(Topic ID: 172477)

I've been a long time Stern Pinball fan, but I'm done with them.

By jar155

2 years ago

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    #151 2 years ago
    Quoted from Cadespa:

    Stern makes a luxury good. Luxury goods don't care what inflation looks like, it's simple supply and demand. Luxury items create their own special markets.

    Speculators buy everything with no intention of keeping anything, similar to StubHub. They have the fastest computer or the best hookups and will make enough money from presales to cover any losses from what ends up being a dog. Even the dogs will find a home due to geography and demand. Reminds me of IPOs where an extremely limited number of people have dibs to the first offerings.

    Collectors buy games in hopes of them becoming Collector's Items. Franklin Mint, Precious Moments, etc. all have their own secondary markets that only those collectors value. Collectors sell items amongst themselves or to hobbyists or someone like me who just wants to have a couple machines for entertainment. Collectors range from day traders to 401k holders and no matter where they fall in that range they expect to make a profit over the long run.

    You are talking about the LE buyers, not pinball in general. I have a pinball collection because the closest pinball on location is 7 miles away, and very rarely anything gets rotated. If I want to play the latest Stern, I have to drive downtown (easily a 90 minute drive plus a hassle to find parking). Being a hobbyist almost isn't a choice if you want to play pinball. You gain a collection so you can have people over, so they will in turn also invite you over. I'm not in it for the investment, I just want to play pinball.. And if companies like Stern continue to make it a painful experience for everyone, it's not going to be fun anymore and people will just quit the hobby and pursue something else. There are plenty of other fun things to spend money on, it's not like pinball is the last bastion of entertainment.

    #168 2 years ago

    so I have a question.. When this public Stern store opens up on the east coast, are the floor models going to be fresh off the production floor and picked randomly, or are these going to be golden samples that work perfect? Because if it's the latter that's going to give the general public a false impression. It's going to be like a scene from falling down "in the commercials the burgers look big and juicy, what I actually get is a sad burger"

    #220 2 years ago

    If anyone hasn't listened to broken token this month (ep 47), about 66 minutes in they begin talking about Ghostbusters and the bad taste they got from the quality issues (and hassle of getting the right stickers)

    #320 2 years ago
    Quoted from Nevus:

    Is it Don or Jeff?


    Quoted from Nevus:

    I am unqualified to tell Stern how to improve manufacturing quality and quality control

    If you watched the video stream yesterday, they showed a worker checking each playfield over a light table. He said he was checking for chips, wrong colored inserts, etc. I have watched every factory tour video and never saw a light table check when they walked by the playfields, so I'm guessing this is something new since the playfield issues (though I can't confirm this).
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    This is a good step, but the ghosting issue isn't likely something off the factory floor, most owners saw this after a hundred plays. So either the ball hitting it is loosening it (because it hadn't fully cured), or the process sucks and you'll get a random fallout of bad product. It's my understanding that they changed vendors for playfields without properly testing them, which bit them. At my job, if I swap out a part for a more cost effective one, our testing department has to send samples to test customers to life test them for 2-3 months to verify they are equivalent, even if the specifications of material are identical.

    Quoted from Nevus:

    What is our recourse if the distributor is unhelpful after the sale? Stern should have a pathway for solving this problem. I know there is a person, but it is usually one person with a voicemail. Who tracks satisfaction? Who makes sure concerns are resolved? Who addresses the customer that has annoyed the one person with a voicemail that just gets ignored?

    At my company, our customer service calls and emails are logged and copied into a database, and we send out quarterly statistics to everyone in the company (percentage of calls, which product, what the issue was). Our service department decides between them and distributors (who have to deal with customer returns or service repairs) which are the hot issues and that comes back to engineering to resolve. This is not hard to setup, it's either laziness, ignorance, or the volume just isn't there to hire someone to deal with all of this. The video yesterday also confirmed that Stern aims to build 55-60 pins a day. If production never takes a break, that's between 14.3k - 15.6k pins shipped per year. It's a far cry from mass production.

    Typically our service issues are always below 1% which is pretty good for a manufacturer that builds easily a million units across the product line. 1% at Stern would be 150 pinballs per year with issues big enough for a customer to complain and customer service. I'm willing to bet that percentage is probably closer to 2-3%, at least in 2016.

