Is America ready to embrace pachinko? Earlier this month, Utah-based CMK Gaming International (CMKI) announced it was developing a digital pachinko game for smartphones and tablet devices. CMKI has teamed with UK game developer Route 1 Games on the project and CMKI’s then-CEO Shana Weiner said her company has “great respect” for Route 1’s work.
CMKI began life nearly a century ago as Tenguy World International, an oil and gas exploration firm. As you may have surmised, the company’s focus took a serious detour last year, resulting in a name change. CMKI got into the pachinko business last October after purchasing a Nevada company that operated three parlors in Japan that CMKI says generate annual revenue of over $5m.
CMKI is now planning to open its first stateside pachinko parlor later this year in its home market of Salt Lake City. A CMKI release quoted Weiner saying the company had adopted a strategy of “strategically placing [parlors] in communities that seek exciting new entertainment venues.”
But Utah is the one US state that doesn’t permit any form of gambling, so quite why it was chosen as the testing ground for CMKI’s US rollout remains something of a mystery. We suspect the thinking goes that Mormons are so starved for entertainment that they’ll find pachinko stimulating. Regardless, we can easily imagine some Utah politician quipping that pachinko’s little silver balls can be clandestinely exchanged for cold hard cash in Japan, but in Utah the balls can only be exchanged for one’s immortal soul.
Last week, Weiner announced she was stepping down from the CEO position in favor of Peter Dalton, a 19-year game production veteran whose resumé includes stints at Zoo Digital and Gremlin. Dalton described pachinko as “a great new form of entertainment that can only increase in popularity,” which is technically true, since it’s literally starting from nothing in the US of A.
Dalton also suggested CMKI had much broader ambitions, saying he was looking forward to executing the company’s “new plan for online games, casino partnerships and peer-to-peer wagering.” Peer-to-peer pachinko? Is it too late to trademark Peerchinko?