(Topic ID: 140142)

Did BBB cause the bubble on J-Pop & Predator?


By colorado_cabrio

3 years ago



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  • 62 posts
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  • Latest reply 3 years ago by jwo825
  • Topic is favorited by 4 Pinsiders

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“Did BBB help create an "investment" environment around pinball projects?”

  • Yup; we all saw the BBB guys get rich! 43 votes
    35%
  • Nope; rising prices across the hobby are the problem 28 votes
    23%
  • Neither; "investing" in pinball is as good as any stock-market play 8 votes
    7%
  • Screw This Thread! 44 votes
    36%

(123 votes by 0 Pinsiders)

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#1 3 years ago

So just one man's opinion here; but curious if anyone agrees...

I think that you can trace much of the recent speculative "investment" in pinball can be traced back to Gene Cunningham's Illinois Pinball remake of Big Bang Bar....

People who bought into the BBB project took a significant financial risk, and in the end those people basically doubled their money overnight (more or less) and may have gained significantly more over time... Now don't forget that Gene himself lost many many thousands on that project. But the popularity and visibility of that project in the hobby generated so much interest in new made "collector models" as a possible investment vehicle...

Now I'm not blaming those who "invested" in J-Pop or Predator, but like the BBB guys; these later project participants gave significant sums of money to first time untested entrepreneurs neither of whom were prepared to execute on their business plans, but this time the projects went bust. Where Wayne had his own sizable financial resources (and integrity) to draw upon kevin and JPop apparently had neither. To hear J-Pop's most recent C2C interview there was never any chance that the MG project could have made financial sense.

I'm not defending Kevin or J-Pop, or attacking the customer's who are out money, but if they'd "invested" this way in the stock markets (with untested new companies with no record of success) people would be less surprised with the outcome.

Flamesuit is on...

#2 3 years ago
Quoted from colorado_cabrio:

I think that you can trace much of the recent speculative "investment" in pinball can be traced back to Wayne Cunningham's Illinois Pinball remake of Big Bang Bar....

People who bought into the BBB project took a significant financial risk, and in the end those people basically doubled their money overnight (more or less) and may have gained significantly more over time... Now don't forget that Wayne himself lost many many thousands on that project. But the popularity and visibility of that project in the hobby generated so much interest in new made "collector models" as a possible investment vehicle...

Wayne Cunningham... heheheh

#3 3 years ago
Quoted from metallik:

Wayne Cunningham... heheheh

It wasn't Wayne, it was Richie Cunningham.

#4 3 years ago

Yeah, without a doubt.

I have never spent more than $3500 on a game in my life and even I was considering Magic Girl. Just seemed like a foregone conclusion since the BBB thing appeared to have gone so well.

Of course I didn't go for it for the same reason I didn't go for BBB - I just couldn't imagine throwing that kind of money away if things didn't work out. Glad I followed my instincts on that one.

Predator looked stupid and incredibly risky to me from day one no temptation there - I also didn't see why anybody would have such a hard on for that theme but I guess that's just me.

10
#5 3 years ago

Yes. But not because the BBB buyers got rich (like you state in option A) but because it proved someone could successfully (re)make pins on a smaller scale. So when JPop announced he would do it, there was less doubt he could.

#6 3 years ago
Quoted from aeneas:

but because it proved someone could successfully (re)make pins on a smaller scale. So when JPop announced he would do it, there was less doubt he could.

This was brought up many times in both Jpop and Skit-b threads, pointing that "Gene did it" so they could also do it. Many people would tell me "it was exactly the same, it tooks years, we paid in advance, they built it in a warehouse, everyone got their game".

Knowing what we know now, about all the parts and pieces Gene had sitting available to put it together, none of those situations are similar at all, and in the case of jpop and skit-b, fraudulent activity was perpetrated on the pinball community and how do you protect against that if it was never even considered possible.

#7 3 years ago

Outside of the collectible aspect of it, is BBB really that great of a game? I played it several times at SS Billiards, and I didn't know what the fuss was all about. I put more quarters into the Taxi pin sitting next to it and that was 1/2 the price to play.

And what's with the lady screaming out in pain all the time? Did she stub her toe?!

#8 3 years ago
Quoted from aeneas:

Yes. But not because the BBB buyers got rich (like you state in option A) but because it proved someone could successfully (re)make pins on a smaller scale. So when JPop announced he would do it, there was less doubt he could.

The Gene comparison never made sense. Gene had a game fully designed and even had lots of parts. He essentially just had to manufacture. Absolutely a difficult task - but in the grand scheme of things - having a game already makes things a lot easier than starting from scratch.

No, the money factor plays heavily into the psychology about why people would pay $16k for a boutique game. BBB proved that limited run + cool art = collector demand rises over time. In other words, a guaranteed sure thing (financially speaking). Many Jpop buyers told me (paraphrasing) "What's $16 or $10k when it's going to be worth $35k or more!" Many buyers were absolutely looking at what happened to BBB and other market trends such as AC/DC BIBLE, Tron LE, and MM (this was before MMr). This psychology was getting us to pay more for Stern & JJP games as well - multiple thousands didn't seem like a big deal when a bigger return was surely guaranteed by the time it came to sell.