    #333 2 years ago
    Quoted from taylor34:

    I believe that some of the people working there really do care, but the person at the top doesn't

    It's absolutely true. Lyman works on his time off to finish code sometimes. You know Steve Ritchie would love to just build a full featured game across the board, but instead that gets reserved for LE/premium (and even then, I'm sure there are things taken out from the original design because of costs). Look I know in the end a business exists to make money, they aren't going to sell pinball at cost, or for the love of pinball. But man, some of these upper management types need to get in touch with reality. Maybe Gary Stern needs to go on the show "undercover boss"

    #336 2 years ago
    Quoted from MapleSyrup:

    Stern had some hiccups with play fields. They have addressed the issue, and communicated to their distributors that they will take care of people affected by the issue... why all the useless drama!??? Some people act like they won't be happy until they see Gomez, and Gary crying on Anderson Cooper about how the company made terrible mistakes... seriously? What is it going to take? Stern admitted there was an issue, and put a plan in place to deal with it. I've moved on from that problem

    Where to start? It took Stern months and months to admit there were quality issues with playfields (and to be compensated, your playfield issues need to be bad enough to be considered replaced). A Six sigma company (or at least a professional company) would have cosmetic specs of what's considered a defect. No instead it's (let me look at your photo and I shall be the judge of that), or at the very least some sort of reasonable agreement with buyers. I believe their own guarantee even loosely states that so long as the machine is functioning, if there are defects they aren't covered by warranty.

    When I picked up AMH from spooky, the cabinet had a scratch in it. They could have just sent me home and said "we'll send you decals in the mail), but when I pointed it out and Charlie immediately said "that's unacceptable", wheeled it back into the shop, spent the next hour doing a QC check on another build they had waiting even though they had dinner plans and kids to pick up from sports, and I went home with a perfect game.

    This isn't even about fairness or what's right. Have some effing pride in your product Gary, do you not care about your reputation?

    #407 2 years ago
    Quoted from Underspin:

    Gary Stern I have a selfish request. Since business is good right now will you do an experiment for me? Have Gomez or Richie put a team together and create an original theme.

    Put out one model, have full control, save some or maybe a lot of overhead in licensing fees and dealing with studios, getting art and sound approvals etc. Price it a little lower than licensed pins (but still make a killing) and of course put it out with completed code.

    I understand why licensed themes keep the train on the tracks but think that you might be surprised by the interest, especially from players like me who like crazy stuff and love to see what artists and designers come up with

    Yes, because Dialed in got such praise when it was revealed. Also Stern striker extreme and High roller Casino did so well too.

    #568 2 years ago
    Quoted from rosh:

    Stern is about the bottom line. Not only does stuff need to be rolling off the line, but games need to be profitable. If a game is not selling well, not surprising if they try to cut their losses by not finishing code to the degree many of us would want. I'm sure their attitude is that as long as the game plays and is relatively bug free, it is good enough

    Yet Stern sells approximately 15,000 pins a year, while spooky only sells 150 / 300 / 500 and somehow they seem to be profitable while finishing code and have easily tripled their workforce in the last year. Also Ben has done huge code updates to AMH that finished shipping 6 months ago when there was no incentive to do so since it's not like he gets paid any more money. Spooky cares about quality, Stern cares about money. Also I'm not blaming the programmers, I'm blaming management for not providing the workforce needed to keep up with output.

    #601 2 years ago
    Quoted from taylor34:

    Stern isn't make 15,000 games a year, no way. They just moved from their old plant, and there they were making 32 per day * 250 = 8000ish

    Jody Dankberg said in his last facebook tour of the factory that they build between 55-60 a day, so yes.

    #657 2 years ago

    Most companies don't purposely build a bad product to get you to buy another one, there are of course some exceptions (like HP putting code into the ink cartridges to give them an expiration date so you can't keep refilling it with ink, or phone companies purposely updating the OS to demand more CPU cycles). Products are built with a purpose, and back in the day it was to sell a product to make money on route, then it trashed (or stored in a warehouse in case they wanted to rotate).

    Nobody thought about nostalgia back then, and for the most part there weren't home NIB buyers because who needs to buy a pinball machine when you can play it in public. If you average out all of the countries that buy pinball, it averages out to about a 50/50 split (italy is about 95% route, 5% home buyer).

