I was lucky enough to have experienced many Dreamcast titles online when the system was contemporary and did take advantage of the various Dream Passport, Dream Key & Planet Web browsers to access internet services. To facilitate accessing Japanese online services I had an ISAO.Net account and its accompanying email address & My Room this then allowed me to access select dricas services through my Dreamcast. The reason for this was quite simple as anyone in Europe can attest it was generally a case of a games online features generally being removed compared to the same title in both America & Japan. This might seem a strange way to begin this article about MAXBET but by ignoring their game simply on the basis of its genre i was as i suspect as most readers of this article will be completely unaware of a unique facet of SEGA’s online strategy for the Dreamcast. Honestly even now it’s still quite amazing just how diverse they were in trying to position the system as a network terminal.
SEGA in conjunction with major Pachinko & Pachi-Slot manufacturers & publishers implemented an exclusive premium prize network called @ VPACHI which would’ve been an enticing prospect for their industry partners as well as home Pachinko & Pachi-Slot consumers. It should be obvious but there was no intention to develop this service outside of Japan given i suspect it would’ve been impossible to implement such a service in either America or Europe due to various regulatory authorities. It may be a divisive topic but most people generally are completely unaware that the Dreamcast offered online gambling which the @ VPACHI network facilitated. In a way it was quite a forward-thinking endeavour as it would allow SEGA and their partners to overcome the challenges that the genre faced in the home environment and expand this profitable genre to a wider market.
From a western perspective it’s seems an odd concept for SEGA & their stable of industry partners to have been involved with given the negative connotations of online gambling through what was essentially a games console. But in reality, this was an ingenious solution to a problem which had severely limited the appeal of Pachinko & Pachi-Slot for home consumers. The industry had always struggled with the lack of a way to translate the excitement of playing and, the ability for users to win prizes which was mitigated almost entirely by the implementation of the @VPACHI network. Patrons could now play realistic digital versions of their favourite machines from the comfort of their own homes and still win prizes just as they would in amusement centres. All through the @ VPACHI Premium prize network this in turn generated additional revenue from players who had been previously excluded and helped expand the genres market on consumer hardware. SEGA for their involvement got a dedicated network for Pachinko & Pachi-Slot titles which was supported by major industry publishers that was exclusively accessed through the Dreamcast thus insulating it from potential competitors trying to set up a similar solution.
MAXBET were somewhat unique as unlike the other companies involved in the @ VPACHI Premium prize network they have the least confirmed information about themselves compared to their partners. Researching them even though they had an official site which has been archived doesn’t really reveal anything about them as their site was essentially just an online catalogue with basic information about their published titles. The reason why i personally believe this strange situation occurred was they were actually a subsidiary of what was then known as Sammy Corporation and they used them exclusively to publish consumer パチスロ or Pachi-Slot titles. Another contributing factor is they seemingly were only active for a very limited amount of time being established on the 28th of October ’98 with their official site going live in ’99 and defunct in late ’00. In all honesty i can’t really elaborate much more about the company’s history as all confirmed information about them comes for their parent company rather than MAXBET themselves. One impressive feat confirmed by MAXBET’s archived official site was the fact over their short two-year lifespan they managed to publish seven titles for the Sony PlayStation and their eighth and final title was for the Dreamcast.
Strangely MAXBET’s official site doesn’t feature any sort of biography or company history which presents something of an issue when trying to research the company. I can only assume this was because they were essentially used by Sammy as in imprint label to publish consumer Pachi-Slot titles. MAXBET’s site did contain reciprocal links to Sammy and the various licensees which the company’s titles represented as well as general genre sites. While the date of their establishment is known their exact fate is currently unknown whether they simply ceased all operation or they were reorganised into another of Sammy’s dedicated Pachi-Slot manufacturers i can’t conclusively confirm either way.