Since no one actually knew what Jpop was selling - there were never designs or fleshed out concepts up front when he started taking orders...people were absolutely buying on rarity speculation & banking on "the next BBB".

#9 3 years ago

BBB did not "spike" the market.
The complete closing of all pinball manufacturers other than Stern did.
Do not forget Stern had various levels of inactivity in the 1980s as well.
After the big "dry up" of pinball machines from reimports in the mid 2000s, inflation and availability did a lot of the rest.
Considering games like Medieval Madness which only had a production run of a little over 5500 (not considering the limited run remake), and most were beat to hell because they were played out, the simple factor is "supply and demand".
I remember when I bit the bullet on my MM, and I did not like the price I paid, and that was 2002!

The other factor is what is called the "uninformed collector" who only has "Top 100" games because they really do not know what is out there in the pinball world.
Some EM machines still beat the pants of many late SS machines in terms of art, gameplay, and quality.
Hence, the reason so many are still around while some Stern stinkers went into the back alleys.

#10 3 years ago
Quoted from guyincognito:

Outside of the collectible aspect of it, is BBB really that great of a game?

Not really.
You can get 2-4 really good superb quality SS games for the price of one BBB.
The artwork and DMD animations on the game are quite extraordinary though, just like the quality of Pinball Magic, that destroys Theatre of Magic in terms of gameplay.

10
#11 3 years ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Not really.
You can get 2-4 really good superb quality SS games for the price of one BBB.

Thats true but his question was, "is BBB really that great of a game"...

And you've just listed the number one reason why people dislike BBB. People who have never played one or only played it a few times can't justify the price. And with only 191 copies made, thats the majority of the pinball community. So therefore money has influenced opinions on game play and it must be a bad or mediocre machine based on price.
(I've also found that people have opinions based on polls or other peoples opinions but thats another Pinside thread)

Look, BBB is a challenging, fun playing, beautiful machine with great music and voice calls. It has satisfying shots with one of the most difficult extra balls to achieve ever and multiball is a blast to play. And it's adult theme makes this machine unique and desirable to many. (I'll stop there)

Is BBB the greatest game ever? Will you see God after playing? Of course not. But expectations are hard to live up to in that price stratosphere. And personally, I don't see the value in how much Medieval Madness or some other machines sell for.

Then there are the critics that say its value is because of its rarity. LOL, well no duh! Most any collectible that's rare is. But I don't see Sega Godzilla selling for big bucks.

And then others will claim people only own it as a show piece, (as if the owners never really play it). Its absolutely true that bragging rights come with the game... So jealousy from non owners seems to play a role in opinions. (While they brag about a new car or house)

Look, I got in early on BBB so I'm lucky and proud to have it. It's a great addition and the flagship machine in my collection. I play it just as much as my other machines and all of my friends appreciate having it available to them. But would I pay $25,000 or more for it? NO FREAKING WAY! - But other people can and do as they justify the price and desirability.

The psychology of opinions especially on Pinside is intriguing and often head shaking.

Next up, the boo birds that claim my opinion is biased and therefore invalid because I own one.

#12 3 years ago
Quoted from colorado_cabrio:

So just one man's opinion here; but curious if anyone agrees...
I think that you can trace much of the recent speculative "investment" in pinball can be traced back to Gene Cunningham's Illinois Pinball remake of Big Bang Bar....
People who bought into the BBB project took a significant financial risk, and in the end those people basically doubled their money overnight (more or less) and may have gained significantly more over time...

No - because the hype train was already well under way before these boutiques announced and they were chasing stories like AC/DC BIB, the ideas of 'limited availability' causing people to pre-pay Metallica, STLE, etc.

It was tied to all the 'new money' rushing into the hobby and the idea that game prices will appreciate... so buy while you can!

I'd wager most people who were jumping in had no clue about the BBB project and it's story.

#13 3 years ago
Quoted from guyincognito:

Outside of the collectible aspect of it, is BBB really that great of a game? I played it several times at SS Billiards, and I didn't know what the fuss was all about. I put more quarters into the Taxi pin sitting next to it and that was 1/2 the price to play.

BBB is a good game, but not great. I sold my BBB but still have my Taxi - it is a better playing game. BBBs strengths are its art, music and sound effects - A+ for those. The playfield layout and rules are around a C+. It's a great game to own but won't hold your interest play-wise when you have other, better games next to it.

#14 3 years ago

Hey, my rant felt pretty good... But as often happens with my morning coffee I forgot something that validates much of what I posted.

A year or so ago, Planetary Pinball announced its purchase of Illinois Pinball from bankruptcy. Pinside exploded into joyous fist pumping with speculation and false rumors that BBB would now be remade. Former critic's were now rejoicing.

I'm paraphrasing but here are the two main chants I read:

1. Finally I will be able to own at BBB!!!!
2. Ha ha, rich people are going to lose money.

Love it or hate it for whatever reason, BBB is and always will be a desirable game to own.

Sorry for the slight topic diversion everyone, its a pet peeve of mine.

********

Flynnibus: Great point.

