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Pinball: a Resurgence In Retro Gaming From an Unlikely Place

timothy posted about a year ago | from the shiny-and-physical dept.

The Almighty Buck 107

woohoodonuts writes "The Professional & Amateur Pinball Association is creating a webchannel that will livestream content from their national circuit of tournaments ranging from Southern California to New York City. The most recent circuit tournament in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sold out of all 400 tournament openings in less than three weeks, months in advance of the event. With several new companies in the process of creating machines and hundreds of new competitive events springing up worldwide at a record pace, is the retro silverball rising to prominence once again?"

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107 comments

Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (2, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year ago | (#43591127)

>> Pinball...Resurgence...From an Unlikely Place

Um...what's the "unlikely place"?

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591387)

>> Pinball...Resurgence...From an Unlikely Place

Um...what's the "unlikely place"?

Going by the summary, it sounds like the answer is Pittsburgh.

Oh, wait. I guess out of context, that doesn't really answer it. Sorry, let me explain: To shut-in American nerd douchebags, if anything at all related to their culture happens anywhere in flyover country (that is, any part of the planet besides New York, California, or Japan), this is completely unfathomable. Therefore, the fact that there's a pinball tournament in Pittsburgh is entirely baffling to the popular kids (after they first checked to make sure there wasn't some mistake, like if there were a Pittsburgh near the San Francisco Bay Area), making it an unlikely place for such a resurgence to occur.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591581)

Pittsburgh is on the east coast. "Flyover land" (aka Dumbfuckistan) is a distinctly different region.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591627)

Two hundred miles away = "on" the east coast..?

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43592367)

Pennsylvania is lumped in as an Eastern seaboard state. I was not literally saying Pittsburgh was butted against the coast, moron.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43592605)

You literally said that, but nice ass cover. Moron.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43593111)

I live in the Seattle area. To me, Chicago is on the East Coast.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

Zephyn (415698) | about a year ago | (#43593867)

Actually it is on the East Coast....

of Lake Michigan.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43595025)

Actually, it is on the WEST COAST of Lake Michigan.

Just like the East Coast is on the West coast of the Atlantic.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591439)

Uranus.

Urwelcome.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

skine (1524819) | about a year ago | (#43591445)

As far as I can tell, this is another "[X] on the internet!" story.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#43593651)

True, but on the bright side, it's one of the few games available nowadays that have no DRM on it

('course, the anti-bot/cheat "tilt" switch is still in place unless you get in there and remove it...)

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591463)

The "unlikely place" is pinball.

Why is it unlikely? Two reasons. The first is that pinball's popularity has been in decline in favor of the rising popularity of video games basically since Pacman. There are children who don't even know about pinball, or if they do it's a pinball emulator on a video game system. Second, pinball is expensive relative to other retro gaming.

Why is it a place? Place is being used metaphorically.

The only problem with the headline is that the "a" should be capitalized. If you disagree with what it says, that's different, but your question is unclear...

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#43592505)

And that second part is why its doomed...the cost. Anybody who has looked into pinball cabinets will tell you how crazy expensive they are to build and maintain,not to mention how it'll wear out sooner thanks to the punishment the ball slamming into all those switches and bumpers causes.

Now compare your average pinball cabinet, with several feet of wiring, pounds of glass plating,lots of rubber bumpers and mechanical switches to a video arcade cabinet...its pretty much a screen, a board, and a controller (or 2 if you want two player co-op or vs) and that is pretty much it. What's more you can just swap out the board and have a new game and moreover pretty much anybody can have one built in their garage over a weekend,hell a Raspberry Pi,a flatscreen monitor and maybe $100 worth of parts from some place like Happs and you can take any dead cabinet off of eBay and have pretty much every arcade game of the 80s and 90s for you to play, with pinball you only only get the one game.

There is a reason why pinball died out folks and that is because they were just too expensive to keep and maintain compared to the alternative so while I'm sure it may become a regional fad for a year or two it'll ultimately fade away again because like the muscle cars of the era they were cool but just cost too much to keep.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about a year ago | (#43593463)

it'll ultimately fade away again because like the muscle cars of the era they were cool but just cost too much to keep.

Oddly enough, I have both a 1996 pinball machine and a 1970 muscle car. Not that I'm arguing the maintenance on either is easy, but they are not expensive -- probably under 50th percentile as far as hobbies for Americans go. Both have low or negative depreciation, and $100-$1000, plus 5-10 hours of my time, per year. I spend more on bicycling.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#43596743)

Yeah wait until gas hits $6 a gallon and get back to me, you'll probably have that muscle car parked in a corner and just dream of being able to afford to feed the beast. I should know as i had an old Pontiac Le Mans Sport back in the day and i had to get rid of it when gas went over a buck fifty as it would take over $100 just to feed that monster for a single night of cruising. Don't get me wrong, like pinball the muscle cars were a blast, its just feeding those monsters got to be too much.

