Quoted from Max_Badazz:
I bet if some old timers chime in here (those that used to buy B/W new in box), they will say those Williams had just as many issues.
Actually, most old timers will freely admit that Stern's quality control is improved at least tenfold over where B/W was with their titles. From multiple people that I've talked with that were buying games at the time, and experiences myself working on some of them, it basically went like this...
Gottlieb games were guilt like tanks, but didn't really earn much of anything. They basically never broke down though, and when they did they were a breeze to fix.
B/W titles earned really solidly, but suffered from some breakdowns. The breakdowns were tolerable though because they generally earned well enough in the times they were not broke down to make up for it.
DE titles earned really well, in fact many times they earned better than B/W titles... but especially out of the box they suffered through tons of issues that meant that they didn't last on route for too long. They had breakdowns relatively often, and they were relatively serious.
All of the above seem more reliable today then Stern machines because when you buy them you are either buying a game that is known for having sat for a long time, so duh it's going to have issues, or you're buying a game that someone already tweaked the heck out of and updated everything on. You're not getting a game right out of the box, so the perception is that they work better... but that really isn't the case.
Stern machines hold up better in the long run than any of the games before whether you like it or not. The question is if they attract enough players to warrant their purchase price - essentially, we're now 10+ years past when B/W closed their doors, the default price to pay is still essentially unchanged by most ops (and I've even heard fans complain that if pins are set at 75 cents a play, they won't drop coin on them -- but they'll pay $6000+ for the latest LE), and the machine price has risen significantly.
Quoted from Benepinballs:
People seem to forget, Bally williams sacrificed quality for profit many times, and had tons of quality control problems with games out of the box.. then again most of the naysayers werent even around when the games were available new.
Agreed. It's the nature of the business. It wasn't like B/W was putting the kitchen sink in their games every time out. And, a lot of the games where people start complaining about so-called cost cutting by Sega are some of the most incredibly dense playfields that are out there. Look at the playfield for Batman Forever, Baywatch or Viper: Night Drivin', and then compare to a game like AFM which was cost reduced. History shows us which one is more popular with collectors now, but it has little to do with the amount of stuff put in it.
The original question is basically impossible. If I was operating in today's market, knowing what I do about everything, I'd really have to know the titles before I took the plunge on anything. Of the most recent stuff, I think I would've bit the bullet for an X-Men LE and then planned on selling it in a couple years. Maybe an ACDC LE of some sort too. Would B/W have been coming up with titles that hold their value so well? Who knows - but based on Stern's recent track record, I would have taken my chances with what I've seen there.