#15 3 years ago
Quoted from Mr68:

Love it hate it for whatever reason, BBB is and always will be a desirable game to own

But for how long? I had one for 7 years, played it a thousand times, got scores in the billions. Tired of it, time for a new game. If they remade it, I'd have a hard time spending more than 5K for one. Take away all the stories and mystique and it's just another pinball machine in the end. Is *IS* really pretty, but then again so is my MetLE...

#16 3 years ago

I bought a house in 2005 for an inflated price because I made a killing on the 3 houses I bought and sold before that one. I didn't have a chair when the music stopped on that one.

#17 3 years ago
Quoted from metallik:

But for how long?

In a succession of new owners? I'd say long past your lifetime and mine.

And with this influx of new money and rebirth of pinball, I believe any rare machine will remain collectable. But especially a modern machine with ""stories and mystique"".

Quoted from metallik:

I had one for 7 years, played it a thousand times, got scores in the billions. Tired of it, time for a new game.

Isnt that true of most any game in a collection and typical of many people?
I've had mine since 2007. I have to admit, I'm just now beginning to contemplate with selling mine also.

Quoted from metallik:

I'd have a hard time spending more than 5K for one.

Re-read what I posted about perceived value in my first post. This isnt about you, Larry.

- See you at Expo my friend.

#18 3 years ago
Quoted from Mr68:

A year or so ago, Planetary Pinball announced its purchase of Illinois Pinball from bankruptcy. Pinside exploded into joyous fist pumping with speculation and false rumors that BBB would now be remade. Former critic's were now rejoicing.

Love it or hate it for whatever reason, BBB is and always will be a desirable game to own.

Well, I have played the game since the first 14 prototype (at least two were lost, one due to a fire, and another that got scrapped due to prototype playfield incompleteness so I was told, before parts were remade or "found") and before they were remade, so I can offer an good opinion.

To follow up:
It is highly unlikely the game will ever be made again, for anyone that might believe otherwise (no offense consideration to anyone).
Why?
Anyone around at that point in time knows Gene used a metric ton of leftover Capcom parts to cobble together the machines, which reduced overhead, and made production feasible.
Hence, less than 200 were made.

I have plenty of friends that own the game (I passed on the pre-order), and it is a curiosity and good collectible with an outstanding artwork and DMD package, but it will never match the depth of games like Twilight Zone.
I played the crap out of it again, and it was very fun, but I though about games like Indiana Jones: TBA or BSD even while playing it.
Its not a good competition game either due to the Capcom scoring ruleset as it reminds me of No Fear: Dangerous Sports.

BBB are flipped periodically in the pinball market for a reason, owners get tired of it, need the money, or think of it as "investment".
Its not an "investment", its a luxury toy, like cars, motorcycles, or anything else.
Granted, I like to collect because I am trying to maintain pinball as a part of Americana history.

If a game was that good, it would not happen by serious collectors, as it would be the last thing to go, Medieval Madness for example, that lives up to its name as being the "Renaissance of Pinball", because it was very well designed with a great ruleset and challenge.

The only reason that certain "popular" games get sold by serious collectors is predominantly the owners need the money.
Desirable? Yes
Collectible? Yes
Historical? Yes
"Must have" (if you can afford it)? No

Just some history knowledge, with an ending opinion

#19 3 years ago

Edited

#20 3 years ago

I completely agree BlackKnight.

#21 3 years ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Anyone around at that point in time knows Gene used a metric ton of leftover Capcom parts to cobble together the machines, which reduced overhead, and made production feasible.

Gee, I was around at that time, and about all that Gene had was a metric ton of *boards* plus engineering drawings for the parts - no playfields, plastics, cabinets, ramps, mechanisms, etc. It's not like he was sitting on piles of game-specific or generic parts - most of what went into that game *other than the boards in the backbox* was manufactured as part of the BBB project. Oh yeah, he did buy a pile of translites from Mike P (or someone).

#22 3 years ago
Quoted from jadziedzic:

Gee, I was around at that time, and about all that Gene had was a metric ton of *boards* plus engineering drawings for the parts - no playfields, plastics, cabinets, ramps, mechanisms, etc. It's not like he was sitting on piles of game-specific or generic parts - most of what went into that game *other than the boards in the backbox* was manufactured as part of the BBB project. Oh yeah, he did buy a pile of translites from Mike P (or someone).

No sarcasm here.
Considering I was part of the support development of the project, you are partially incorrect regarding parts availability as generic parts were not the issue at all.

He had more than just boards, much more including a portion of ramps, assemblies, playfield toys, partial plastic sets and such matter.
You are correct in respect to playfields (I think he had around 20+? if I remember correctly, if that, as that was a LONG time ago, initially he was going to sell them outright) and of course cabinets with the decals, wire harnesses had to be made from scratch, and reverse engineering the machine itself with schematics and use of an ACTUAL prototype.
The rest were run in small quantities to make up the difference.
I never did understand why the tube rings were not fully remade in parts, because that was actually cheaper than some of the rest.
At least they were made available as aftermarket sales later.