I'm shocked more guys don't come to AR to snatch all the cheap classic cars and make a ton though, here there are classic cars and trucks for sale all over the place for less than $5k and from what i understand those same cars sell on the coast for just crazy money. hell if I was any good with a wrench I'd be doing it myself but I'm no grease monkey and don't have enough hours in the day as it is, but it would be a way to make a damned good living.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

HereIAmJH (1319621) | about a year ago | (#43603221)

Oddly enough, I have both a 1996 pinball machine and a 1970 muscle car. Not that I'm arguing the maintenance on either is easy, but they are not expensive -- probably under 50th percentile as far as hobbies for Americans go. Both have low or negative depreciation, and $100-$1000, plus 5-10 hours of my time, per year.

Hmm, I have a 1980 Williams pinball. I took care of some 'deferred maintenance' when I bought it 12 years ago, but since all I have needed to do was clean/wax the playfield and change an occasional bulb. Since it was designed for commercial use and now is strictly home use, once restored the ongoing cost is not much more than electricity. Due to appreciation I should be able to sell it for more than all the $$ I have spent on it.

My cars, OTOH, are much more expensive to keep around. Local ordinances require all vehicles to be licensed or stored in a garage. And licensing requires maintaining insurance. Because somehow an unlicensed vehicle lowers everyone's property value. I swear, one of these days I'm going to buy the ugliest car that I can find that will pass a state inspection, and park it on the street in front of my house. I'm thinking something along the lines of a Yugo with a rattle-can paint job.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about a year ago | (#43603605)

My cars, OTOH, are much more expensive to keep around. Local ordinances require all vehicles to be licensed or stored in a garage. And licensing requires maintaining insurance.

For the 1970 car in Michigan, historical plates are $30 every 10 years. I don't recall the extra insurance costs, but those are relatively small too. (The car is uninsured and garaged for half the year, which helps).

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about a year ago | (#43593685)

And that second part is why its doomed...the cost. Anybody who has looked into pinball cabinets will tell you how crazy expensive they are to build and maintain

Well, sort of. Then again, how much money does the average XBox gamer spend each year on new titles, the Live account, a huge flatscreen TV to see it on, the internet connection, accessories... ?

Re: Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43595605)

i have a pinball machine made in 1958. it still works with (mostly) original parts. i'm told it is worth $500.00. Not exactly a fortune.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591531)

The back of a volkswagon?

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

KatchooNJ (173554) | about a year ago | (#43592901)

I think it is just worded wonky... I get the impression that they mean that PINBALL is the unlikely place in retro gaming that people would expect a resurgence.

Re:Um...what's the "unlikely place"? (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about a year ago | (#43595091)

Um...what's the "unlikely place"?

The Internet.

Pinball was killed by video arcade games. Video arcade games were killed by home consoles and home computers (which included things like video pinball). Home consoles and computers moved to Internet-based distribution or multi-player systems. Now TV is becaming Internet-based, too, and livestreaming games is taking off like a rocket [twitch.tv] . Now people have begun livestreaming pinball, and it's popularity increases as new people are exposed to the games and they see how people really play them.

Pinball died because of the computer made it obsolete. Now it lives because the computer lets people see why it's not obsolete.

will machines be more common? (4, Insightful)

jehan60188 (2535020) | about a year ago | (#43591129)

i love pinball, but finding a machine is rare! let's hope bars/arcades start stocking them instead of that stupid bowling/golf thingy

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591215)

Pinball machines are more expensive and require more maintanence. I don't know about you, but I go to bard to get drunk and get laid, not to play pinball.

Re:will machines be more common? (4, Funny)

Dins (2538550) | about a year ago | (#43591267)

I don't know about you, but I go to bard to get drunk and get laid, not to play pinball.

For me I guess it would depend on the bard in question...

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43592233)

This one [bard.edu] , obviously.

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43592923)

Worst drunken warcraft sex ever..

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

CanEHdian (1098955) | about a year ago | (#43591315)

but I go to bard to get drunk and get laid, not to play pinball.

What are you doing on Slashdot? Gotta run, play some pinball [wikipedia.org] .

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591337)

Pinball machines are more expensive and require more maintanence. I don't know about you, but I go to bard to get drunk and get laid, not to play pinball.

Personally, I only go to a bard when I need magic potions and healing singing.

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591369)

As if the machines were ever anything more than random acquisitions, or got more than a book under a leg for "maintenance".

"Tony! This thing doesn't even have a ball in it!"
"Ah shut it."

Re:will machines be more common? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591375)

How can you expect to get laid without showing off your pinball prowess?

Re:will machines be more common? (4, Interesting)

mabu (178417) | about a year ago | (#43591385)

Games now cost in excess of $6500. It's no longer profitable to operate them. They are much higher maintenance than video games and neither bring in the coin-op money they used to. It is unfortunate since pinball really is a uniquely American form, a great combination of technology + mechanical design + art + culture.

Re:will machines be more common? (4, Insightful)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year ago | (#43591819)

Speak for yourself white man, the pinball machine at my favorite local hangout takes in a lot of money, it's pretty profitable. The initial capital outlay might be high, but the returns are pretty high. If someone wants to play Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter they can do that in their house for free, but if you want the visceral feeling of playing a pinball game, you have to leave your basement.

