(Topic ID: 258101)

Is Stern Effectively Targeting the Home Market?


By Pinballer67

59 days ago



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    #1 59 days ago

    I wonder, with the recent releases of Stranger Things vs. Rick & Morty, if we’re witnessing a further separation of the pinball market into Profit Making vs. Visionary Manufacture?

    Let’s face it: Stern isn’t going away anytime soon. The company is profitable, with an entrenched/automatic network of operators who purchase just about everything they release. And a solid – if not devoted – army of home use owners.

    And they can crank out machines like nobody's business! Nobody will argue that Stern isn't a manufacturing juggernaut. With Stranger Things, they'll bang them out immediately. Rick & Morty? You will have to wait up to 1.5 years for Scott Danesi 2.0

    But does financial success and efficiency of manufacture translate to inspired pinball design? Is Stern playing it safe and emphasizing style (and profit) over substance?

    By almost all accounts, Jurassic Park 2 is a masterpiece. Is this because Keith Elwin’s genius can thrive within Stern’s limitations of process and cost cutting? Other recent releases: Munsters; Elvira HoH; Stranger Things…arguably appear to be somewhat uninspired designs released with unfinished code (baffling, considering they were designed by legendary pin designers). We're told: “Be patient! The code will make the game great! Just look at Batman 66!”

    Admittedly, Stern games are fun and accessible – usually right away. In general, they are fast and smooth and shoot well. They have snappy sound and music, the artwork is almost always at least good if not exceptional…and they offer a decent theme – sometimes a great one (Stranger Things).

    All this said, other companies seem to be taking more chances with basic shots and layout/PF design. I argue that taking these risks translates to adding more "depth" over time for the non-Stern games. These games offer basic PF designs that take chances: Pirates of the Caribbean; Dialed In; Rick & Morty…heck, even Oktoberfest and RAZA. Companies outside of Stern seem to be trying to switch up basic design elements.

    With all due respect to the Kings of Pinball, what’s up with Stern? With the exception of Jurassic Park 2, recent releases seem to offer similar shots and layout…going back years now. Somewhat uninspired IMO.

    Why isn’t Stern taking more chances in basic design? Are they just interested in rushing games to market so they can be jammed into barcades? So they can have non-pinheads jump right in with the old familiar “fan layout?” with a great theme that draws them in…more than a challenging and unique layout with an imaginative implementation of rules and code? So that their games really FEEL different, one to the next?

    Can’t Stern do BOTH? Take some educated risks in design, while retaining the fun and silky smoothness of their implementation? And please: while you’re at it, Stern…could you please spend that extra $300-$500 in manufacturing and offer better quality components (visual or mechanical) or a toy or two that doesn’t seem like it was purchased at a dollar store?

    If Stern doesn't address this, I think we may witness a gradual slide/erosion of Stern home use owners into the growing army of pinheads awaiting what the “boutique” manufacturers (JJP/Spooky/American/etc) offer…leaving Stern to continue dominance of barcades etc. But not the Home.

    Thoughts? What would YOU like to see Stern do -- as far as: PF layout? Design? Rules? Code? Creative or managerial choices?

    #2 59 days ago
    Quoted from Pinballer67:

    If Stern doesn't address this, I think we may witness a gradual slide/erosion of Stern home use owners into the growing army of pinheads awaiting what the “boutique” manufacturers (JJP/Spooky/American/etc) offer…leaving Stern to continue dominance of barcades etc. But not the Home.

    I don't think this is correct. I think stern will continue to sell more games to homes annually than all the other mfgs combined.

    They are killing it.

    I think sometimes people bucket the entire home market as one entity, when it's actually a broad spectrum of consumers with different buying choices and especially different buying power.

    There are a considerable number of people who buy $8000 games for their home the same way I'd buy a $60 ps4 game.

    #3 59 days ago

    Jeez. Stern is doing a great job.