It was an overwhelming amount of work for a small team, but Illinois pulled it off, quite an achievement in pinball history.
What people are forgetting is the original deposit and cost of the machine, which was quite equitable considering everything.
Does anyone want to post or know what the true original cost for the reproduction was that was not offered to the public (BEFORE commencement of public availability of pre-orders)?
My memory is a little foggy here because it was over 12+ years ago (concept not production), but initially it was around $4200.
Granted, Gene did not make a whole lot of "profit" on this project, and in MANY ways actually took a HUGE loss if you charged by the manpower hours alone because we did not all get "paid" to do this venture, the cost overruns almost finished the project before production started.

I would give the same nod to Silver Castle Pinball if they can pull off TimeShock! because its most likely going to end up the same way as the Captain Nemo machine right now (which is a phenomenal effort) but still hover in the low production range like BBB IF it is made.

Mike Pacak (great guy, he helped me with some really hard to find Early Bally stuff) was not the only source of parts for this remake either, because there was outsourcing to be able to use some alternatives to re-machining some of the assemblies from other stock.
They did this again to keep the costs down.

I am not going to get into an argument here with anyone, new collectors, old collectors, or BBB owners (Do you know all the collectors who own them? You might be surprised), as you all are entitled to your opinion.

#23 3 years ago
Quoted from guyincognito:

And what's with the lady screaming out in pain all the time?

thumbs up for this

#24 3 years ago

I believe BBB and Tron LE are the two titles that created a collector frenzy. People will deny it, but what could be sweeter than buying a pin, playing it, then selling it for double in a year. That's a dream scenario.

As long as there is more demand than supply of a title, the price will climb. The issue now is this: with remakes and so many new pins on the horizon, it's really hard to see a title spike like either of those again. Premium pins have pretty much guaranteed Stern LE's won't spike.

-1
#25 3 years ago
Quoted from kaneda:

I believe BBB and TRON LE are the two titles that created a collector frenzy. People will deny it, but what could be sweeter than buying a pin, playing it, then selling it for double in a year. That's a dream scenario.
As long as there is more demand than supply of a title, the price will climb. The issue now is this: with remakes and so many new pins on the horizon, it's really hard to see a title spike like either of those again. Premium pins have pretty much guaranteed Stern LE's won't spike.

Stern's quality control of their production pinball machines is TERRIBLE in comparison to most late model WMS/BLY SS, and even the Capcom and Gottlieb machines. The more LEs they make the less the rest will be worth.
No pinball machine was designed to be operated for more than 5 years, but WMS/BLY machine keep right on ticking, while Stern machines fall apart.
I am not some WMS/BLY snob either, because I have owned nearly every manufacturer of machines at some point, and I am just speaking from experience.
I still have personal nightmares on the Gottlieb System 80s (BH, HH, MGoW, etc) before replacement boards were available to fix the board pin problems.

Most of the 1990s machine continue to hold their own, and have aged well.
Go and play a Stern Striker Xtreme and tell me how they play now, not quite the same as WMS/BLY.

"Take care of your machines, and they will offer enjoyment for decades".
The problem really can be to able to find a proper technician to do the work, if you are not familiar with the component mounted circuit boards, electric theory, and journeyman level solder station work.

A pinball machine that does not work is a 300 lb doorstop. (You can quote me on this point).

Remakes of ANY WMS/BLY machines (or parts or playfields) still require the property rights as well.
Most of the Early WMS/BLY parts they do not raise much of a stink over too much, or negotiate quickly, but the late model machines are different.

#26 3 years ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Stern's quality control of their production pinball machines is TERRIBLE in comparison to most late model WMS/BLY SS, and even the Capcom and Gottlieb machines. The more LEs, they make the less the rest will be worth.
No pinball machine was designed to be operated for more than 5 years, but WMS/BLY machine keep right on ticking, while Stern machines fall apart.
Most of the 1990s machine continue to hold their own, and have aged well.
"Take care of your machines, and they will offer enjoyment for decades".
The problem really can be to able to find a proper technician to do the work, if you are not familiar with the component mounted circuit boards, electric theory, and journeyman level solder station work.
A pinball machine that does not work is a 300 lb doorstop. (You can quote me on this point).
Remakes of ANY WMS/BLY machines (or parts or playfields) still require the property rights as well.
Most of the Early WMS/BLY parts they do not raise much of a stink over too much, or negotiate quickly, but the late model machines are different.

I agree. Modern Stern's feel SOOO cheap and the price is going up. But that wasn't the question at all, so to keep this thread on topic, the question was about if BBB caused people to find the next "big" thing. Big as in a pin that will go up in price big. I am curious how a $16,000 magic girl would have faired. Would it shoot up to $20-$30,000 if only 13 existed. Who knows.

#27 3 years ago

My guess for the next "big" thing?
TimeShock! if made.
Many old time collectors would want their grubby hands on that one.
If less than 200 are made, the price will skyrocket after sales, although I have no idea how much.
Some of us grew up on the Empire Interactive Pro Pinball Series, and remember it very well.
It was a damn fine virtual pinball machine.

#28 3 years ago

Well considering the amount of people that gave $16,000 to Jpop (some more) I still believe there's a market for high end pins that's not tapped into. I'm talking 50 pins at like $20,000 each. Would have to be a true work of art and shoot amazingly well. John was on the right track but he started redesigning screws nobody would see.