Re:will machines be more common? (2)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#43592109)

but if you want the visceral feeling of playing a pinball game, you have to leave your basement.

Funny thing to say, seeing as my pins *are* in my basement. But I do agree that the cost of pins, new or old, is too high for most people to collect a bunch for their game room (and of course ya gotta want to work on them. They require almost as much maintenance as the '80s BMWs a pal of mine spends all his free time on).

And if anyone has an EM JokerPoker, I'd love to get my hands on it (as in buy).

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43594465)

Why do you assume he's a White man? Pinball is a White man's game so it'd be more likely that he would overestimate its profitability. Your whole comment sounded ignorant and offensive even if you're White.

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43596309)

Sorry to burst your bubble, But NO they are not profitable - Even if they "Appear" to be.
Maintinance and parts blow away any profits you might imagine making.
(Then you have the venue wanting their cut - And they just see the coins going in - Not the cost of maintinance!)

If you want to make money - You have to charge $2 per game..... Which many people
are not willing to pay - More than once or twice.

In todays age of 30 second attention spans - People loose interest quickly.

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43593115)

It is unfortunate since pinball really is a uniquely American form, a great combination of technology + mechanical design + art + culture.

While I agree with you, I'm genuinely surprised that, in the couple hours it's been since you posted this, you didn't get a hysterical squad of weeaboos shrieking incoherent facts about pachinko at you in the desperate hopes that anybody cares, as well as completely missing the point about just how much pinball diverged from its (in theory) spiritual inspiration into a completely different game and artform.

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year ago | (#43594579)

pinball really is a uniquely American form

Pinball has its roots in billiards, but didn't take off in the form we know it until the late 1700s
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagatelle [wikipedia.org]

About 100 years later, Bagatelle transformed more or less into pinball when a British immigrant in America, Montegue Redgrave, invented the plunger
50 years after that, pinball goes big during the Great Depression and the industry takes off like a rocket.
But don't ever forget that the French introduced the basic game to our country and an Englishman gave us what we have today.

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

BlueGMan (1215404) | about a year ago | (#43599061)

There is a new company trying to break into the market (cannot seem to find their site at the moment due to mother firewall)... I have an Indiana Jones (2006) (12k new, 6k restored) and a Dr Who (1994) in *my* basement. USED pinballs (Adams Family, Lord of the Rings, etc.) can cost upwards of 6k. If you are fortunate enough to live in the Baltimore / DC area, Baltimore has the National Pinball Museum (www.nationalpinballmuseum.org). They have converted their machines to card readers (think Dave & Busters) and you can buy a card for around 12.00 for unlimited play for 2hrs (or longer on special occassions). They have pins from 50s and up, all playable and keep them all in impeccable condition. My local guy, (Purcellville Pinball and Slots) buys used machines and rehabs them for sale (including the LED light upgrades, protectors, etc), as well as access to parts (some of which are hard to come by). There are active tournaments here in the DC Metro area every few weeks.. so in some places, it is still alive and well!!

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43592647)

You're getting drunk and fucking BARDS?

Re:will machines be more common? (2)

decipher_saint (72686) | about a year ago | (#43591269)

I find them all the time in bars... broken

Which is a shame, I've seen some great looking pinball games just sitting there with a jammed component.

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591539)

I know a place that has about 20 machines, but that's the exception rather than the rule. Finding those is rare indeed. It's even harder to find those older video-pinball games. Just try locating Caveman [ipdb.org] (circa 1982).

The new Tron pin is really fun - fast paced and right down the middle. The old "Who dunit?" [ipdb.org] game was too easy. I scored 13 billion+ and had to leave it because I was about to miss a movie. Theater of Magic can be a hard one. Some are just weird, like Haunted House - 3 playfield levels and one of them is backwards.

As far as becoming more common, I doubt it. These machines are too complicated to lower the price. Miles of wires are necessary for the lighting and the mechanical parts.

Re:will machines be more common? (5, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#43591563)

i love pinball, but finding a machine is rare! let's hope bars/arcades start stocking them instead of that stupid bowling/golf thingy

Pinball started dying out in the 80s and 90s because video games were cheaper and more reliable, and more importantly, smaller. Pinball machines required a lot of space and tons of maintenance.

The problem is, a pinball machine's purpose is to make money. The money goes to the operator (the person responsible for buying and maintaining the machines) and the site owner (the guy offering up space for the machine). So whenever it gets broken or goes down, it stops making money and the operator has to spend money to fix it. Video games and other machines last a lot longer so less money is paid out ot maintain them and more money goes to the site owner and the operator. Plus, since a machine consumes more space, you could often fit two video games in the space of one.

Plus, good pins are hard to get - Williams was the #1 pinball manufacturer - their machines were high quality, had good feel, and had various compensation mechanisms to allow for it to be in quite a bad state of disrepair and still be playable. As a result, even the worst DMD Williams machine is now horrendously expensive (maybe even more $$$ than new - $5000+). Some of the more popular machines command even more - prices of $15K+ aren't exactly unheard of.

So now it's even a worse proposition for operators and owners.

