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?