#29 3 years ago
Quoted from jadziedzic:

Gee, I was around at that time, and about all that Gene had was a metric ton of *boards* plus engineering drawings for the parts - no playfields, plastics, cabinets, ramps, mechanisms, etc. It's not like he was sitting on piles of game-specific or generic parts - most of what went into that game *other than the boards in the backbox* was manufactured as part of the BBB project. Oh yeah, he did buy a pile of translites from Mike P (or someone).

That's not what Gene told me or what I saw. Its true he did not have playfields (that I knew of) or cabinets. But he had a significant majority of the mechanisms and parts along with the boards. He went into detail with me about remaking the Tube Dancer and a few other miscellaneous items but that was about it.

I was there several times and he had a dedicated warehouse completely filled with Capcom parts. Much of it game specific to the six titles Capcom made. He even had enough parts to assemble a King Pin to about 75-80% (it was unplayable and that's my guess)

Little know fact. His purchase from B/W included enough Capcom parts to assemble about 3 or 4 complete Breakshot machines and he re-themed them as Pool Player.

Anyway, that's what I remember.

illinois.jpg
allentown2002-geneandpoolplayer.jpg

#30 3 years ago
Quoted from Mr68:

His purchase from B/W included enough Capcom parts to assemble about 3 or 4 complete Breakshot machines and he re-themed them as Pool Player.

I remember that regarding the re-theme, he sold or gave them to his friends, or that was his plan.
I do not remember if he actually made four full WORKING machines though, because that was a "staged" shot (first photo).
At least two, and I though he kept the first machine for himself.
Did he sell that out of his collection as well?
Who knows at this point.

Yes, I know this is off topic again, but "Pool Player" is definitely not the next big thing.
At least it was better than Cue Ball Wizard from Gottlieb.

-1
#31 3 years ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Yes, I know this is off topic again, but "Pool Player" is definitely not the next big thing.
At least it was better than Cue Ball Wizard from Gottlieb

not even close! Breakshot/pool player is REALLY bad.

CBW ia a solid and fun game to shoot with pretty deep rules for that era GTB.

#32 3 years ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

I remember that regarding the re-theme, he sold or gave them to his friends, or that was his plan.
I do not remember if he actually made four full WORKING machines though, because that was a "staged" shot (first photo).
At least two, and I though he kept the first machine for himself.

You may be right about only two working, I'm not certain.

Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Did he sell that out of his collection as well?

I was at the Cunningham's about a year or less before Planetary Pinball came in and sold off Gene's collection in lots. Two of the Pool Player machines were still there sitting side by side. And the way Gene horded stuff I doubt he sold them in the interim. Most likely one of the Planetary lot buyers got them in a group purchase.

Agreed, Pool Player is not the next big thing. LOL.

Its nice to talk with someone that was actually there. Gene's Barnum and Bailey persona certainly has had a effect on Rumor Control.

3 weeks later
#33 3 years ago

Any $5k+ MSRP product where the manufacturer needs money up front before the builds have even started is too risky for me. Figure out a positive business case, get a bank loan, make the games, then sell them. Anything else is winging it...

#34 3 years ago

No. Just madness did the trick.

Oldschool medieval madness! (Not the remake)

#35 3 years ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Stern's quality control of their production pinball machines is TERRIBLE in comparison to most late model WMS/BLY SS, and even the Capcom and Gottlieb machines. The more LEs they make the less the rest will be worth.
No pinball machine was designed to be operated for more than 5 years, but WMS/BLY machine keep right on ticking, while Stern machines fall apart.
I am not some WMS/BLY snob either, because I have owned nearly every manufacturer of machines at some point, and I am just speaking from experience.
I still have personal nightmares on the Gottlieb System 80s (BH, HH, MGoW, etc) before replacement boards were available to fix the board pin problems.
Most of the 1990s machine continue to hold their own, and have aged well.

I can't agree with you when you say Stern games don't hold up, or are inferior products. First, I think Stern games are every bit as good/fun as BW games.

I've had one pin POTC which is now 8-9 years old and it has not had a single issue, one light burned out, that's it. It still looks brand new.

Here is a guy with a IJ4 that has over 100,000 games played on it. That's like 400k - 500K balls played I would think. Let's say 5 minutes a game that'd be over one year of time played (total playing time).

https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/my-stern-indiana-jones-just-turned-100000-plays-and-look-at-it

13
#36 3 years ago

There were a few of us that were privy to what happened during the years of BBB production. My logic going into it was "Why would a millionaire rip me off". The price was high at the time - $4500.00, but it was something I could afford in multiple payments. I was lucky enough that Gene and Kim trusted me to act as a spokesperson for the project with the buyers. It had to be kept secret because outside forces (like Wayne) were working to derail the project. Gene had made his share of enemies over the years and more than a few wanted to see him fail. I thought it was important to both document the process and to get information to the buyers so I did some interviews with Gene and company and released videos exclusively to the buyers during the process. It was reported to Williams that a coil spool with a Williams part number was being used in BBB. This was true and it slowed production for months while Gene found out that the supplier had put the number on it as a convenience, not because Williams requested it. Gene's original BBB had the number on it as well. I went on to put together a documentary about the whole process and we sold them through the Pinball Hall of Fame. After the project was done, I felt like something was missing. The secret forum was going dead and the fun was out of it in some way for me. I thought I would never sell the game. It was beautiful, it was fun to play, and it was sexy. Reality set in and I found I could pay off my truck and buy 3 other games with the money from just the one so it went. I never thought of it as an investment but I knew it would never loose money. I agree with others that this was unique in the manufacture because a complete BOM (that needed tweaking) was already in place and a sample game was at hand for reference. I have been working on a "Partially from scratch" project of my own and I can tell you, it's a LOT to consider. I don't know the specifics, but it seems that the people who have failed us lately got in WAY over their heads. How they decided to handle the situation is the problem. I do see the pre-order model from unknown entities as a thing of the past.

