(Topic ID: 11)

Do we really need all those expensive licenses?


By robin

10 years ago



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  • 72 posts
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  • Latest reply 4 months ago by Roostking
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    #1 10 years ago

    I remember, not so long ago, a company producing pinball machines with themes that were 'made up' as opposed to licensed from TV-shows, movies or expensive brands. I'm thinking martians, knights, golf-hating rodents, bare-fist boxers, illusionists. No expensive license and still great games (many even better than the ones with a license). So why doesn't Stern do some original game with a 'made up' theme?

    #2 10 years ago

    I fully agree. The money that is spent on all these licenses seems like it would be better spent on better, more reliable games. And apart from the whole money issue I believe that these licenses put a huge creative strain on the design team. I'd say, let's go back to those games with original themes!

    #3 10 years ago

    yep, i want stern to stop doing licenses and do some originals...even design them with home users in mind, as i'm sure 40/50/60% of the market goes into homes these days....or ends up there anyway!!

    Give a current pinball designer a carte blanche and I reckon they would come up with an absolute stonker of a game!! The design and art teams must be pissed off with doing stupid submissions to the licensors. I used to have to do it ,and it's soul destroying having correct all their picky changes!! plus it adds months onto the production of the machine because you have to wait for all the signoff on everything!!

    1 month later
    #4 10 years ago

    I think it would be interesting to see what would happen to a game without a license - would people still play it (I think people like us would, but I doubt that some people would - many kids would force their parents to put a couple of coins in the machine just because it has The Simpsons or Shrek on it)

    7 months later
    #5 9 years ago

    Does anyone know how much Stern pays for the licneses? If I had to guess, I'd say it would close to nothing. When Stern does a pinball machine with a license, it somewhat helps promote whatever license it is based on. Playboy and Harley Davidson, for example, benefit a lot when the pinball machines baring their names are shown on TV shows. Heck, Harley benefits from its machine being in bars . . . it's free advertisement.

    Does anyone on here know how much a license costs for Stern to get? (Granted, I'm sure its different each time.) If someone were really bored they could go through the records of some of the publically traded entities that have granted licenses, and see exactly what - if anything - was paid to them by Stern.

    -1
    #6 9 years ago

    I agree, but the catch-22 of it is that the general public is more likely to approach a recognizable theme these days than a generic or original one. Just as a side note, some of the themes you mentioned are actually inspired by popular licenses.

    Attack From Mars - Mars Attacks
    No Good Gofers - Caddyshack
    Theater of Magic - David Copperfield (was actually going to be David Copperfield in the game)

    Popular licenses can work, but they need to be better than what we've seen. Spider-Man was good, and so was The Dark Knight, but I don't have any interest in the upcoming Big Buck Hunter. In the past there were some great licenses, such as The Twilight Zone, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, or The Addams Family.

    -1
    #7 9 years ago

    Stern pays probably 3-400 PER machine for a license maybe even more. Williams payed about 2-300 bucks PER machine for Star Wars when they made it in 1999. That was one of the fall outs. Their new pin2000 machines came out with the revenge from mars one in 1999, and THAT was based on the Bally/Williams machine from the 90's. (Their OWN machine no license!!!!) That machine sold AWESOME! Cuz the cost of it was about 2400 NEW! When they brought in the license crap with Star Wars, the orders STOPPED because Williams had to up the price 2-400 bucks per machine to cover THEIR costs. So a new Star Wars cost 3000.
    I guess that is what people are asking for used ones now. But I would never buy one. Listen to this. A Williams machine in the late 90's cost 1500 BRAND NEW and arcade games like Joust and PacMan and stuff cost operators like 250 at the time. If anyone else wants to know, a '68 Camaro SS cost $1099.00 brand new in 1968.
    WHO HAS A TIME MACHINE I CAN BORROW!???? ;-P

    I guess Stern has to make there money somewhere. 4999.99 is the going rate for a new one of their machines. Wait a year and you can find a NIB one for about 1000 less. My POINT IS LICENSE THINGS SUCK!

    #8 9 years ago

    THANK YOU.

    I thought I was the only one. I'm not a Stern person at all and it's primarily for this reason. These guys have good heads on their shoulders, why not use them?

