, Street Racer, Star Ship, and Video Olympics. In 1982, Atari 2600 was the most iconic game system, especially in North America. The final licensed Atari 2600 games released in the region in 1991 were Sentinel, MotoRodeo, Ikari Warriors, and Xenophobe. Atari 2600 is the game system that jump-started home console gaming.

Photo: AdobeStock

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
: NES was first released in Japan in July 1983 and allowed gamers to play popular arcade video games like Donkey Kong on a home computer. The game system then garnered interest beyond the borders and debuted in the US in 1985. It became a huge success in the country because of its launch title, "Super Mario Bros." A recent study shows that 60% of Console gamers in the US are aged between 20 to 39 years. Therefore, they're less prevalent among teens.

Notably, though more games continued to be released on arcade platforms, they couldn't compete with home console gaming since many arcade players eventually opted to play games at home-on-home computers and consoles.

Shift to PC gaming

In the 1990s, there was a major shift to PC gaming with many exciting arrivals. Below are some of the famous PC games released:

Doom: It's a first-person shooter genre produced in 1993. Gamers play the space marine character, popularly referred to as "Doomguy," battling invading demons from hell. Doom transformed various elements of PC games, including graphics, styles of play, and public scrutiny of the gameplay.

Quake: It's a first-person 3D shooter game initially released in 1996. The player assumes the role of the protagonist, "Ranger," sent into a portal to stop the enemy "Quake." Quake draws most of its features, including the design, gameplay, and story from Doom.

Other PC games that enthralled players in the 90s included Lemmings, Warcraft, Star Wars, Fallout, Commandos, and StarCraft.

The rise of mobile gaming

In the 2000s, mobile games were introduced and became a hit leading to the explosion of the app market. Mobile games were initially commercialized in Japan and later spread to Asia, Europe, North America, and the rest of the world. Here are some of the mobile games that became increasingly popular:

Angry Birds: It was developed by Rovio Entertainment and released on the Apple iOS platform in 2009. Players launch a set of birds to strike and eliminate enemy pigs on the level to save their eggs. The game gained immense popularity due to its simple design. Also, the developers implemented new features over the years to make it more addictive.

Candy Crush: It was launched in April 2012 by the King Company. One plays with candy by swapping colored pieces on the gameboard to match three or more candies of the same color. You score points by crushing the matching candies. A vast pool of fans is drawn to the game because of the incredible graphics and addictive levels.

Game developers produced more engaging mobile games with incredible features as time passed. They include Fallout Shelter, Heroes of Dragon Age, Marvel, Badland, and Sorcery. Notably, with the increased number of mobile app games, today, almost everyone with a smartphone has downloaded one or more games.

The evolution of gaming

Below are examples of gaming evolutions:

1. Evolution of graphics and processing power

Video game graphics have evolved from the earliest days to modern-day standards. Below is an outline of gaming graphics by different eras:

8-bit graphics: Also known as the third generation of video game consoles. It began in 1983 and lasted until 1990. Instead of the previous block-based graphics, this era introduced tile and sprite-based graphics. Also, the game controllers had directional pads (D-pads), and the resolution went up to 256 x 240 pixels. Notably, in the early days, there was little processing power for high-quality graphics, so developers had to work with what they had.

16-bit era: It began in 1987 and is also known as the fourth generation of video game consoles. Developers added more color palettes and detailed sprites. Also, technologies such as Mode 7 in Nintendo racing games enabled players to create 3D images by manipulating 2D objects. The consoles in this era included Super Nintendo, Neo Geo, GameBoy, and Sega Mega Drive.

32-bit to 64-bit era: It's also known as the fifth-generation console era and began in 1993 and went up to 2006. CDs were used as the medium for games, enabling more data storage on the discs. Also, most games had better resolutions and incredible 3D graphics but differed from modern 3D graphics. Some 32-bit/64-bit consoles included Sony PlayStation, Atari Jaguar, and Sega Saturn. Particularly, Nintendo 64 became a game changer for 3D graphics.

Modern-day graphics: They're more innovative, visually beautiful, and realistic. Modern graphics marked the rise of powerful consoles such as the 4 PlayStations Switch, Xbox, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii.

Ideally, as game manufacturers gained more processing power over the years, there have been significant advancements in graphical technology, and digital games have become more impressive.

2. Shift towards online multiplayer gaming

Multiplayer gaming allows multiple players to play in a similar gaming environment simultaneously. They can use the same computing system or play on different computers via a local area network or the internet.

Multiplayer real-time games were developed in the late '90s. The first examples were created on the PLATO computer system and included games such as "Empire" and "Spasim." By the 2000s, online multiplayer games had become the norm. Game developers focused on efficiently supporting millions of connected gamers and delivering an excellent experience.

Games such as "Call of Duty," "Battlefield," "League of Legends," and "World of Warcraft" became a cultural phenomenon due to their multiplayer mode.

The games have matured to become increasingly immersive and a staple of players' gaming experience. Some of the best multiplayer games to play today include "Apex Legends," "Rocket League," "StarCraft 2", "Valorant," "Fortnite," "Mortal Kombat X," and FIFA 23.

3. Rise of virtual reality gaming

Virtual Reality (VR) gaming expands the application of computer gaming to allow gamers to play in a 3D environment and interact with virtual characters. Experiments in VR gaming started in the 1980s, and by the 2010s, a few VR games, such as "Bad Street Brawler," "CyberMaxx," and SEGA VR-1, were invented. In 2016, Palmer Luckey released Oculus Rift CV 1, and the high-fidelity graphics provided an immersive gaming experience.

Photo: AdobeStock

After this, other inventions such as Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Hellblade, DiRT Rally, Project Cars, Echo VR, Ultimechs, and Republique VR followed.

Today, you can use gadgets like advanced gaming laptops, standalone gaming consoles, and smartphones to experience VR gaming. Ideally, VR gaming has presented more design options for game developers, and it's expected to further transform game graphics in the coming years. It may reach a point where game graphics resemble the real world.

Virtual Reality software market revenue worldwide is projected to increase to about USD$5.45 billion by 2027. VR gaming is forecasted to be the biggest segment contributing USD$4.6 billion in revenue.

Impact of mobile gaming on the industry

Currently, most traditional game developers have shifted their focus to mobile platforms. Modern gamers expect developers to implement new techniques and recent technologies to improve the mobile gaming experience and bring games closer to reality.

And with the increased availability of smartphones, and internet penetration, more people are expected to take up the hobby.

As of 2021, the global games market generated approximately USD$175.8 billion in revenue, expected to increase to USD$200 billion in 2023. The biggest segment was mobile gaming, and it's also expected to generate most of the revenue this year. Notably, in 2020, the revenue from mobile gaming reached USD$77.2 billion. Also, mobile game players increased by 12% to about 2.5 billion.


Gaming has greatly evolved from mechanical games like the Japanese Pachinko game to modern additions like Plinko with more features and challenges. Above is a comprehensive history of the evolution of gaming. Ideally, with the invention of digital game machines, a wide variety of digital games hit the market. The games presented newer challenges for players and better forms of interaction, providing an overall excellent gaming experience.
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