As many of you know, we've started a pinball museum near Ann Arbor Michigan called VFW pinball (vintage flipper world.) Here's an article about it before it really took off....
News story: http://www.annarbor.com/news/pinball-museum-story/
Show web site: http://www.vfwpinball.com
So as part of our charter we are allowed to be open up to four weekends a year. So we thought we would do a pinball show (May 16-18, 2014). But we wanted to address a lot of concerns that we saw at other pinball shows. Stuff that really is bothersome and that obviously could be improved upon.
Personally i've been going to pinball shows for nearly 20 years. I've seen a lot of stuff and a lot of ideas. But basically the biggest problem is that every show models itself on other shows. There isn't a lot of solutions to common problems. With the Ann Arbor Pinball Show, we feel we've addressed nearly every concern, making this model a far better event.
Simply put, people go to pinball shows for one big reason, the games. With arcades nearly non-existent, pinball shows put together a lot of games in one location at one time. The problem is, they are doing it "ass backward." That is, every show bring the games to the people, opposed to people to the games.
What i mean is that all pinball shows rely on the public, collectors, operators to bring their games. That means they have to tear them down, get them up the stairs, get them to the show, set up the game, and then baby sit the game during the show. After the show there's a limited amount of time to tear down the game, load it back up, drive back home, bring it back down the stairs, and then set it back up. Of course, you have fix anything that broke during the show (at your expense and time), and re-clean the game. And what is your compensation for this work? Free entry? Really? Like $20? If someone said to me, "hey can i rent your pinball for the weekend, and you deliver it, and you have set up, and you have to fix anything that breaks, and you have to remove and bring it home, and i'll give you $20." I would be like, "ARE YOU NUTS?"
So why is it that pinball shows ask people to do this? It makes little sense frankly. Sure i get it, your a hobby guy, you like to show off your toy, fine. Go for it. But just be fore warned, that most game damage occurs when a machine is moved. Also chiropractors LOVE pinball shows, for obvious reasons.
In addition you have the problem of duplicates at shows. Do you really need five Addams Families at a show? wouldn't you rather have one Addams, and four other unique game titles??
Also there's the problem of "show whores", where someone brought a piece of junk so they could get in free, sell it for free, or get it fixed for free. (Heck i know show promoters that bring broken games to their own show so that the volunteer help fixes it for free!) This is a big problem at a lot of shows.
At the Ann Arbor show, we have a different solution. We have TWO HUNDRED unique machines already on site. Already set up. Already working. All ready to go. That's 200 different games, no duplicates. Most shows struggle to get 100 games. And all games at the Ann Arbor show are of known quality. That is, there aren't any "show whores".
Games at the show: http://www.vfwpinball.com/games.php
Another problem at shows is the "people-to-game" ratio is terrible. If there's lines 5 deep to play every game, how much fun is that? Heck can you even move around in that environment? Show promoters generally aren't the types that are going to turn people away at the door. Heck they want your money. Some may say they are making money on the backs of their volunteer help. But regardless, i've never ever been to a show that turned people away.
At the Ann Arbor show, we're doing it differently. That is, we cap the number of tickets available. When that number is reach, like a concert, it's sold out. This keeps the people-to-game ratio nice, so there are not lines to play. Sure there will be more people likely wanting to play Medieval Madness than OXO, but even still, if the number of tickets sold closely matches the total number of games, isn't that a better can of beer? Sure it is.
Put frankly, tournaments are good for a very small number of people. If you're one of those people, great, but most show goers are not tournament players. So why do shows take a row of 10 or 20 prime games, and limit them just to tourney players? Talk about the needs of the few getting higher priority of the needs of the many.
At the Ann Arbor pinball show we too will have tournaments. But ours are different. First it is not the emphasis of the show. Second it will be "classic" and "EM" tourneys only. So you won't see the most popular and newest solidstate games being used in the tourney. Third the tourney games can also be played, at ALL times, by show goers (at no cost) whom aren't participating in a tourney. So even the games in the tourney are not "locked away" from the masses.
Let's be frank. Most facilities that have pinball shows are not set up well for pinball. Have to take a game to the show and use an elevator or stairs? Yea right! like that goes really well at the end of the show when everyone wants to get their game out, and are lined up waiting. Or going across the parking lot 300 feet with a hand truck and a game. Or electrical and lighting that just sucks for large numbers of games.
At the Ann Arbor show, the facility is a full time pinball venue. That is, it's designed for pinball. The electric is robust. The load in/load out is all ground level and 10 feet from a drive up zone (though frankly this isn't much of an issue since you don't have to bring a game, but if you want to, it's easy to load/unload.) The lighting is optimal for pinball, as is the heating and cooling. We're designed for this, not adapted from some hotel or expo hall that also has a show for motorcycles or cats.
There's only a few pinball shows that have a flee market. Frankly I find them quite fun. We have the space at the Ann Arbor pinball show to have an outdoor (covered) flee market. So you can trade and sell parts. There's no vendor cost for this either, besides buying a ticket to the show itself.
At the Ann Arbor pinball show, we've tried to address the problems of current pinball shows. I think you'll see that it's a good model. I encourage everyone to attend the show. Thanks!