    #4 59 days ago

    If by “effectively targeting the home market” you mean absolutely dominating sales to the home market, then yes they are. But from your post it seems like you’re really asking if they’re innovating enough to keep you interested. Only you can answer that.

    #5 59 days ago

    The Star Wars Home edition looks better than Stranger Things

    #6 59 days ago
    Quoted from Pinballer67:

    All this said, other companies seem to be taking more chances with basic shots and layout/PF design.

    Jurassic Park
    Deadpool
    Beatles
    Iron Maiden

    All of these are unconventional layouts. They balance out the EHOH, Stranger Things, Guardians etc. Stern just makes that many more games so they give the consumer a mix of options.

    They’ll be just fine in all markets.

    #7 59 days ago

    I think your basic premise is incorrect. They are trying some cool stuff. Animatronic ball eating, throwing T-Rex. Projector that projects images on the playfield. No other manufacturer is delivering games below $6,000. Lower prices means they are more accessible, not just for operators, but also home buyers.

    Regarding code - I don't think you have been following the new releases. Most of these games have had a LOT of updates in rapid succession and have been basically complete within 60-90 days of launch. The 2 year Batman wait was terrible I agree and hurt the sales big time.

    #8 59 days ago
    Quoted from TomGWI:

    The Star Wars Home edition looks better than Stranger Things

    And per their website, it’s “affordable”!

    #9 58 days ago

    Maybe I'm the odd man out here. And I never said Stern wasn't killing it, they obviously are. I want a bit more from them, I think they can be more creative and take more risks with layout specifically.

    To clarify: I own 3 Sterns and love them (TRON/BM 66/GoT LE).

    Some of the other Stern layouts from recent history feel a bit samey to me.

    Sure, Iron Maiden and Jurassic Park are great games. Remove Keith Elwin from their stable of designers and personally I'm a bit less interested in what they have to offer, the past couple years. Whether or not my observations that this may translate into loss of home market share is certainly debateable and - from the above support of Stern - it seems that they are nailing it and we should be happy with their offerings.

    #10 58 days ago
    Quoted from Pinballer67:

    Maybe I'm the odd man out here. And I never said Stern wasn't killing it, they obviously are. I want a bit more from them, I think they can be more creative and take more risks with layout specifically.
    To clarify: I own 3 Sterns and love them (TRON/BM 66/GoT LE).
    Some of the other Stern layouts from recent history feel a bit samey to me.
    Sure, Iron Maiden and Jurassic Park are great games. Remove Keith Elwin from their stable of designers and personally I'm a bit less interested in what they have to offer, the past couple years. Whether or not my observations that this may translate into loss of home market share is certainly debateable and - from the above support of Stern - it seems that they are nailing it and we should be happy with their offerings.

    I think there is no debate that Keith Elwin was a game changing hire for Stern. Some of the old school guys (Gomez with DP) have also had some super fun games. I do agree that some of the designs / mechs are not as fun or inspired. Not really a fan of Borg's last two games. Look at how the Herman mech moves on the Munsters. Borg has been recycling layouts for a while now.

    #11 58 days ago

    If the market is people who write ridiculous word salads rehashing a million other threads we have once a week that nobody reads in their entirety due to their crushing banality, the answer is obvious:

    No.

    If the market is people who want the cheapest commercial pinball machine available, and want to choose from about 10 models in production at any given time and have the machine in their home within a week, the answer is also obvious:

    Yes.

    #12 58 days ago

    The entire hobby could sell more. The curse is, these things break constantly and many people have no idea how to fix even the smallest fault. And that's on top of the inconsistent seller and repair network. Personally, I don't see how anybody that is trying to make a buck operating would bother when claw and gimmick machines do so much better. I believe that Stern is fitting its market pretty close to the bullseye. Their biggest problem isn't what they are doing but IMO some of the arrogance I perceive from entities that hold licenses. The relative recent adoption of monitors and rgb lighting is IMO one of the major factors in all of this. That and the aging of the population that is willing to stay home to entertain itself rather than go out to bars.