The only manufacturer left, Stern, evolved out of Data East/Sega, well known for very cheap crappy pins. However, they survived purely because Williams' factories are designed to pump up 10,000's worth of machines (pinball, slot machines, etc) and are very unprofitable building thousands or less, while Stern's can build hundreds and still be profitable. The latest WPC pins only sold between 2-5000 units (Pin2K was one of the first to reverse the unprofitability of the pinball division).

Williams in the end stopped pinball in 1999, but they wanted to hold it in their back pocket just in case it was a bad decision. Unfortunately, even doing something like reviving old hit machines wasn't ever an option because the sales wouldn't be enough to make money (again, when you're geared to build tens of thousands, building sub-10K is very inefficient and expensive).

Pinball machines will remain a niche these days because the economics aren't there. The problem is the machines have to make money, so it's a balance between ball time and difficulty - too difficult, and people don't play, but too long a ball and the machine doesn't make money because it's in use all the time. And what happened was pro pinball players started demanding more complex pins, which ended up excluding newbies and bringing fresh blood and new money to the industry.

It's changing, slowly, thanks to video pins - for those of us wanting recreations of the old machines, The Pinball Arcade [pinballarcade.com] is one of the premier video pinball simulators that feature many licensed recreations (many fully emulated a la PinMAME) on every platform (iOS, Android (including Android clones like Ouya, Kindle), PS3, Xbox360 (currently on hold because Crave (publisher) went bankrupt and is holding the contract hostage), and OS X). PC was just greenlit a few weeks ago on Steam, so the PC version is coming out soon. And of course it has a fan site with forums [pinballarcadefans.com] .

There are many others as well, which have the advantage that if you're not making money per play, they can concentrate on fun more than balancing fun with the need to make money.

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591865)

The problem is, a pinball machine's purpose is to make money. The money goes to the operator (the person responsible for buying and maintaining the machines) and the site owner (the guy offering up space for the machine). So whenever it gets broken or goes down, it stops making money and the operator has to spend money to fix it. Video games and other machines last a lot longer so less money is paid out ot maintain them and more money goes to the site owner and the operator. Plus, since a machine consumes more space, you could often fit two video games in the space of one.

It also doesn't help that pinball fans seem to be pretty price-sensitive. Pinball was 40-75 cents/play in the mid-90s. If you find a table now, it's 50-75 cents/play. We should be paying $1+/play now, but if an owner tries to charge that, no one will play it. Charging what people will pay, it doesn't pay to have the machine. So pins disappear.

I agree that The Pinball Arcade is great, though my PS3 version has felt pretty buggy lately. (Camera problems, mostly.)

Tablets are great for pinball (1)

Comboman (895500) | about a year ago | (#43592293)

I never cared for pinball on the PC or consoles; it just felt "wrong". But I recently tried Pinball Arcade on my Android tablet and I'm hooked. It must be the way you can lay the tablet flat the way a real pinball table is oriented instead of looking up at a vertical screen.

Re:Tablets are great for pinball (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#43593727)

I never cared for pinball on the PC or consoles; it just felt "wrong". But I recently tried Pinball Arcade on my Android tablet and I'm hooked. It must be the way you can lay the tablet flat the way a real pinball table is oriented instead of looking up at a vertical screen.

It's supposed to be a mode exclusive to the upcoming PC version for those Ultrapin style machines.

And yes, it does feel "wrong", but when the option is hunting around the globe for $10K+ machines or video pinball, the latter has to do. Even when Pinball Arcade costs around $60 all paid up (every table purchased), it's probably the only sane alternative out there for a quick fix.

Re:will machines be more common? (5, Informative)

grahamwest (30174) | about a year ago | (#43592351)

I worked at Williams in the 90s. You're pretty much spot on but I do have a few other comments. The fact that games broke more than videogames is true, but what really choked the industry - and I'm counting arcade videogames in this too - was that all the games wound up getting more and more expensive, yet earning less and less money.

Back in the day, if a game didn't pay for itself in 8 weeks, it was a dog. Really good games could do that in 3 weeks. Once they'd done that, the rest was profit. After a while the original location would sell the game and a lesser location would pick it up. Cheaper price, lower earning but still the game paid for itself in a few weeks. Repeat 2 or 3 more times and you have a game in a pizza joint, not earning much but doing well enough to be worth the effort. When the time-to-profit stretched out it choked this whole 'food chain' to the point that distributors were telling the manufacturers that they didn't want to buy any more games, even if they'd signed a contract for exclusivity in return for minimum orders, even if the game was incredible, because they already had a warehouse full of stuff they couldn't sell to the top-tier operators and thus just taking up space and (more importantly) non-cash illiquid assets.

There was also bloody-mindedness on the part of the locations, operators, distributors and manufacturers. Manufacturers kept jacking up prices without enough effort in R&D (Pin2k was an exception and I have so many heroic stories of our effort on that!) and without coming up with enough other ways to add value. Distributors cut back all the services they used to offer (e.g. board repair, big parts catalogs), operators were no longer willing to spend time fixing and cleaning games (easier to put in a Golden Tee Golf instead) and locations didn't want to deal with the space or the noise.