    Go back to 1995. After David Copperfield dropped out of Theatre of Magic (which was to be a license until that happened), the team at Bally had to think on their feet, within a deadline, how to make it work out with an original idea. Well, it more than worked out. It's a classic and a favorite of many, including myself!

    Fast-forward to now. Big Buck Hunter...whaaaaaat??? I didn't even hear of that until reading this thread. Oh, boy. Can you say "desperate?" If Stern made halfway decent machines with their licenses, I wouldn't mind, but it seems to be all about cashing in now, with few exceptions (I enjoyed LoTR and PoTC.)

    The problem is the demographic. Today's generation needs something they can relate to. If they see a franchise they know and are familiar with, they'll play it regardless of quality and mechanics. But if it's completely alien to them, then they'll probably leave it and go and play Guitar Hero or something. I was just in Florida and every single arcade at Disney World either contained no pinball at all or licensed Stern - prime example. I'm a teenager, and probably one of the few that recognizes this decline; unlike other people my age, it actually saddens me.

    We can't change society, but since Stern's personnel seem to have working brains, I (and probably many others) would love to see them show that that they are capable of thinking for themselves.

    #9 9 years ago

    Wow, I had no idea the license cost $300-$400 per machine. That is huge. I really thought the number would be much lower, like $100.

    Yes, it would be nice to see a couple non-licensed machines roll out. Games like MM and AFM rocked and it would be nice to see Stern try to immulate them somewhat on a machine or two.

    #10 9 years ago

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    #11 9 years ago

    Licenses are often turn right to the american market, I think it's really a mystake.
    Who really knows "family guys" in Europe, who really care about NBA worlwide ???

    #12 9 years ago

    What's NBA?

    #13 9 years ago

    It's as simple as this "Pinball manufacturing is not making Money"

    More people need to be casual players which leads to more operators, more operators leeds to more pinball sales, more pinball sales leeds to more R&D money, more R&D money leeds to more/better game designs.

    Using licenses is the easiest way of atracting a punter to the machine and hopefully spending a couple of dollars.

    Here's an idea for a license which will have huge market appeal, how about an "Play Station" or "Xbox" piny machine?..... The only problem is the crowd it would draw wouldn't know what to do with it....

    (although, myself, I love my Xbox 360 )

    5 months later
    #14 9 years ago

    Maybe Stern could try this idea - make pins based on city names - you could even keep the playfield the same design and just provide the different pictures each city would require. Just like the US Mint does with the quarters. Could be a big hit? And no license fees required. Maybe do a world theme? Lame? Perhaps. But no more lame than WWE Smackdown is to anyone over 10....

    I think the Wii/PS2/Xbox, etc is a neat idea too.

    Still, I find nothing more fun to watch than seeing otherwise competent gamers trying to hit a silver ball with a flipper. Very funny. I catch myself saying, "You do understand you need to hit the ball, right?"

    8 years later
    #15 5 months ago
    Quoted from robin:

    I remember, not so long ago, a company producing pinball machines with themes that were 'made up' as opposed to licensed from TV-shows, movies or expensive brands. I'm thinking martians, knights, golf-hating rodents, bare-fist boxers, illusionists. No expensive license and still great games (many even better than the ones with a license). So why doesn't Stern do some original game with a 'made up' theme?

    makes just as much sense today as 10 years ago!

    #16 5 months ago

    Now THAT is a necrobump my friends! 8 yrs old!

    At which point, I agree. More unlicensed themes please!

    #17 5 months ago

    necrobump (resized).JPG
    #18 5 months ago

    Only 6 of the top 30 games are non-licensed. It still is hit and miss to do a non-licensed game. It has to be hard to get big sales numbers on a $9000 non-licensed game such as Dialed In.

    On a $6000 game it is possible to sell based on the game alone...not relying on a license.

    #19 5 months ago
    Quoted from DCFAN:

    Only 6 of the top 30 games are non-licensed. It still is hit and miss to do a non-licensed game. It has to be hard to get big sales numbers on a $9000 non-licensed game such as Dialed In.

    TBT of the total number of non-licensed games made from DMD era and onward, the vast majority are in the top 50 of all time.

    If anything, the risk is with the license as far as longevity.

    The 3 most recent non-licensed games (DI, TNA, and Houdini) are all rated in the top 40! That is telling.

