If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ll know the place is full of vending machines selling everything you can think of, from soft drinks, booze, and magazines to batteries, rice, and even fruit and veg (fresh not canned). Indeed, there may also be ones offering retired sumo wrestlers and kimono-clad dogs, though admittedly I’m yet to see either on my travels.
Now it seems Google Japan wants to get in on the act, with the company this week unveiling its very first Google Play game-dispensing vending machines. Spotted on Monday by engadget, each machine offers a range of free and paid-for titles.
To grab a game, you need an NFC-enabled smartphone running Android 4.0 or higher. Simply place your device in the marked space below the machine’s touchscreen display, make your choice and voila! – the selected game loads onto your phone while an entertaining animation plays on the screen.
Google has set up the three machines – each offering 18 games – outside the Parco department store in Tokyo’s busy Shibuya district. For passers-by without an Android device who’d like to give it a try (though it pretty much only involves pressing the phone against the machine), simply select a Nexus 4 on the display and the device will drop into the delivery tray at the bottom. And yes, you’ll have to return it to one of the nearby Google employees before you go on your way.
Considering Android users can already download any of hundreds of thousands of games from just about any location, a large vending machine (offering only 18 titles as well as a Nexus 4) staffed by several employees suggests Google’s machines are merely a marketing gimmick to score its Android platform a little more publicity in a country where its market share is currently equal to that of Apple’s iOS. Incidentally, the Cupertino company recently launched its new handsets with a third carrier in Japan, a move that could give it the edge in the coming months.
Then again, considering Japan’s love of vending machines, a modified version placed around Tokyo’s entertainment districts with a few apps from companies paying for the space could possibly turn into a nice little earner for the Web giant.