Pinball and slots at WMS were separate business units with their own assembly lines. Spinning reel slot design was briefly under Larry DeMar who was the head of engineering for pinball (and a legend in his own right thanks to Robotron, Defender, Black Knight, High Speed, Funhouse...) but that didn't really affect things and was before Pin2k got going. The fixed cost of the production line was a big drag on profit and we were barely hitting the minimum run rate most of the time, but it wasn't in the tens of thousands. 5000 a year was about where it was at, if I remember rightly. Revenge From Mars perked that up considerably but then the CEO decided to pump up the price for Star Wars Ep 1 and orders, which had been higher, dropped below its sales. That's when they pulled the plug.

After that, a bunch of the WMS pinball people went to Stern and some others went with Pat Lawlor who founded his own design company, manufacturing through Stern. That's why Stern's games improved in quality and play appeal. You can thank Dwight, Keith and Lyman in particular, plus Louis, Greg and John K along with Pat at PLD. George Gomez (Tron, Spy Hunter and the Monster Bash pinball, among others) now runs Stern.

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about a year ago | (#43595269)

TLDR: The big boys saturated and mismanaged the market, then when they closed down all the talent went to the small houses.

Sounds like normal business to me. Hopefully the talent can pass on what they know to the next generation and foster a real industry.

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43599015)

Thank you for the peek into the industry. As a woefully addicted consumer of pinball, this is fascinating.

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

Megane (129182) | about a year ago | (#43592735)

Also, video games are easier to convert to a different game if they get stale, since most of them used joysticks and NTSC scan rate video. It can be as simple as new marquees with a ROM swap or a new JAMMA-compliant mainboard.

I don't know enough about pins to know if they kept to similar board layouts to allow easier conversions, but there's nothing keeping the positions of all those mechanical switches and solenoids in the same place, and you might have to trash everything but the frame and score wheels for a conversion.

Re:will machines be more common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43593127)

A free alternative to TPA worth checking out is the Virtual Pinball framework, which has an amazing number of user created and supported tables on their forums. Many are in the B2S format, which included not only the table from a top/ortho view for large 16:9 monitors in a vertical format, but also the realistic backsplash for a second 3:2 monitor. Take a look at this sample:

http://tinyurl.com/coqse5z

Check more out here: http://www.vpforums.org/

Re:will machines be more common? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591697)

You should look on http://pinballmap.com/ if you want to find machines...

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

ZipK (1051658) | about a year ago | (#43592743)

i love pinball, but finding a machine is rare! let's hope bars/arcades start stocking them instead of that stupid bowling/golf thingy

Pacific Pinball Museum [pacificpinball.org]
Pinball Hall of Fame [pinballmuseum.org]
Silver Ball Museum Arcade [silverballmuseum.com]
Pinballz Arcade [pinballzarcade.com]
Seattle Pinball Museum [facebook.com]

Plus there are annual shows all over the country.

Re:will machines be more common? (1)

HereIAmJH (1319621) | about a year ago | (#43603699)

And back in the reign of Pinball, you would find a machine in every convenience store, and every mall had an arcade. But today you can earn more money by standing up another rack of Twinkies.

Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591159)

There's a big event happening in Toronto soon as well with ties to The Who's Tommy. They put together a decent HTML game as well - http://tommypinball.com/

why unlikely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591185)

pinball is something you really can't do at home, it's the epitome of actual physical input and tactile response, the opposite of all the wishy washy motion controls and touchscreens we're being force-fed elsewhere.

Re:why unlikely? (2)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#43591291)

Sure you can....I have one (a classic EM from 1967), and many of my friends have them.

Got mine for about $700....sure, if you want the latest and greatest, they can run you $4K, but for older ones, they aren't that expensive.

A couple of classic pins and a MAME machine, and you've got quite a gameroom going.

Personally next house I move to, I wanna find a large enough room to put in a real, full sized, heavy as a tank air hockey table.

Re:why unlikely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591349)

The bigger issue is space. You need to be able to afford a place big enough for one, where you're not needing the space for something else constantly. It's a similar problem to pool tables, where they aren't that expensive, but they end up taking up space that you can't really use for anything else afterwards.

Re:why unlikely? (1)

turp182 (1020263) | about a year ago | (#43591675)

At one point I had a game room consisting of:
1. Ms. Pac-Man original arcade game
2. Pool table.
3. Ping pong table
4. Atari 2600 console with TV and 80 or so games.

It helped that the first floor of my house had previously been retail space (art gallery).

Full sized arcade machines are awesome fun.

Re:why unlikely? (1)

Ranbot (2648297) | about a year ago | (#43591317)

"...epitome of physical input and tactile response..." Funny, because I think that applies better to actual sports. Yes, yes, I'm sure someone can argue that pinball could be considered a sport, but it certainly not any sort of level of physicality with baseball, olympic gymnastics, boxing, etc. etc. etc. It's like saying competitive Star Craft players are "athletes"

Current Collectors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591219)

Will be interesting if this takes off more, especially outside the US, what it will do to the current collections in market. I have a friend with about 150 machines where even a new machines cost an extra premium due to the shipping costs to get it out of the US.