    #20 5 months ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    The 3 most recent non-licensed games (DI, TNA, and Houdini) are all rated in the top 40! That is telling.

    I get that they are popular with pinheads, but the sales numbers are relatively low. I am fairly certain JJP is a little disappointed with the sales numbers of DI, and Houdini clearly has not sold in a volume that would be good for a company like JJP or Stern. TNA is boutique so it works to do non-licensed and lower quantity that although is not limited it will end up being moderately rare which helps demand as well.

    20
    #21 5 months ago

    Haha, wow. This is an OLD thread. In fact, it's one of the first threads on Pinside, I believe.

    So, my sentiment hasn't really changed in 8 years. Personally, I'm still much more into unlicensed stuff because it seems more timeless. All the superhero themes are really wearing me out. AMH, Dialed In, Houdini, Lexy, TNA, Oktoberfest for the win!

    That said, I'm also a bit less naive then I was 8 years ago. Obviously it does make a lot of sense that companies choose to work with licensed themes, for many reasons.

    Edit: Wow, I just checked and this is the 4th thread ever made on Pinside. I remember starting it on a completely empty forum. Phew!

    #22 5 months ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    The 3 most recent non-licensed games (DI, TNA, and Houdini) are all rated in the top 40! That is telling.

    Quoted from robin:

    AMH, Dialed In, Houdini, Lexy, TNA, Oktoberfest for the win!

    I really don't think you can lump Houdini in with the non-licensed stuff. The only reason it's not a 'license' is because it's a public domain property. It's still 100% banking on the name recognition to lure people - or it would have been "Magician" or something similar.

    #23 5 months ago
    Quoted from epthegeek:

    I really don't think you can lump Houdini in with the non-licensed stuff. The only reason it's not a 'license' is because it's a public domain property. It's still 100% banking on the name recognition to lure people - or it would have been "Magician" or something similar.

    Fair enough. Maybe Houdini could be regarded as a licensed theme that costs nothing. Speaking off those: there's so much cool stuff in the public domain that would be perfect as a theme. Alice in Wonderland (okay, that's kind of a bad example) and how about War of the Worlds? That would be something!

    Check out this list: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/public-domain

    #24 5 months ago

    I think the theme has to be cool, but definitely not a requirement that it's a licensed theme. I actually think it's kind of lame having all the licensed themes. It's just not creative. It just seems like when you do licensed themes you kind of shoe horn the pinball part in. There are so many options that I would take over another movie / band theme. Anything mythological would be cool, zombies, end of the world, Roman civilization. I mean, really anything. But I just think licensed themes sell better because it's known, with replicatable sales.

    That being said I really want a GOTG or SW as my next pin, lol, hypocrite.

    #25 5 months ago

    Yeas they are needed more than every sadly.

    #26 5 months ago
    Quoted from robin:

    Fair enough. Maybe Houdine could be regarded as a licensed theme that costs nothing. Speaking off those: there's so much cool stuff in the public domain that would be perfect as a theme. Alice in Wonderland (okay, that's kind of a bad example) and how about War of the Worlds? That would be something!
    Check out this list: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/public-domain

    If the license is free (and no constraints of the license holder) then I agree it falls in line with a complete non-license.

    #27 5 months ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    If the license is free (and no constraints of the license holder) then I agree it falls in line with a complete non-license.

    To a pinball machine, a license is a known entity that can be used to leverage interest in the machine that might not otherwise be there. Houdini is absolutely that. Sure it was free, but it's still got the same effect as a licensed game. There's source material, there's name recognition. Neil Patrick Harris, who isn't a pinball guy, wanted a Houdini for his birthday (and got one) because he's a fan of the man. He doesn't have a "Pinball Magic" or a "Theatre of Magic" ... he has a Houdini.

    #28 5 months ago

    Oktoberfest looks very promising as a new non-licensed theme.

    -2
    #30 5 months ago
    Quoted from epthegeek:

    To a pinball machine, a license is a known entity that can be used to leverage interest in the machine that might not otherwise be there. Houdini is absolutely that. Sure it was free, but it's still got the same effect as a licensed game. There's source material, there's name recognition. Neil Patrick Harris, who isn't a pinball guy, wanted a Houdini for his birthday (and got one) because he's a fan of the man. He doesn't have a "Pinball Magic" or a "Theatre of Magic" ... he has a Houdini.