Given that there’s a distinct lack of readily confirmed information about what fate befell the company it might seem somewhat disingenuous of me to suggest the reason why MAXBET wasn’t particularly well known was the general lack of commercial impetus their titles had at retail. I should make it clear that my knowledge of the Pachi-Slot genre is basically non-existent simply because gambling titles don’t resonate with me but i can appreciate while a small genre by market share it maintains a growing fanbase. By researching the genre, it seems its appeal was realistically limited when it came to examples on home systems. I suspect the reason behind this was twofold the excitement & ability to win prizes simply couldn’t be replicated in the home environment. Another contributing factor was on earlier hardware platforms the graphical fidelity and interaction would’ve been a pale imitation of the real thing.
While many examples of the Pachi-Slot genre had been released on a number of proceeding hardware systems in the intervening years it was really the arrival of Sony’s PlayStation in which Pachi-Slot titles could be considered a viable commercial concern on consumer hardware. As i’ve alluded to, i’m certainly not particularly enthusiastic about Pachi-Slot but i suspect the reason why the genre only received sporadic releases till around this time was the Sony PlayStation & SEGA Saturn were arguably the first home systems to accurately replicate the Pachi-Slot machines that they were depicting. This coincided with the explosion of popular licensed branded Pachi-Slot machines appearing in the amusement parlours & subsequently arriving on home systems. This would appeal arguably even more to the home consumer market as it would represent a new merchandising opportunity as well as more importantly a new revenue stream for publishers with consumers wanting branded Pachi-Slot titles based on popular licences.
An interesting parallel between both the amusement & consumer Pachi-Slot industries is that they almost mirror themselves as both are effectively controlled by the same small group of manufacturers & publishers. These companies also produced the majority of the consumer versions of Pachi-Slot either directly or through subsidiaries with MAXBET being a prime example of this. While MAXBET were affiliated with Sammy i personally think the company probably struggled to compete against their more established competitors who seemed to have more popular branded Pachi-Slot simulations in their respective catalogues. While i can’t attest to the quality of the company’s previous PlayStation titles i’m confident that they were decent simulations and they seemingly implemented the ability to win prizes by emailing the company with winning passwords.
I honestly couldn’t attempt to try and speculate on the sales figures for MAXBET’s PlayStation Pachi-Slot titles but i suspect that they actually sold in incredibly small numbers primarily due to their genre. I can’t provide a concrete figure for the amount the company sold of their Dreamcast title but the last officially confirmed number was less than 5,000 copies sold. I suspect that the game never managed to achieve over this figure which might seem incredibly low but most Japanese Dreamcast titles sold in amazingly low numbers compared to what you might’ve imagined.
Unfortunately given the perceived lack of commercial appeal of the company’s titles it stands to reason that they never enjoyed the same level of interest from the media as more commercial genres. Apart from the official announcement of the @VPACHI Network service which was widely reported in the specialised gaming media i struggled to find any other information or promotional event’s by MAXBET in support of their title. Sadly, all i was able to uncover was a solitary article from Famitsu Online which was published around a month before the games release and contains basic information about the upcoming game. The Famitsu article is linked to below. (C) maxbet2000 (C) DAIKOKU DENKI CO.,LTD. (C) yamasa / FAMITSU.com © KADOKAWA CORPORATION 2015
I feel that it would be remiss of me not to give a brief overview of the @ VPACHI network since it is almost entirely forgotten aspect of the Dreamcast’s online strategy. It was supported by various Pachinko & Pachi-Slot distributors & operators which included DAIKOKU DENKI, HACK BERRY, Media Entertainment & MAXBET. As well as being the most prolific supporter of the service DAIKOKU DENKI provided the network infrastructure that the service used. The @ VPACHI network was a symbolic relationship between SEGA and the Pachinko & Pachi-Slot industry as for SEGA it was another online service that was exclusively accessed through the Dreamcast which helped to establish the system as a network terminal rather than a mere games console. For their various industry partners, it was a way that they could expand their influence in the burgeoning home consumer market. This was done by allowing users of the service for the first time experience a chance of winning the same prizes on exacting digital replications of real Pachinko & Pachi-Slot machines in real-time through the @ VPACHI Premium prize network on the Dreamcast. While not an abundance of information exists about the @ VPACHI service especially from patrons who actually used it the announcement of its establishment was covered by many media articles of the time. Linked to below is one such report from Softbank Games which details the participants involved as well as other information about the service. Copyright (c) 2000 by softbank Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