Quarters (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591225)

As long as they much quarters and not dollars

You know what killed arcades for me? Having to spend $1 per play and 50 cents for a continue.

I appreciate that it costs more to make fancier games but way to price yourself out of the market

Re:Quarters (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#43592915)

That was a big problem for me. As a tween/teenager I didn't really have that much cash to dump in games that had become designed for hardened arcade players.

The second thing that killed arcades for me were the actual people who inhabited them and loved to kick a kid off a machine or join in a challenge against them. Not being able to be a 'regular' a lot of the fun was killed for me.

Ironically, I love pinball machines because I didn't have to deal with other jerks at the arcade, and they tended to be less expensive. (also, they were just fun).

But I never dared risk $1 per play when I only had $5-10 to spend.

That deaf dumb and blind kid... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591243)

...sure plays a mean pinball. However, he doesn't seem to be able to explain what the "unlikely place" is.

More hipster crap (1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#43591287)

It's just more hipsterism. These dbags are a scourge on modern American culture, with their PBR, artisan pickles, Instagram and crochet.

Not that pinball isn't totally awesome - but its only getting a resurgence because there's a bunch of high disposable income millenials who think they discovered it.

Re:More hipster crap (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43591333)

Is there any way for it to be otherwise? Afaict, the word "hipster" is applied pretty much tautologically to anyone who likes "retro" things. So it is in fact impossible to like pinball and not be seen as a hipster, unless perhaps you're old.

Re:More hipster crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591455)

Liking pinball and "incidentally" pointing it out at half-opportunities will make me call even an old person a hipster.

Re:More hipster crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591601)

Is there any way for it to be otherwise? Afaict, the word "hipster" is applied pretty much tautologically to anyone who likes "retro" things. So it is in fact impossible to like pinball and not be seen as a hipster, unless perhaps you're old.

I prefer to go by John Hodgman's definition of the term, in that it's the difference between using culture as a tool to find other like-minded individuals and using the same culture as a cudgel to assert your own superiority.

Re:More hipster crap (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#43592133)

Identifying the hipsters is easy - they're the ones who will stop liking pinball once it is again "mainstream".

Re:More hipster crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591341)

Are you trying to say you liked pinball before it was cool because...

Re:More hipster crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591513)

It's somehow ironic to hear of someone who uses the name Gothmolly talking about hipster douchebags.

Re:More hipster crap (2)

xstonedogx (814876) | about a year ago | (#43591523)

The key component of hipsterism is pretense. Just because people enjoy something "retro" doesn't mean they are hipsters.

Still made in the usa! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591327)

Still made in the usa!

sigh (1)

sootman (158191) | about a year ago | (#43591355)

"is the retro silverball rising to prominence once again?"

No. Neither is vinyl or buggy whips. An increase in the number of enthusiasts is not a "resurgence" or "rise to prominence."

Good news everybody! (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#43591365)

Microsoft's Space Cadet pinball game still works on Windows 7. And all you have to do is to copy the folder from your old machine to the new one (in Program Files, of course)...

Totally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591397)

It's always been big, but recently they've secured deals to televise the last of the remaining championships on other markets besides PPV. There's also a reality show about pinball players in the works.

It takes steel balls (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43591461)

to play pinball.

Old guys rule (2)

DeathGrippe (2906227) | about a year ago | (#43591515)

and old guys love pinball. We grew up with it. I'm 66, and I've got 14 machines, a whole room full, all digital. Fun to play, fun to maintain. My kids love 'em too, but they prefer their MMO's.

Re:Old guys rule (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | about a year ago | (#43608137)

and old guys love pinball. We grew up with it. I'm 66, and I've got 14 machines, a whole room full, all digital. Fun to play, fun to maintain. My kids love 'em too, but they prefer their MMO's.

yep. I'm half a generation behind you, but I do have fond memories (late Carter administration through early Reagan) of pwning the Charlie's Angels pinball machine in Louie's Lower Level in the basement of the Student Union at the University of Arizona. Slapped my quarter down in the line of quarters over the plunger and studied math until it was my turn. Prior to that (tail end of LBJ through Nixon and Ford) it was Spanky's Pinball Parlor at the strip mall two blocks from my house, where we would ditch jr hi to share cigarettes with older girls on the delivery dock of the El Rancho supermarket that anchored the mall, while we waited for an opening on our favorite table. There was a military recruiter at the far end of the mall next to a barbershop; the Marine Corps and Air Force guys would show up with a couple rolls of quarters and a seemingly endless supply of cigarettes (my 3-packs-a-day habit started at Spanky's) and would happily share both with the older teens and even us tweens. Spanky's died in the 80s, probably for the reasons other posters have postulated -- the rise of the home console. I joined the AF right after college, and it was the rare BOQ that didn't have a couple of pinball machines in the dayroom, right next to the vending machines stocked with beer instead of Coke. The enlisted guys had tables in their clubs; sadly the officers didn't -- just pool for us.