    I dont agree.

    While there is some benefit of name recognition, once it goes in public domain it is as much about the social culture and Houdini is just "the" magic guy to the vast majority of this era. Much like a fishing title, rafting game, martian game, kings and damsels game.

    I put almost anything in the public domain more similar to a non-licensed theme just because you have to create the content form scratch and also have the benefit of doing what you want with it.

    #31 5 months ago

    We need expensive licenses. They help attract new people into the hobby. More collectors and players equal more games.

    #32 5 months ago

    I do not think you will see a lot of pin without licenses. License games are important in the whole marketing of a new pin. It creates a demand before anyone has ever played the game. Thats because non-licensed games are a hard sell at first. Look what happened to DI. When it was first revealed, it got destroyed on Pinside. If DI came out as a good licensed theme, it never would have gotten the abuse it did. Now look at DI, its Pinside ranking is now number 8.

    If people are against licensed pins because it adds to the cost. I am pretty certain that if Stern sold a non-licensed pin, you would not see a price decrease.

    #33 5 months ago
    Quoted from robin:

    Edit: Wow, I just checked and this is the 4th thread ever made on Pinside. I remember starting it on a completely empty forum. Phew!

    In before the lock ...

    #34 5 months ago

    As a distributor for companies that sell both licensed and unlicensed games, I can offer you this.

    Licensed games are quicker to sell initially, but licensed does not equal great game (as most of us know).

    That being said, unlicensed games are no cheaper to build, I would argue that they are probably more expensive in the long run. You have to come up with everything for an unlicensed game (art, sounds, clips, story, goals, etc, etc). Here are a couple of examples

    The Hobbit - I have sold these to people that are not "pinball people," but just like The Hobbit. That is not done with a game like Dialed In. Also, with a game like The Hobbit, you are given assets and a clear(ish) objective for the game.

    Dialed In - While sales were slow to begin with, the more that people play the game, the better it seems to sell. The issues with dialed in is that all of the assets have to be made (sounds, video clips, objectives, etc). So if you have to pay someone to create all of this or pay a licensor it comes down to the same amount (or close).

    #35 5 months ago

    8E2B9AB5-ADBD-4D8F-B66D-CF09A8AE3268 (resized).png

    Exhibit 1 - Striker Xtreme. Ranked 352 out of 358 on pinside

    #36 5 months ago

    Ben's Bible Adventures with a pinch of Mel Brooks humor seems perfect.

    #37 4 months ago
    Quoted from Crispin:

    Ben's Bible Adventures with a pinch of Mel Brooks humor seems perfect.

    Anyone for
    History of the World Part I ?

    #38 4 months ago
    Quoted from rollitover:

    Anyone for
    History of the World Part I ?

    #39 4 months ago

    Yes, they are needed, for the most part.

    #40 4 months ago

    Licenses are important to pinball. And as Chris mentions above, having to create assets from scratch is tough.

    Also most original themes aren't original, they're just rip offs of known licenses or tropes. MM is Holy Grail, No Good Gophers is Caddyshack, AFM is every 50s movie, etc. So people know the basic premise when the step up to the machine.

    When you do have a truly original theme like Dialed In people warm to it very slowly, though a large part of that is their fault for not pushing a disaster theme.

    #41 4 months ago
    Quoted from benheck:

    though a large part of that is their fault for not pushing a disaster theme.

    I would like to punch whomever was so dense they missed the opportunity to brand DI as "Armageddon" and it incorporate homage to all of Pat's previous diaster non-licensed games. Could have been the most epic Lawlor title of all time.

    #42 4 months ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    I dont agree.
    While there is some benefit of name recognition, once it goes in public domain it is as much about the social culture and Houdini is just "the" magic guy to the vast majority of this era. Much like a fishing title, rafting game, martian game, kings and damsels game.
    I put almost anything in the public domain more similar to a non-licensed theme just because you have to create the content form scratch and also have the benefit of doing what you want with it.

    If copyright law wasn’t extended into absurdity, all of the properties that we grew up with, and that are used in current pins, would be in the public domain as well. They chose the name Houdini for the same reason the others buy licenses, just cheaper.