    -2
    #13 58 days ago

    If you want a solid, reliable, fun, affordable game, that you can actually order and have delivered, there are only two real players Stern and CGC. Everyone else is a bunch of amateurs with homebrew and overly complicated junk. I honestly wish CGC would produce new games instead of just remakes because they have the best quality in town. Stern and CGC are absolutely crushing it. End of line.

    #14 58 days ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    If the market is people who write ridiculous word salads rehashing a million other threads we have once a week that nobody reads in their entirety due to their crushing banality, the answer is obvious:
    No.
    If the market is people who want the cheapest commercial pinball machine available, and want to choose from about 10 models in production at any given time and have the machine in their home within a week, the answer is also obvious:
    Yes.

    Ouch! Well, dude...I was trying to formulate a logical, critical argument based on my "meh" reaction to the Stranger Things reveal. You know: an argument. The way thinking people used to write before one sentence ejaculations/judgements and ad hominem attacks. If you can't read more than 2 sentences, don't dictate to me how I should think or create an argument. Just move along, friend.

    I like and own many of the major manufacturers and I clearly expressed my admiration of Stern.

    I think they are cranking out machines (very well) but the thoughtfulness and "art" of their machines leaves something to be desired. Especially in the layout department. Other than Elwin, that is...

    #15 58 days ago
    Quoted from fattdirk:

    If you want a solid, reliable, fun, affordable game, that you can actually order and have delivered, there are only two real players Stern and CGC. Everyone else is a bunch of amateurs with homebrew and overly complicated junk. I honestly wish CGC would produce new games instead of just remakes because they have the best quality in town. Stern and CGC are absolutely crushing it. End of line.

    I disagree. I own both Tron and ACNC and have played both extensively. If I had to compare them in overall quality and thoughtfulness, I would rank them dead even...even though they are *completely* different machines in terms of feel, layout, flow, theme etc.

    #16 58 days ago

    You can't crush the HUO pinball market any more than Stern is right now. Record sales, great themes, some great pins.

    What more do you want?

    In fact they crush the entire pinball industry.

    #17 58 days ago
    Quoted from fattdirk:

    If you want a solid, reliable, fun, affordable game, that you can actually order and have delivered, there are only two real players Stern and CGC. Everyone else is a bunch of amateurs with homebrew and overly complicated junk. I honestly wish CGC would produce new games instead of just remakes because they have the best quality in town. Stern and CGC are absolutely crushing it. End of line.

    So you are calling games like Dialed In and Wonka designed by Pat Lawlor overly complicated junk made by amateurs? LOL, ok. Same goes for Spooky with a games like TNA and ACNC.

    Just because a company can rush out 5 new games a year with half of them being duds doesn't mean they are making the best games. Stern has been crushing it but selling the most of something doesn't = "the best". I wish all of their games were as good as JP.

    #18 58 days ago
    Quoted from iceman44:

    You can't crush the HUO pinball market any more than Stern is right now. Record sales, great themes, some great pins.
    What more do you want?
    In fact they crush the entire pinball industry.

    Agreed. Stern is the dominate leader in the pinball space, pumping out games in numbers not hitherto seen this century. Stern’s innovation in code specially has been great and I’m glad to see they recognize the value in acquiring all the assets of Stranger Things they acquired.

    I know I’ll be ordering a Stranger Things for sure.

    All that said, I’m glad to see there are other companies out there I can also send my business to. Variety is the spice of life.

    #19 58 days ago
    always bet on stern (resized).jpg
    #20 58 days ago

    I have several Stern games on my short wish list. None for JJP, none for Spooky, none for anyone else. Rick and Morty looks fun but don't think I am smart enough for theme. Plus it's not cheap and wait is long. JJP is lol. What is it - $13k for some glitter on your WOZ? lol. JPOP RAZA? AP Hotwheels? Keep trying. Saying that Stern "can crank out machines like nobody's business" is a testament that their games sell. I would love to see more people compete on Stern's pro level with games that are fun to play, good themes, and produced in a timely manner. Don't see it, though.

