A photo booth can have several different meanings for people, from the focused necessity of official ID photographs to the social networking potential of corporate photo booth hire.
How A Photo Booth Became Japan’s Highest-Grossing Arcade Machine
A photo booth can have several different meanings for people, from the focused necessity of official ID photographs to the social networking potential of corporate photo booth hire, the simple concept of taking pictures with a dedicated machine has an enduring meaning.
This is why, for over two decades, one of the most successful arcade past-times has centred around the photo booth, to the point that a subculture surrounding them has its own name: purikura.
Purikura comes from a shortened version of Print Club, the first and most successful digital photo booth machine of its type. The digital format allowed for the machine to create different effects such as adding text, backdrops, borders, decorations and later retouching of pictures.
Print Club was developed by two of the biggest video game companies in Japan at the time, Sega and Atlus (who as of 2022 are both owned by the same holding company, Sega Sammy Holdings) based on an idea by developer Sasaki Miho.
She suggested a machine that took advantage of the popularity of photo stickers and “kawaii” (cute and childlike) photo culture amongst girls in Japan in the 1990s. It was an instant hit, becoming the highest-grossing arcade game in Japan in 1996 and through decades of updates would remain high on this list.
This success would remain despite the competition of instant photography in the 1990s, digital cameras in the early 2000s and selfie culture in the late 2000s and throughout the 2010s, transforming arcade game centres from male-dominated spaces to ones far more welcoming to everyone.
There are a few reasons for this. The first is taking advantage of social media, allowing selfie booths to not only dispense rolls of stickers but also send them to dedicated apps such as Furyu which has allowed them to endure and provide benefits over selfies such as improved lighting.
Technology has also advanced, allowing for facial recognition technology and retouching tools, which in turn led to a race between different manufacturers to allow girls to increase the size of their eyes in the pictures, a popular trend in kawaii culture.
Finally, as a social activity, many girls would go together to photo booths and treat it as a memento of a day out together, one that allowed a great deal of individual expression, such as the graffiti purikura subculture.