As i’ve already stated MAXBET only published one title on the Dreamcast which was 実戦パチスロ必勝法 ＠VPACHI 〜コングダム〜 or JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI. The game was released on the 28th of September ’00 and it retailed at the slightly reduced price point of ¥4,800 and as its name suggests it was a network compatible Pachi-Slot simulation which was based on YAMASA’s The Kongdom Pachi-Slot machine. The game has the dubious honour of being MAXBET’s first Dreamcast title and also the last officially confirmed title attributed to the company. Given the chronically poor sales of JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI and in all honesty probably the company’s previous PlayStation Pachi-Slot titles its unsurprising that the company seemingly ceased operation soon afterwards. The titles entry on the archived Dreamcast catalogue which provides basic technical information about the game is linked to below. © 2000 MAXBET © DAIKOKU DENKI CO., LTD., 2000 © YAMASA © 2000 Sammy © SEGA
JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI’s entry on the Dreamcast catalogue also has an anomaly which has caused some debate amongst collectors for nearly two decades since its release. The games entry clearly states that two versions of the game exist the first listed is T-18801M which is categorised as a first press limited edition. The second incarnation of JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI is classed as a regular edition which is unconfirmed to exist personally, i do believe that MAXBET had intended to release two versions of their title but extenuating circumstances prevented this from actually occurring. The only thing which was planned to differentiate between the two versions of the game apart from their intended sequential catalogue codes is that the first press version came with thirty bonus entries to the @ VPACHI premium prize network. You might well expect that the bonus entries would be in a sealed tamper proof package or on a separate card which you had to scratch off to reveal the code. Surprisingly it was a rather basic looking sticker that was simply affixed to the back of the game’s manual. Below is my personal copy of JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI’s manual with its code for the thirty bonus entries.
The circumstance behind why the regular edition went unreleased could be for a variety of plausible reasons. Personally, i assume it was down to basic economics with the minimum print run for a standard Dreamcast title probably being five thousand copies and the game not having achieved that in a year at retail obviously meant there simply wasn’t any demand for MAXBET’s title. Given that the first press edition was only meant to be a limited release the company probably originally planned to wait till they sold through the first print run and any subsequent pressings would have the T-18802M designation. What lends credence to my theory is the sample cover only has the T-18801M first press limited edition catalogue code printed on it. Most Dreamcast titles which had two separate editions planned generally had both catalogue codes printed on their sample covers while not in every instance but certainly in the majority of cases. With the game simply not meeting the expected sales numbers that the company had hoped combined with them seemingly abruptly ceasing operation shortly after T-18801M JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI’s release meant there simply was no possible way to justify a second print run and the company ceased as a viable entity.
My impressions of JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI should be tempered with the knowledge that realistically i’m not the target market for MAXBET’s software. While i’m able to understand & play MAXBET’s title I find it has no real redeeming features or that it offers anything resembling traditional gameplay. I will add however that there is a massive market for online gambling and Pachi-Slot in general and my personal view is that software like JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI is incredibly divisive and almost marketed directly to genre enthusiasts rather than designed to appeal to the wider home consumer market. The crossover appeal while i can’t definitively state it’s the case i’d imagine would be infinitesimally small. I can certainly appreciate that there will be readers of this article who will be avid Pachi-Slot enthusiasts and i’ll try to give a balanced opinion about MAXBET’s title. Understandably i can’t really comment on the games main selling point of being able to access the @ VPACHI Premium prize network given that it was terminated nearly two decades previously but i can certainly understand the appeal it must’ve had for people purchasing a copy of the game upon release.