    #21 58 days ago
    Quoted from TigerLaw:

    Agreed. Stern is the dominate leader in the pinball space, pumping out games in numbers not hitherto seen this century. Stern’s innovation in code specially has been great and I’m glad to see they recognize the value in acquiring all the assets of Stranger Things they acquired.
    I know I’ll be ordering a Stranger Things for sure.
    All that said, I’m glad to see there are other companies out there I can also send my business to. Variety is the spice of life.

    More is better Tiger. They all do their own thing. I own a nice American Pinball game in Oktoberfest. 3 JJP games now. An old Alien, new Aliens coming from Pinball Brothers. 2 CGC games, and waiting on CC. And a Deeproot pin that is paid for via Jpop.

    Couldn't agree more, variety is the spice of life!

    Just because Stern is crushing it, no ned for the "pinside mob" to try and tear it down. Although, it's the vocal mob minority because SALES tell a different story.

    Sometimes Stern is a victim of their own success. Hire Elwin and make 2 great games, JP being one of the best ever.

    #22 58 days ago

    With the rising cost of new machines, the lack of space in homes, and the decline in resale value for most machines, I think the home market will start to level out. I know a few guys that use to own pins and have sold them because they can go play local pinball and play the newest titles. Not everyone shares that mentality but I understand it.

    This is kind of a catch 22 though. With the rising cost of new pins and the stagnant pricing of locations pinball play, I do believe we are reaching a peak where it’s not sustainable. I believe traditional operations of pins is going to the way side and corporate business will be the only business that will buy every new title. Business that don’t make money with pinball, but make money keeping people in the doors to buy other products like food and drink.

    This is just my opinion, observations, and experience. I could be wrong though.

    #23 58 days ago
    Quoted from PanzerFreak:

    So you are calling games like Dialed In and Wonka designed by Pat Lawlor overly complicated junk made by amateurs? LOL, ok. Same goes for Spooky with a games like TNA and ACNC.

    By amateurs I meant boutique. So basically not suitable for route use which I don't believe any JJP games or Spooky games are. I have not owned any American Pinball so I can't speak to their reliability. Perfect for home use or someone that doesn't mind putting the hood up here and there. Stern and CGC are suitable for route use which was my point.

    #24 58 days ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    With the rising cost of new machines, the lack of space in homes, and the decline in resale value for most machines, I think the home market will start to level out. I know a few guys that use to own pins and have sold them because they can go play local pinball and play the newest titles. Not everyone shares that mentality but I understand it.

    Gosh, this is all so true.

    My game room is simply full at the moment, in fact, I have a total of eight games at my office since I have zero space in my house. I’m at the point where I can’t buy anything without selling something, and I don’t want to sell anything because I: (a) really like my collection and still play everything in it, and (b) don’t like losing my butt on machines. If I take too big of a loss, I get criticism from the Mrs, who is also into pinball but like everyone doesn’t like losing money.

    For the current home use market to continue to thrive, there has to be a healthy used machine market. For there to be a healthy used machine market there has to be a constant influx of new players and collectors.

    Competitive pinball has brought in new players and turned some of those new players into collectors. Stern brings in some new players with the release of each major theme, so far we’ve never seen mass pin acquisition from non-pinhead fans of specific themes, but each major release of new IP must drive a few new collectors here and there. We heard that masses of KISS and Star Wars fans would buy masses of machines and I don’t think that ever materialized, but surely a few new collectors sprung from each release.

    Stern (and everyone else for that matter) pushing up prices on new machines has in some ways set expectations on the value of older machines. WOZ machines have appreciated (or at least appear to have appreciated) since the yellow one came around. Regardless, there needs to be new buyers.

