5 Tips for Spending Wisely at Arcades in Japan

  • SPOT
  • Tokyo
  • When visiting Japan, especially in the big cities like Tokyo, you might be surprised to see so many arcades around. In East Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, arcades still thrive thanks to continued patronage and diversifying their attractions? Have you heard of Round One? Their focus on sports has made them a staple destination for leisure in Japan, as visitors can enjoy a variety of sports such as darts, soccer, and bowling in addition to video arcade games. Arcade games are often simple to play with a much lower price point than other leisure activities; compare paying 100 yen for a play session on a game to as much as 2,000 yen for movie tickets or a karaoke booth. But you should be wary of those low prices, many arcade games often come with some kind of hook meant to get people to pay more and more. To avoid the heartache and regret that can come from spending too much at an arcade, we’ve compiled a list of tips to follow so you can enjoy your trip to the arcade without feeling the burn on your wallet.

    Set a Budget

    Since your time at an arcade will have you paying in increments rather than in one flat sum, it’s smart to set a budget for your time so your spending doesn’t spin out of control. Arcades will have change machines which can exchange either 500 yen coins or 1000 yen bills for their equivalent in 100 yen coins. These can be good starting points for your budget, as 500-1000 yen is usually enough for you to try out a few different games. If you’d like to focus on some specific games, you can start trying to pay upwards of 1000 yen for your time at the arcade.

    Crane Games are Too Good to Be True

    You’ll find that a popular attraction at most arcade are prize games like the famous SEGA UFO Catcher series. These prize games can award anything from clothing to snacks to expensive figurines, and most only cost about 100 yen to try. This low price is deceptive however, as the prizes are arranged in a way that makes it almost impossible to catch without experience. The games are also designed in a way to take your money as well. I watched a friend attempt a crane game, only to quickly fail when they realized they were expected to hold the buttons moving the crane rather than just tapping. The low price to play these games tricks you into thinking it’s a better value, so it’s better to stop trying for the prize before you put too much money in. Try it once or twice for the experience, then move on to try something else.

    Pay Attention to Prices

    If you want to watch your spending at an arcade, keep track of how much each game costs to play. While a general rule of thumb for arcades is that it costs 100 yen for 1 play credit, this isn’t a universal room. Some games with more elaborate setups or games that rely on save information may ask for as much as 200 or 300 yen to play, so if you only have a passing interest in arcades these may be out of your desired price range. On the other hands, some arcades with have discount policies for certain types of games. For genres such as fighting games, where two players can keep putting in coins to play each other, arcades may price these at needing only 50 yen to play. There’s a lot of games to be found at arcades, and that’s reflected in the price range needed to participate.

    Avoid Gambling-type Games


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    Typically in Japan, pachinko is such a large gaming market that pachinko parlors are often an entirely different venue from traditional arcades. But in some larger arcades, including more family-friendly chains like Round One, the barrier between traditional arcade games and others can be blurred, creating opportunities for you to waste money. These gambling-style games can range from slot machines to coin pushers and even games aimed at children focused on simple guessing games. These games don’t really offer a solid experience for your money so much as a current to pull you into spending more money in the hopes of winning a big prize. To avoid the temptation of these games, try to avoid these areas if you see one in an arcade.

    Work Together With a Friend

    Many traditional arcade games such as beat-em-ups or shooters will have a two-player capacity. While one session for two players will require both players to buy in, this can be a fun way to get more out of your money. Instead of struggling against a game by yourself, you can play through with a friend and help each other out. To get the most out of your money, you should try to work as a team so that even if you aren’t skilled at the game, you can see a lot from the game and have a shared experience.

    Going to an arcade in Japan is an interesting method through which to experience Japanese leisure culture and media. These arcades might be loud and bright, but they’re always a good time, and provided you watch your spending wisely, you’ll be able to have a good time too without feeling regretful about overspending. It’s easy to enjoy Japanese arcades when there’s so many to find, but here’s a personal favorite of mine found in the Akihabara district.