    The market has changed, pinball needs to last. It's why companies like Spooky Pinball invest R&D into clearcoats that can protect a playfield from a million hits of a steel ball without dimpling.

    #666 2 years ago
    Quoted from jgentry:

    Spooky makes good playfields, no doubt about that but they still dimple. My AMH had dimples after a few plays.

    all AMH playfields dimple (including mine). But shortly after that they posted a video on facebook with a lifetest running that doesn't dimple (I don't know if they used that same process on RZ or not). Anyone that wants to buy a replacement AMH playfield with the new coating can do so.

    #719 2 years ago
    Quoted from smokedog:

    You would be surprised how much pinball is earning these days ..

    it's all about location and business sense. The pinballzine 940 guy routes for a living (but he also routes video games), and even he'll tell you retro video games still earn better. Also he never takes less than 100% cut, in his mind pinball machines bring in customers so why should they get a cut. On the other hand, the owner of Joliet pinball (far chicago suburb) just barely makes it with his 30-40 pinball machines (which is a good destination). In a recent post, he even commented he's finding the customers are spending more time on the driving game he has, so he just picked up 2 more retro driving games to help draw in crowds. Pinball profits are hard.

    #722 2 years ago
    Quoted from jar155:

    If someone locks up a Ghostbusters on a bug, that game might be done for the day until it gets power cycled

    You're not even including the negative impact that a pinball with bugs has on earnings. Imagine for a second looking through the eyes of a non-pinhead. You walk up to a machine, has issues. In your mind you're saying to yourself "Why did I even bother giving pinball another chance? bartender won't even give me a refund, he says contact the operator.. whatever that means". That person is probably going to go play golden tee golf, or billiards, or something else he knows is reliable.

    #745 2 years ago
    Quoted from jar155:

    My dad owns a manufacturing business. His upfront cost on a machine is very different. Where he may pay $1-$2 million for a new machine, it will pay back $20 million over its life in profits. It pays back much faster than it depreciates, and the money it generates can pay for several new machines over, plus employee salaries

    It's true of most investments of capital equipment. 3d printing is on the rise because hobby printers are a very reasonable investment. In the 8 months I've owned mine, it's paid for itself easily 6 times over. I could literally throw it in the garbage and I'd still come out way ahead. Same holds true for any filament I buy. Whatever amount of material cost my program calculates, I charge anywhere from 5-10 times that cost (to pay for wear and tear, and a small amount of electricity). The spool is paid for after about 6 small print jobs.

    While it's true pinballs hold their value, I don't see how most ops can make money on coin drop. The only way for pinball to possible survive is freeplay.. Either you buy an all day pass at an arcade, or a barcade sets the pinballs to freeplay as an attraction device but make it up on alcohol sales (which are typically 100% profit minus alcohol license). License fees haven't changed much in 30 years even though the market has, and insurance rates have gone up.

    #758 2 years ago
    Quoted from NeilMcRae:

    Ghostbusters is the best machine for years and Stern haven't had to do any more titles this year because its so good

    You sure about that? beyond the playfield issues:
    slimer mech doesn't work out of the box for most
    switch on ramp doesn't always register
    left scoop can bend back and short against flasher, causing board damage (there's already a service bulletin)
    Inlane walls are too short so you have ball hop unless you add aftermarket plastics

    As a game being fully packed with features and great art sure, but not without it's issues.

    #760 2 years ago
    Quoted from JY64:

    JJP announced WOZ in Jan 2011 Highway announced Full Throttle 2012 three games in six years competition I don't think so

    you're forgetting hobbit, dialed in and aliens, so 6 actually. Plus every new startup company takes time to ramp up (generate base code framework, source parts, generate CAD models, build a factory, etc etc). You think Stern started out of the gate making 10k pinballs a year? No, Depending on where you want to start in the stern electronics history:

    They started out making conversion kit playfields for existing early 80's bally / stern pinballs (PINSTAR) in their basement

    If you go by the start of data east, then it's laser war (which sold roughly 2600 games), and most of the parts were borrowed from a williams road kings (not from scratch) with far less complexity than today's pinballs.

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