All eight of MAXBET’s Pachi-Slot titles were representations of single Pachi-Slot machines and in the case of their Dreamcast title it was an exacting digital recreation of YAMASA’s The Kongdam. Obviously i’ve not encountered the physical machine for myself and i have no discernible data on how popular it was but i’d imagine it was a well-received Pachi-Slot machine to feature in MAXBET’s dedicated series of titles. While MAXBET maintained an official site for JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI i actually believe YAMASA’s site would be of more benefit as it is much more comprehensive in scope and would be of more use to those who have more than a passing interest in the game. Linked to below is YAMASA’s archived site for their The Kongdam Pachi-Slot machine. ©2000 YAMASA
Since much like myself its largely unrealistic to expect the majority of readers of this article to have actually encountered YAMASA’s The Kongdom in person or even be aware of its existence. Given this is the case i’ve included a picture of the actual machine below this hopefully will demonstrate the exacting detail that MAXBET lavished on there digital incarnation of The Kongdom.
Given that JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI mimicked the actual machine so closely one feature I thought would both be a compliment to the games overall package for enthusiast’s and quite a redundant feature for everyone else is you can examine in minute detail the machine at your leisure from the marque to the all the aspects of the machine. I can appreciate the fact that it might very well be a genre staple for digital replications of Pachi-Slot I simply haven’t experienced enough examples of the genre to ascertain if this is the case. The only other home consumer titles i’ve experienced this feature in was Pinball which is also generally considered to be a niche pursuit. Sadly, one aspect that let’s this feature down on the Dreamcast is the fact that the game doesn’t support the system’s ability to display a high-resolution picture via the VGA adaptor. This is a shame as it would have been a simple design choice to implement and would’ve provided an increase in overall picture quality for the game.
As I’ve previously mentioned for either a newcomer to the game or Pachi-Slot fan’s in general I would recommend YAMASA’s archived site in general or certainly their The Kongdom site rather than MAXBET’s archived JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI website. The reason being is it explains in better detail the scoring system which is the most important aspect of the game. You’ll find YAMASA’s official entry for The Kongdom linked to below. ©YAMASA
One enticing prospect for Pachi-Slot connoisseurs was JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI’s ability of the game to connect to @VPACHI network. Unfortunately, i can’t really comment about this aspect of the game as i never experienced any of the @VPACHI network titles when the service was operational. While this would’ve undoubtably proved a significant selling point and elevated it from their competitors titles on competing systems it wasn’t something i would’ve taken part in. The fact is even if i had wanted to access the @VPACHI network i wouldn’t have been able to as you needed a confirmed Japanese address as when you had picked your prize if you were luckily enough to be a winner, they sent it to your registered address.
Unlike the majority of the other Dreamcast online titles which used a combination of credit card, dreams or WEB Money to pay for their subscriptions the only expense was a ¥10 per minute call charge and actually purchasing entries to the premium prize mode. The prizes were updated weekly and you were through the software able to check out the upcoming prizes so you knew if there was items you might like to enter to try and win. The grand prize was the not insignificant holiday to Las Vegas, Nevada and the winners would be notified by email. The games access to the Premium prize network was discontinued on the 26th of September ’01 just shy of the games one-year anniversary.
Trying to give my opinion about a game in an extremely niche genre which i have little knowledge or interest in as actually quite a difficult prospect. It would be entirely to easy to be largely negative about the game but that would be a disservice to MAXBET and the wider Pachi-Slot genre. But even if you were particularly enamoured with the game unfortunately JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI’s main selling point of its ability to access the @VPACHI premium prize network infrastructure being defunct does detract from the package as a whole. This means anyone experiencing the game in the present day will be missing a key component of the game which would limit its already niche appeal even further.