Hmmm. thanks for the stroll down memory lane. I prefer MMOs now myself, especially WoW. But still, pinball was a great way to waste time and meet girls. I do miss it.

The problem with pinball... (1)

subanark (937286) | about a year ago | (#43591605)

Is the cost to maintain the machine. They are much more expensive to maintain than a stand up arcade; even games like DDR are cheaper. With the shift of gaming from arcades to consoles pinball has naturally also declined as you can't get an authentic pinball experience from a virtual display. Now, if there was a rise to bring arcades back, then you would see games that have a unique advantage in the arcade over a home console rise in popularity within the arcade.

P.S. If you like virtual pinball games check out little wing [littlewingpinball.com]

Dr. Who-Suess (1)

s1d3track3D (1504503) | about a year ago | (#43591679)

Do you play the silver ball?
From Soho down to Brighton?
Have you played them all?
Have you played them all, in any amusement hall?
I have played them all, I do play them all
I like to play and play I must, in any amusement hall.

Pinball diehard (5, Insightful)

AnalogDiehard (199128) | about a year ago | (#43591821)

Thirty years I outgrew video games while in college because I recognized early that they were addictive and they burned a hole in your pocket. But I never outgrew pinball machines. I always preferred the arcade games that relied on predictable real life attributes such as gravity and inertia, and video games don't offer that. With pinball machines you didn't burn a hole in your pocket trying to decipher patterns like you did with video games. But video games drew better money because of the addiction so the arcade owners gradually displaced pinball machines. There aren't many pinball machines around anymore, but when I cross paths with one I just have to play them.

The old pinball machines from 1960 onward are really easy to fix. When I was in high school I completely restored one that belonged to a neighbor and didn't have to spend one dime on parts - most of the work was restoring mechanical parts such as solenoids, relays, springs, contacts, etc. Projects like that were the impetus to my earning an engineering degree from college.

There are resellers making good money from scavenging parts to resell to pinball enthusiasts. Many pinball machines survive from as far back as the 1950s. With a few exceptions, you don't see that kind of loyalty with video games because the effort isn't worth it and spare parts are an issue. Replacing a CRT in today's flat screen world? Forget it. Video game computer flaking out? You need expensive test equipment and good diagnostic skills to fix them. Many video games from the 1970s and 1980s used ICs whose substrates suffered from chemical reactions over time that ultimately rendered a dead chip. Fixing a video game quickly reaches the point of diminishing returns because with their lower market value you will never recover the restoration costs.

Playing a pinball machine gives you physical feedback. You can't feel the bumpers kick or the solenoids advancing the score counters on a video game. Bells and tonebars sound much more natural than electronic blips and bleeps. The playfields and backglass on many pinball machines are works of art, further highlighted by flashing lights. Video games are no match for the visual impact of a chrome plated ball dashing around bumpers, ramps, dropholes, et al with lights which react to impacts from the ball. Some of the later pinball machines did integrate sound effects but nothing corny like video games. And some of the themed pinball machines are downright excellent - you haven't played pinball until you played The Simpsons themed pinball machine.

Re:Pinball diehard (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year ago | (#43592989)

As someone who loves pinball games, but never became a fanatic, here is a big problem that I had with pinball.

The points. I never knew what the hell was going on with the points. Weird multipliers, huge numbers that I think can be called 'bajillions', and not really knowing if I would get 1 or 5 balls out of a quarter. (Why did that peg on the side disappear?)

I realize that a lot of people like the 'discovery' aspect of the games, but damned if that wasn't weird for someone new to the games. As it was, I never really felt like I should try for a higher score, since my scores always seemed to vary by 10 orders of magnitude between similar plays.

Re:Pinball diehard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43598727)

Replacing a CRT in today's flat screen world? Forget it.

Not true. A 100-degree round-faced CRT tube from an 80s/90s TV is a drop-in replacement for the often-burned color vector monitors used in Tempest and Star Wars. A 90-degree round-faced CRT tube from an 80s/90s TV is often (sometimes you have to swap yokes, which is somewhat more difficult if the TV's yoke is bonded to the tube) a drop-in replacement for the burned-in screens used in the raster-scan monitors. I'm also told (but cannot confirm, can anyone with a 19" monochrome Sun workstation CRT pop off the back of the tube and post the number on the tube?) that certain workstation monitors are drop-in replacements for the tubes used in Asteroids/Lunar Lander/Omega Race.

But apart from that technical quibble on CRTs, I agree with everything else you said. I love video games, and I also love pinball. Like you, I only came to love pinball only after I'd played video games for a few years.

Thje death of pinball: (2)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | about a year ago | (#43592003)

Video games: two fit in the same amount of space as one pin. That golf game earns $1-3 for just 3-5 minutes, with a general spend of $3-5. The most people are willing to pay for a game of pinball is generally 50Â, and that game better last 2-3 minutes, and can last a lot longer.

Service: unskilled labour can pull and replace a control in most video games; few other problems exist these days. Pinball machines break. A lot. Fixing them requires lots of parts and lots of skill. There is only one person in the world able to reliably repair major problems on boards which haven't been made for the past 15-30 years (he bought the equipment from Williams when they shut down).