#37 3 years ago
Quoted from awarner:

I don't know the specifics, but it seems that the people who have failed us lately got in WAY over their heads. How they decided to handle the situation is the problem. I do see the pre-order model from unknown entities as a thing of the past.

The tiny amount people here that are left from the "early days" long before Black Friday have started to either just be quiet, do not care, or even pass on. As you stated, only a few have documented the history. Most collectors are unaware of the complexities of actually producing a pinball machine from the ground up even with stocks of potential useful parts, not to mention anything to do with actually licensing any type of pinball part whether from a brand name or WMS/BLY. Instead we end up something with a bunch of middle aged men with disposable income, and "glory days of pinball of their youth" thinking they are pre-ordering a new car. Wrong answer. People are going to get burned, and people have been burned MANY times in this hobby. I do mean MANY, Pinside just scratches the surface.

Oh, they are out there lurking and even reading these posts, but not saying anything.
Aren't you guys?

When I came back and saw the articles on "Predator Pinball", I already knew what happened.
There should not be anybody foolish enough to drop any preorder money on "Alien", because nobody is going to have sympathy.
Vaporware is not a thing of the past by any means.
We are LUCK roughly 200 BBB were even made, considering the problems during production, which were equal if not greater than the MMR fiasco.

The "parts wars" continue to this day, and its just plain stupid.
Parts are ACTUALLY completed, and being sat on because they CANNOT BE SOLD.
At least rapid plastic and metal prototyping has allowed an outlet for collector to actually get things they need sometimes in a pinch without making 1000 of them at one time.
Ramps are still a pain though.

I am starting to form an opinion here of the current generation of collectors here on Pinside, and in some (but not all cases) there just is not as many people as their used to be compared to RGP that are fully willing to step forward and help, whether tech, travel, or otherwise. They pass through like wind, sell out their machines, and move on to their next motorcycle.
Never really get enough experience to learn much of anything, nor care to do so from those that are left.
Just my opinion though, no flame wars here.

EDIT: There will ALWAYS be plenty of pinball "kickstarter" projects out there. There are many now. People just need a "nudge" of right deception to start opening their wallets again, as most forget or are not privy to the past.

#38 3 years ago

This is mostly a comment to the post above me. I agree. I say this as a past "insider" with lots of contacts to the industry. I have been collecting since 1995. That puts me right at 20 years. I attempted to sell everything and get out about 2 years ago. In my case an event happened and I suddenly was back in but I understand why people fall in and out of love with the hobby. I think the difference between the long time collectors and the newer collectors is disposable income. When I started on this quest, I was broke. I bought $15-$35 JAMMA video games and fixed them up. Eventually I moved into $65 broken classic videos and learned how to fix them. When I got to pins, I was buying <$700 WPC games and fixing them up. I bought and sold and kept the machines I really wanted. All along, I'm shopping games for other people and profiting from the work I was doing to bring games back from being operated for long periods of time. Yes, I was profiting, but I was also adding value.

A pivotal point for me was when Gary created his on-line radio show. He was a "Gold Investor" who saw the machines as investments. He had money to spend and wasn't interested in doing his own work. I understand that not everyone can do this stuff, but with guides like Clay had up, a person of reasonable intelligence could do at least basic repairs. More people like this are out there now. They have not invested in the knowledge to fix things that break and I think they get tired of the more difficult parts of the hobby.

Is it wrong? I really don't think so. That's their take on collecting. People like myself feel they are missing out on the total experience.

Thinking of machines as investments is wrong. Now don't get me wrong, you can make money by buying the right machine or fixing it up and selling it. You can also loose money by over-restoring or over-modding a machine that just doesn't warrant it.

I think that "collectors" should buy the games that make them happy and learn how they work so they can fix them. Learning the history is also important. Think of it as Fantasy Baseball where you need to know a lot of stats to really enjoy it.

That's all I have... (drops the mic)

#39 3 years ago
Quoted from awarner:

That's all I have... (drops the mic)

Well said, and respected.
I worked up to what I have today myself (25+ years), and I could not imagine starting over again.
Too much work, and the adventure was not always a happy ending.
I still do not mind helping others on their "hunt" when I can though, as long as they do not show up and say, "I want to make you an offer on your collection", which is insulting because these are ulterior motives, and this is camaraderie at all.
99% of the time, its the same thing I just reported, a few years, and then a quick flip of the games again, which is NOT going to happen.
Scattering machines to the four winds is never a good idea, but that is my opinion.