    -1
    #43 4 months ago
    Quoted from robin:

    I remember, not so long ago, a company producing pinball machines with themes that were 'made up' as opposed to licensed from TV-shows, movies or expensive brands. I'm thinking martians, knights, golf-hating rodents, bare-fist boxers, illusionists. No expensive license and still great games (many even better than the ones with a license). So why doesn't Stern do some original game with a 'made up' theme?

    Lots of Great Material to create non-licensed theme's with.
    Even the Movie market is saturated with superhero and sequels. Several films have been scrapped recently do to saturation, Boba-Fet, 2 Avengers films, another Hulk, all hit the chopping block.

    #44 4 months ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    I would like to punch whomever was so dense they missed the opportunity to brand DI as "Armageddon" and it incorporate homage to all of Pat's previous diaster non-licensed games. Could have been the most epic Lawlor title of all time.

    Don't punch Jack, he's a really nice guy that just wants to build us nice pinball machines.

    #45 4 months ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    I would like to punch whomever was so dense they missed the opportunity to brand DI as "Armageddon" and it incorporate homage to all of Pat's previous diaster non-licensed games. Could have been the most epic Lawlor title of all time.

    I‘m gonna have to disagree with you on that one. Dialed In is subtle, cheeky and understatement. „Armageddon“ would be plump, bombastic and non-licensed superhero type stuff. For sure not what I’m looking for. DI is as it should be. And fits in nicely with this thread.

    #46 4 months ago

    But then again what do I know. Maybe a bombastic title would sell more pins.

    #47 4 months ago
    Quoted from robin:

    Fair enough. Maybe Houdini could be regarded as a licensed theme that costs nothing. Speaking off those: there's so much cool stuff in the public domain that would be perfect as a theme. Alice in Wonderland (okay, that's kind of a bad example) and how about War of the Worlds? That would be something!
    Check out this list: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/public-domain

    There are a few in there that I think would be great pins. Jekyll and Hyde, Huckleberry Fin and Tom Sawyer, Count of Monte Cristo (I would love to design this one), Treasure Island. So many great stories that are easily recognized.

    #48 4 months ago

    Good, fun games are good and fun regardless of their source material. Pinball is ultimately about physical play and satisfying feedback, and there are lots of ways to do that.

    Some licenses are “bad” because they saddle the designers and artists with too many restrictions, but if you avoid those you can make great games still.

    For me, the reason I’m bored with licensed pinball is that I miss the sense of mystery and discovery. I don’t want to hear familiar movie quotes. I don’t want “lunchbox art”, even when it’s great, where you’ve seen the characters before.

    To me games like Houdini and Oktoberfest are licenses. Simply because they’re familiar, and just hearing the name is enough to conjure up the basics of what the game might look and feel like. They’re “safe” ideas, easy to understand quickly. Doesn’t make them bad, just removes the element of the unknown.

    It’s a ton of work to make a pin. And it’s definitely work to invent your own world, create original art for it, make animations for it, sound effects, call outs etc. Licenses do help shortcut that somewhat. But it’s all still work.

    My personal feeling is if you’re going to do all that work, you might as well go all the way and tell your own story. If you just want the easiest route to a finished game then do a license. It’s less risky all around. If you’re Stern and you kind of need to pump out games I get it.

    If you’re a startup, scrappy company, with less initial need to keep the factory running? I wish we’d see more original work. Truly new thoughts, not just easier routes through familiar ideas.

    Why do all that work and not get to tell your own story?

    #49 4 months ago
    Quoted from Whysnow:

    I would like to punch whomever was so dense they missed the opportunity to brand DI as "Armageddon" and it incorporate homage to all of Pat's previous diaster non-licensed games. Could have been the most epic Lawlor title of all time.

    Pat's only two previous "disaster" games (Earthshaker and Whirlwind) are both included in DI as disaster modes.

    #50 4 months ago

    If Stern thought it could sell more units of unlicensed pins they would do that rather than going for licenses.
    They are in the business of making money not making losses.
    Without the licenses over the last decade or so, where would pinball be today?
    Probably without a major manufacturer.

    In the meantime, all I can say is, bring on Steve Ritchie's unlicensed pin! He's spending a lot of time designing it. I am expecting something great.

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