    #25 58 days ago

    You cant deny that Stern is king, they crank out 3-4 games per year, great themes, and the past 2 years has been pretty amazing besides some playfield issues. These newer machines are all fantastic

    Beatles
    DP
    Black knight
    JP 2
    Iron maiden

    #26 58 days ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    With the rising cost of new machines, the lack of space in homes, and the decline in resale value for most machines, I think the home market will start to level out. I know a few guys that use to own pins and have sold them because they can go play local pinball and play the newest titles. Not everyone shares that mentality but I understand it.
    This is kind of a catch 22 though. With the rising cost of new pins and the stagnant pricing of locations pinball play, I do believe we are reaching a peak where it’s not sustainable. I believe traditional operations of pins is going to the way side and corporate business will be the only business that will buy every new title. Business that don’t make money with pinball, but make money keeping people in the doors to buy other products like food and drink.
    This is just my opinion, observations, and experience. I could be wrong though.

    That is what I did, it just did not make sense to have 100k in pinball machines in my basement. Now I just keep a few fun bang for buck pins around to tinker with and play and go hit some location play for my NIB fix.

    #27 58 days ago
    Quoted from TigerLaw:

    For the current home use market to continue to thrive, there has to be a healthy used machine market. For there to be a healthy used machine market there has to be a constant influx of new players and collectors .

    Speaking to dealers who carry multiple manufacturers Stern crushes on new and used space for new home buyers.

    Outside the walls of the Pinside echo chamber the GB, SW, and JPs just crush it at the price point for those new game room collections.

    #28 58 days ago

    Stern is better at business than all the other manufacturers. They may not be better at “pinball”. They kept things going in the lean years, which is where you are truly tested. Now, more competition and a healthy level of interest has prompted Gary to start innovating a little. That’s awesome.

    They are taking the risks now that you have to take as a big company to stay on top. Until another company comes in that is good at keeping costs down, building a product a lot of people want, and juggling the day-to-day, Stern is safe.

    #29 58 days ago
    Quoted from iceman44:

    You can't crush the HUO pinball market any more than Stern is right now. Record sales, great themes, some great pins.
    What more do you want?
    In fact they crush the entire pinball industry.

    They want a game specifically tailored to them, that will fulfill all of their hopes, dreams, and desires.

    That’s what Deep Root is for.

    #30 58 days ago
    Quoted from Pinballer67:

    Ouch! Well, dude...I was trying to formulate a logical, critical argument based on my "meh" reaction to the Stranger Things reveal. You know: an argument. The way thinking people used to write before one sentence ejaculations/judgements and ad hominem attacks. If you can't read more than 2 sentences, don't dictate to me how I should think or create an argument. Just move along, friend.
    I like and own many of the major manufacturers and I clearly expressed my admiration of Stern.
    I think they are cranking out machines (very well) but the thoughtfulness and "art" of their machines leaves something to be desired. Especially in the layout department. Other than Elwin, that is...

    You asked if Stern is effectively targeting the home market. They are far and away the #1 supplier for the home market.

    It’s like asking if the sky is blue, or if a dog has a tail. It makes no sense to ask the question, and even less to dedicate 5,000 words to it.

    Maybe you meant to ask a different question?

    #31 58 days ago
    Quoted from Vino:

    Speaking to dealers who carry multiple manufacturers Stern crushes on new and used space for new home buyers.
    Outside the walls of the Pinside echo chamber the GB, SW, and JPs just crush it at the price point for those new game room collections.

    This is OP's answer. A couple of hundred Pinsiders raving about their favorite new title isn't Stern's chosen market, as many of their offerings (BM66, Supreme, Beatles) suggest. Oh, we're part of it -- otherwise we wouldn't be seeing a new Black Knight at all, and they wouldn't bother with the deepest rules at all.

    #32 58 days ago

    It’s a bit like saying GM doesn’t cater for the home market cause they sell a couple of bland cars.
    Stern offers some great machines for the home market for players with a range of abilities.

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