1 week later
#40 3 years ago
Quoted from awarner:

There were a few of us that were privy to what happened during the years of BBB production. My logic going into it was "Why would a Millionaire rip me off". The price was high at the time - $4500.00, but it was something I could afford in multiple payments. I was lucky enough that Gene and Kim trusted me to act as a spokesperson for the project with the buyers. It had to be kept secret because outside forces (like Wayne) were working to derail the project. Gene had made his share of enemies over the years and more than a few wanted to see him fail. I thought it was important to both document the process and to get information to the buyers so I did some interviews with Gene and company and released videos exclusively to the buyers during the process. It was reported to Williams that a coil spool with a Williams part number was being used in BBB. This was true and it slowed production for months while Gene found out that the supplier had put the number on it as a convenience, not because Williams requested it. Gene's original BBB had the number on it as well. I went on to put together a documentary about the whole process and we sold them through the Pinball Hall of Fame. After the project was done, I felt like something was missing. The secret forum was going dead and the fun was out of it in some way for me. I thought I would never sell the game. It was beautiful, it was fun to play, and it was sexy. Reality set in and I found I could pay off my truck and buy 3 other games with the money from just the one so it went. I never thought of it as an investment but I knew it would never loose money. I agree with others that this was unique in the manufacture because a complete BOM (that needed tweaking) was already in place and a sample game was at hand for reference. I have been working on a "Partially from scratch" project of my own and I can tell you, it's a LOT to consider. I don't know the specifics, but it seems that the people who have failed us lately got in WAY over their heads. How they decided to handle the situation is the problem. I do see the pre-order model from unknown entities as a thing of the past.

What crap

I bought 5 BBB from gene and had money in the project, why would I derail it

#41 3 years ago
Quoted from Ballypinball:

What crap
I bought 5 BBB from gene and had money in the project, why would I derail it

Al Warner is a well respected member of the pinball community and a Big Bang Bar historian. His reputation is impeachable. Your reputation on the other hand is deception, uncontrollable anger and the failed MM - CC - Crock Hunter projects.

To answer your question directly I can only guess.

Gene Cunningham was a well know difficult man to do business with. Back when you were attempting to remake MM, Gene owned a portion of the B/W license and you the other portion. A conflict arose between the two of you. Possibly you couldn't make certain parts without his permission....

You with your famous temper may have done it out of spite. Or revenge.

Anyway, my guess.

#42 3 years ago
Quoted from Ballypinball:

What crap
I bought 5 BBB from gene and had money in the project, why would I derail it

This why people cannot have nice things.
If people spent more time helping other people or removed excessive bragging, there would be a lot more collectors in the world.

Grievances especially those that are over a decade old are #$@ing stupid.
I know where some of this discussion came from and it is pointless.

#43 3 years ago
Quoted from Mr68:

Al Warner is a well respected member of the pinball community and a Big Bang Bar historian. His reputation is impeachable. Your reputation on the other hand is deception, uncontrollable anger and the failed MM - CC - Crock Hunter projects.
To answer your question directly I can only guess.
Gene Cunningham was a well know difficult man to do business with. Back when you were attempting to remake MM, Gene owned a portion of the B/W license and you the other portion. A conflict arose between the two of you. Possible you couldn't make certain parts without his permission....
You with your famous temper may have done it out of spite. Or revenge.
Anyway, my guess.

It was me that told Williams I didn't mind him using the Williams coil bobbin tooling, it was Williams who told him he couldn't use Williams tooling in BBB, as I stated I bought 5 games maybe you should look at people gene shafted and promised games to and didn't receive. Just correcting the facts for history

#44 3 years ago

As Mr.68 said, tensions between Gene and Wayne (random names - not anyone in particular) were high, at least that's how one of the two random named persons described it. As Mr 68 described, there was a competing project and bad blood between these (fictitious??!?) persons. It's entirely possible that the 2nd party was upset that large amounts of side art were destroyed because they hadn't secured 3rd party rights. I know I would be pretty mad. And magically, when the bobbin incident happened, removal from the BBB forum also happened. These are random events that may or may not have happened. I'm probably making it all up as has been suggested to me in a PM. I still wonder how Williams found out about that bobbin...

#45 3 years ago
Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

Stern's quality control of their production pinball machines is TERRIBLE in comparison to most late model WMS/BLY SS, and even the Capcom and Gottlieb machines.

I know this is a month old, but...

If you ask operators who bought NIB machines 20 years ago and NIB machines today, they tend to tell the opposite story - that Stern for the most part out of the box is far better. The difference, as some will point out, is that the 20 year ago machines were either routed and trashed before they were sold to a person who knew it was a project, or were restored and play great because of it.

As for the question, I *sort* of think it was BBB that caused the bubble. Let's face it - the biggest reason that BBB is worth so much isn't for the rarity - if that was it, the Viza War that I have working out in the garage should be a gold mine and not worth the probably $200 or so that it is - but the story of it. Like him or hate him, essentially Gene wanted to write his own legacy, and he spent a ton of his own time and money to do so. When I heard him first announce that he would be taking pre-orders for the game (which he did at the 2004 Midwest Gaming Classic before he made it official), I fully believed that he could make these games show up in people's hands - it simply came down to he had enough money, willpower, and contacts that he could will it to life. And he, and about 20 other people who greatly helped him, did it.

