I think when it comes to questions like yours, rcbrown, the answers are usually fun and interesting to read. This is no exception. Count me amongst those who rarely tire of these aesthetic debates on Pinside.
Full disclosure – I just turned 54 last week. So, the games you are asking about are games that have extraordinarily strong pull for me. I played them on location in their day. I remember the chatter as they arrived in local arcades, pushing technology and rule sets to places they had not been yet. They still connect me with my youth. I am a sucker for them. For example…
Flight 2000 will never leave my lineup. Why? Because I was there right at the time it came out and there was SUCH A BUZZ surrounding it once it was slotted into the long side wall at Walker’s Pinball Place in Warren, Michigan. Everyone wanted to play it. It held people’s attention even in the face of the growing wave of video games that were stealing quarters away from the cult of the silver ball.
Anyway, Fathom. From my perspective, this is one of the most iconic tables in history. Art package is absolutely gorgeous and really well integrated. To this day, when I see a Fathom in the real world, it makes me smile. To me, that is EXACTLY was a table was all about in that heyday before video games took over. Cool, sexy graphics. Great sounds. Challenging gameplay. Do I understand why others say it is not worth the money usually asked for it? 100% yes, but I also understand why it will likely always hold good value. So many great little tweaks, like the inside out outlane configuration. I got into the hobby six years ago and Fathom has gone up in price by about $1,000 since then. I don’t ever see it sliding back down. It is iconic, fun and timeless. But then, I am kind of getting older and the tables of the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s will always hold that special place for me.
Love ForceFlow’s comments here:
Quoted from ForceFlow:
When it comes to some of those older titles that fetch big money, personally I think it's mostly collectible factor driving the price on those, rather than the gameplay factor. So don't get fooled by thinking more $$$ = more fun with those titles.
Yes, some of those titles play well, but for instance, compare Fathom in the $4k+ range against The Shadow in the $3500+ range. The Shadow is mainly driven by gameplay value, rather than collector's pricing. TS is not too difficult to find, but a lot of people enjoy playing it. And then compare that against Congo ($5k+) where the gameplay isn't quite as good, but they're much more difficult to find, and a bit more collectible.
So, would I like to own a fathom? Sure! Do I want to pay $4k+ for one? Oh heck no. I have more fun with other games around a similar price point, that to me, offer more bang per buck and have a higher replay value.
To me this is spot on. It is all about where YOU are with regard to the balance between rule set sophistication and aesthetic quality.
Whatever you decide, good luck. I personally don't think forking over the $$$ for a Fathom would be a mistake of you have it to spend. That being said, I also understand that undercurrent about a dubious rule set and an over-inflated price. I just don't see that price changing anytime soon, unless it goes up even higher. Bravo early SS!