Machines: There is only one manufacturer now: Stern. New machines run around $5500 plus shipping.

Parts: There are hundreds of standard parts (though half of them differ by manufacturer) and a shitton of specialised pieces. All of them are expensive, as is the time of the guy who can reliably repair/replace them.

Personal: I restore pins as a hobby. General parts come from only a couple of suppliers and specialised/unique pieces mainly from old stock from eBay. There are some modern replacement items such as redesigned power driver boards and LED replacements for lighting (bulbs always burn out) but it's a niche resurgence which won't bring around a renaissance because...

Economics: a 50-50 split with the location on the 50-75Â per game max, on a machine which costs $5500 plus at least $100 in time and delivery costs and can be expected to require skilled service at least once a month, on-call and available within 48 hours with at least 300 parts on-hand. After 6-9 months the machine will have to be rotated out and after a couple of years, you can sell it for around $1000 to a collector if it's not lame and completely blown, in which case you might get $500 from a salvager. The no-service $4000 golf game will have turned a profit within a year.

Re:Thje death of pinball: (1)

dianebrat (212157) | about a year ago | (#43592459)

Just an FYI, the magic time for play time average was always about 2:30 to 3:30, less than that and repeat players leave, more than 4 minutes and you don't make money either.

These numbers were across both video games and pinball games in the arcades for years, not sure how that's changed in the past 10 years since I've been out of the business, but those were the numbers from the 80's and 90's almost without fail.

Re:Thje death of pinball: (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | about a year ago | (#43595333)

Just an FYI, the magic time for play time average was always about 2:30 to 3:30, less than that and repeat players leave, more than 4 minutes and you don't make money either.

That's a big reason why good pinball machines started to disappear even before the Williams pulled out of the business. The last set of pinball machines were more like lotteries as far as free play (either games or balls) went. They had configs like extremely short time limits while the "extra ball" was lit, or the free game score was insanely high, and only hitting the "super amazing jackpot" would ever give you enough points to do that.

Before that, many games were just a matter of steady scoring (i.e., keeping the ball in play) to hit the replay score. Unfortunately, on those types of machines, two initial credits could last an hour or more with skilled players.

There are other ways that modern machine design has done things to reduce play time, and much of it reduces fun. Some games have replaced the mechanical plunger with an electronic one which launches the ball automatically after a certain delay. Not only is this annoying when you need to take a leak, but it removes the skill of the initial shot. Likewise, there seem to be more machines with more "certain death" paths where the ball will always drain, regardess of speed. Often these machines have a "safety" feature where the ball is resumed if this happens too soon after the initial launch, but that's just a concession that the design isn't really that good.

The classic pinball machines that people are still talking about were tough but fair, and I think that's a requirement for any future machines if the industry wants to resurrect itself.

If you want to play and live near Jersey (1)

Nozsd (1080965) | about a year ago | (#43592177)

If you live close to Central Jersey, there's an arcade called 8 on the Break in Dunellen that has about 10 pinball tables. They have old and new pinball tables, very well maintained, and the price per game is really cheap. Most are $0.50 a game. There's also a pinball league that's currently active and run tournaments there every Wednesday night.

It is definitely caused by hipsters but I love it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43595325)

I live in San Francisco, and I'm a non hip 40+ old fart. All of a sudden the hipster bars are full of 20 something hipsters playing perfectly maintained pinball ,machines and drinking beer. There's 2 to 7 machines in each place. One snap of the finger and a repairman is there within an hour, even at 10pm!

As a 40+ old fart, I never thought I would see the day where I could relive my college excesses of drinking and playing pinball but that day has arrived. It is even better in places where real estate is cheaper like in Denver. I went there for work and happily stumbled upon the "1up" (http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-1up-denver )which blew my mind with the sheer quantity and quality of games. At that point I knew this phenomena has gone nationwide!

Sure the hipsters have the annoying habit of calling them "pinball tables" instead of "pinball machines" like we 80s college kids did (they like old timey names I guess) and sure they don't really know the etiquitte (such as keeping an eye for when it is your turn to play and not keep people waiting and honoring quarters waiting a turn).. but in the end, these are decent kids, who enjoy playing... and the benefits to me are huge. When I play pinball I am in another zone and I do not care if I an the old, non-hip guy in the bar. It is sheer enjoyment!

As any hipster fad, this will only last a little while, and I will be sad when it ends.

How to quickly get into the hobby web-wise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43601105)

For free emailed daily classifieds all over North America, sign up:
https://user.xmission.com/~daina/classified/search_for_sale.html

A veritable insane bible of search-able databased photos and info of all things pinball:
http://www.ipdb.org/search.pl

Pinball News:
http://www.pinballnews.com/

USENET:
rec.games.pinball

There are many weekend-long pinball shows across the US. You definitely will want to go to one near you. Matter of fact, this weekend marks the Allentown Pin show (3rd and 4th), and people travel from Florida to Canada to attend this one:
http://www.pinfestival.com/

Go to Usenet's "rgp" and post any questions. Likely there's someone in your very neighborhood that will invite you over to play their machines.

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