I think that if we're going to point fingers at what caused the bubble, it would be more along the lines of Tron LE suddenly being worth extreme amounts of money. After a lot of people saw how that played out, it allowed other limited runs to be potentially worth so much money, and the marketplace exploded for them, with people throwing money at whatever they could. BBB was a point that they could look back at and think that success of the projects was inevitable, and feel more comfortable with their investment.

Without BBB, I think we still would have had a similar explosion of stuff, but I also think that it would have been a bit less than what we ended up having. Also, the years since Tron LE have been at least somewhat sobering with the releases of LEs now being seen like a huge crapshoot - on one side, you have games like ACDC that it has clearly worked for, on the other side you have games like WrestleMania, Mustang and Transformers that it hasn't. All of which, by the way, I think are solid games - but apparently weren't exactly what people are looking for.

#46 3 years ago

And back on track with the original question: Gene did deliver BBB at the price he promised but there were some people that jumped out because the rules changed mid-stream. I know of at least one person that cancelled their order when Gene stated that the 2nd half of the money would need to be paid BEFORE the games were completed. I can't say it didn't give me an uneasy feeling as well. There was a lot of risk in this "Investment" for the original buyers and it seemed to get worse over the course of the 2 years it took to complete this 6 month project. I think that Jack G. had a lot to do with it as well. I'm not talking about WOZ, but more so in convincing Stern to start thinking seriously about the home market. Austin Powers may have been the original beginning to this bubble. Why? Stern made 10 gold edition Austin Powers machines at Jack's request (http://alsarcade.com/apg/index.html). At that time, Jack was the only one doing home sales of NIB Stern games. They followed it up with Platinum Monopoly games. Creating a special edition for collectors may have been the actual beginning leading to the disasters that followed.

I have another idea that might have set this all up. Our friend in Australia not completing MMr. I'm not defaming him since I've never heard of anyone not getting their money back when requested. The fact that refunds WERE returned might be where the fear of loss was diminished for those who took the chance with JPOP and Skit-B.

I was good friends with Gene during the BBB days. Things happened between him and other friends of mine and I lost some trust since then. Any information I presented was from what I was told or experienced myself. If some of it was wrong than it's just History from the eyes of the author.

#47 3 years ago

I'm not sure we are using the term bubble correctly in this thread. I don't think there has been a price bubble in pinball, except for a handful of very rare pins (cactus canyon, kingpin, BBB) and MM. If you look at price of games versus inflation, the increase in value is pretty modest, and if you further factor in the fact that over the last 10-15 years the average condition of these games is RISING due to being in the hands of collectors rather than on route .. The price increase is really more than justified by the games available being far nicer examples than what used to be the pool of available games. Much fewer projects, much more restorations and clean, fully working games.

That's all a little beside the point, though -- What I was trying to say is that this thread seems to be using the term "bubble" to refer to the glut of let's say "boutique" manufacturers that have subsequently flamed out hard without delivering a product, and causing a ton of collateral damage. I don't think that's really a bubble in economic terms. I'm not sure what you would call it, though.

I suppose Gene was definitely one reason jpop and skitb thought they could succeed, and why people trusted them with preorder money. There were other factors, too, though. Lack of variety in the marketplace, for example. With only one active pinball manufacturer, there is bound to be a few niches of unmet demand, which these boutique manufacturers succeeded in tapping into. And people SAW awesome one-off pins (and working prototypes even in some cases). People just didn't realize the tremendous gap between building *a* cool pinball machine, and building a machine that can be professionally manufactured and delivered and comply with laws and everything else. I mean it seems like people realize now (I hope) that building a working game is barely scratching the surface of the effort, whereas in the past folks mistakenly thought a working prototype indicated proof that they could deliver.

Hmmm I started off disagreeing with the threads premise but now find myself coming around to agreement, at least partially. Without Gene / BBB, I think people would have probably been a lot more reluctant to preorder.

#48 3 years ago
Quoted from pezpunk:

I'm not sure we are using the term bubble correctly in this thread.

Agreed. It seems that the "popping" of a bubble or balloon is being discussed here. Interesting thread though...

#49 3 years ago
Quoted from pezpunk:

Hmmm I started off disagreeing with the threads premise but now find myself coming around to agreement, at least partially. Without Gene / BBB, I think people would have probably been a lot more reluctant to preorder.

Thumbs up for your comment and allow me to add this: On the day of delivery, some people met at Illinois Pinball and sold their BBB right there on the loading dock, instantly doubling their money. Since that time BBB's have done nothing but go up in value and it's become the benchmark for greed and envy in all of pinball. "Greed, for lack of a better word"

Example: A friend of mine is in on a limited boutique machine and just weeks ago at Expo he told me: "Its going to be the next Big Bang Bar". - It won't be the next BBB but he's entitled to his opinion and I will have bragging rights in two years after winning our wager.

But it shows how influential BBB has become and still is. And with its history, will always be that benchmark.

#50 3 years ago

I think MM had a roll in all of it. How quickly we forget that just a year or so ago people were paying over 10k for handyman special MMs. And all the outrage when MMR was released? Clearly many who claimed to buy it "just to play, not as an investment" were drinking their own kool aid.

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