Something I noticed at the AOU show last week but only recently put together with actual facts was the EDY contactless cash-card from Bitwallet. Launched in Japan in 2002 it’s a prepaid cashcard that users can fuel up at over 1,400 AM/PM stores in Japan, among other places. Based on technology from Sony the EDY system has been adopted by NTT DoCoMo, the dominant cellular carrier in Japan, and trials are being run for use with things like railway tickets. No need to buy tickets or pre-load your cashcard, just smack your phone against the turnstile as you walk through and you’ll be billed accordingly.
As you can see here (close up) there’s an EDY terminal on the newest cabinet from Sammy, along with a cradle/reader for your cellular phone. Slot your phone, or your EDY cash card, and you’re ready to play. EDY-capable phones from DoCoMo are expected to be available in mid-2004. No word yet from Vodafone or AU on similar capabilities, though they are no doubt considering similar systems.
Currently the only innovating force in the Japanese arcade industry (see AOU 2004 at Insert Credit) this is a very interesting move in an industry that’s more or less imploding. Sammy owns a majority stake in Sega, and in completely unrelated news Sega is also rolling out an EDY payment system, together with their own Sega Passport line of Visa cards:
This Sega Visa supports not only the EDY cashcard system but also Sony Financial’s Elio (see below) system, which allows the use of a USB reader for making online purchases without sending your sensitive credit card numbers over the evil, evil internet. The Elio side of the card also ties in with Sony Financial’s affiliates, offering discounts and convenience for Sony’s insurance companies, theatres and affiliated businesses. You can also, after purchasing the $20 reader and downloading 30MB of Microsoft .NET software, view the purchase history of your EDY, Elio or Suica (railway card).
It’s easy to see how this card is suddenly the consumer’s very best friend: Purchase things online from supporting sellers (like Sega Direct), use it in arcades, when you take the train, and at AM/PM convenience stores. This page (Japanese) shows many possible uses for the EDY card: apartment or hotel keyless entry, karaoke purchases, airline flight check-in, ticket purchases, Vending machines, and more.
Personally I fear for the privacy issues in all this, but as a standalone I think the EDY system can only draw in more players when it’s useful for so many other things as well. The idea of a cashcard is very appealing – Japan has never embraced bank card purchasing like North America has with Interac, and credit cards have only become popular with the rise of online shopping. Five years ago it was hard to find any small retailer that accepted credit cards, and any business that dares accept bank card payments even now faces lengthy delays when staff explain the system to every single customer. Cash cards are easy to figure out, and with Sammy, Sega and Taito expected to support EDY there’s little doubt it will catch on, at least with the younger set.
Installed at only one location now, Sega expects all of their 500 arcades (or those that are still open) to have the system in use within three years.
[ Jan 3 2004 ]
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