Personally, while i found MAXBET’s title offered a realistic digital representation of YAMASA’s The Kongdom Pachi-Slot machine it overall feels like quite an anaemic release. I’ll explain my reasoning as given that my experience of the genre is limited to the examples on the Dreamcast and the other two Pachi-Slot titles on the system by 株式会社メディアエンターテイメント feature multiple machines on a single disc. They also feature more visually impressive & detailed representations of their included machines and also support VGA display output in comparison to MAXBET’s single title release with no VGA support. It might seem strange but MAXBET themselves stated that single Pachi-Slot machine releases meant that they were able to release more titles to market in a shorter timeframe. While this is understandable from a smaller publisher it’s almost impossible not to compare to their competitors whose releases had more machines represented on each of their titles. While both MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT’s titles don’t explicitly feature the @ VPACHI prominently on their packaging they do actually use the same @ VPACHI network infrastructure which negates this perceived advantage that you might have thought MAXBET’s title enjoyed.
MAXBET’s game does mirror YAMASA’s actual machine incredibly well and I have no doubt this extends to the actual gameplay with the addition of the ability to track an impressive range of statistics relating to win streaks, percentages & a history of individual reels. I can imagine for enthusiasts this would be a welcome extra to the overall package. Outside of the game’s visual representation of The Kongdom the software employs a futuristic design to all the other aspects of its graphical presentation which is not intrusive and its implementation and complements the overall design of the game. MAXBET’s title audio design is essentially split in two distinct elements when playing the machine your limited to the sounds of the actual machine which certainly sound like their authentic but i found the lack of music slightly strange. I can understand that given how passionate players of this genre can get that they would want the sounds of the actual machine but personally, I would’ve appreciated the option to be able to toggle the background music on and off and this might have helped to appeal to a boarder audience. The various menus in the game have upbeat music tracks which while nothing amazing are generally inoffensive and could be a lot worse given that they are ancillary to playing the games digital version of The Kongdam machine.
MAXBET’s JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI didn’t review particularly well for some of the reasons I’ve touched on. I simply believe that the game didn’t really represent value for money when it was first released and the relative obscurity of Pachi-Slot on home formats certainly played its part. To be honest MAXBET’s strategy for promoting their titles was partly to blame as the company seemingly did very little promotion in support of their titles certainly not much exists for their Dreamcast game. I obviously can’t state it’s the case but i wonder if the amount of releases with eight in two years was designed to build up the company’s standing with Pachi-Slot connoisseurs and that’s why the company adopted their individual machine release strategy. Now some twenty years later i can’t in good conscience recommend JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI if you’re a complete novice when it comes to Pachi-Slot or even if you’re a seasoned Pachi-Slot aficionado there is simply better examples of the genre available on the Dreamcast. This leaves MAXBET’s game as an interesting historical curio which represents a largely forgotten aspect of SEGA’s online strategy which while the @ VPACHI service was successful simply didn’t translate into sales for the company. This while not the direct cause likely contributed to the company ceasing operation.
T-18801M JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI
Sample T-18801M JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI
(NOT FOR SALE) 非売品 discs & other media
As strange as it might initially seem there is actually an individual 非売品 @VPACHI disc for one of the other titles that used the premium prize network which is quite surprising given their genre. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that any individual Not for Sale disc exists for MAXBET’s title. Off course this doesn’t preclude one existing but I’ve never encountered any mention of one and given the apparent demise of the company shortly afterwards meant that there wasn’t much impetus given to pre or post release supporting materials.
With no disrespect intended to MAXBET’s sound team I doubt that there would be many people clambering for an official soundtrack for JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI. An official guidebook isn’t a realistic prospect given the games genre and it being effectually a game of chance. This means the only promotional items would’ve been point of sale posters and other printed materials but I’ve never personally encountered them.
As always, I’m grateful for you taking the time to read this article about MAXBET and their one & only Dreamcast title. Even though the company was only in existence for a scant two years I would appreciate any information that I might have missed or any promotional materials used to support JISSEN PACHISLO HISSYOUHOU @ VPACHI at retail. You can contact me directly through the site or on Twitter dreamcastcollector or Instagram dreamcastcollector.