I've seen pinball declared dead so many times I can't take it seriously any more.
It's crazy to call it healthier than ever - in the 70s/80s/90s there were years when ONE or more title sold more than units than the entire industry produced in 2014.
It does seem healthier than when I got into it 15 years ago - there are more manufacturers putting out a higher quality product.
One thing I find interesting is the predictions here that we are seeing the last wave of enthusiasm, because people in their 20s and 30s have some money and want what they played when they were kids etc.
Well I got news for you - based on previous prognostications, those people who are revitalizing the hobby now don't even exist. 15 years ago, pinball was doomed because "kids today don't play pinball" - there's no arcades and even if there were kids are too busy playing Playstation etc. Yet here we are a decade or so later and all of a sudden all those playstation kids have their own place, have jobs, and are buying pinball machines?
The hobby keeps revitalizing itself with new blood because it's cool as shit, and younger people tend to catch on to stuff that's cool as shit.
I met plenty of good players in their early 20s (not counting the 12-year old phenoms whose dads are into it) at PAPA. One of the best players on my league team is 24 and we have others under the age of 30. These people never played pinball on location when they were kids as they are too young for bars and there are no arcades (supposedly?) yet they own or will own machines and are skilled players.
I think it was proven a long time ago that pinball as a hobby has little in common with jukes, which was what people always compared it to 15 years ago. "Pinball is in the death throes just like jukes were -everybody is aging out, soon nobody will want them." Clearly it's very, very different.
Now keep in mind people tend to get pinball as a hobby confused with pinball as an industry, and this is a point I used to make when everybody assumed the death of Stern (which looked inevitable) would be the death of pinball. It isn't so. Maybe the industry is growing too fast right now, maybe retail prices on new machines are too high. Maybe this leads to a contraction, I don't know and really don't care that much. I don't think any of that is nearly as important as everybody seems to think it is. "pinball" - people collecting, playing, and new blood in the collecting and competition hobby - really is not that dependent on the general health of the industry.