Quoted from o-din:
Operators being priced out of being able to put games on location to earn money is a big death blow for pinball.
And the fact that pinball machines are now geared towards home collectors that beg for licensed themes until the makers of these games give in shows pinball's soul is dying or already has.
These are indications that pinball as it was, will never be again. And what was once a staple of pop culture is now a novelty at best.
Think about the math here folks.
Pins NIB were $3-4k devices not very long ago. Consider that a route op generally splits the coinbox with the owner of the location, so if it's 50c/play he needs 4 plays to get a buck of gross. Consider also that in general you have to expect that with *routine* (not excellent) maintenance and attention the total cost of operation is probably roughly 50% acquisition expense and the rest is time + travel expense + parts (nobody works for free.)
So with that model I need *24,000-32,000* plays on that machine to break even all-in, and that assumes I have no financing or cost-of-funds on the machine (which is utter nonsense; time is not free and therefore neither is money, even in today's ultra-low rate environment.) It also, however, assumes zero residual value which is also wrong -- so let's put a $1,000 residual on it.
That gets me into the 20,000 play range for a game to "be worth it."
If the average game lasts 2 minutes and it's in play 20% of the time in a given location that is open 8 hours a day (both *extremely* aggressive figures) it gets ~50 plays a day. That means it takes 400 days to "earn out" on operating costs, at which point it actually starts to make money. In reality a 20% "service factor" is fanciful; 5 or 10% is more-likely.
This is why, by the way, most route machines are in crap condition; the only thing you can shave is the maintenance expense and when machines started to get expensive enough to pressure the ability of them to earn out the first thing the route guys did was shave back their attention to them (and thus their operating expenses.)
Now double the price of the pin, especially when you add in the cost of the money, and it will never "earn out" for the operator.
WMS/Bally got out of the business after 1-1/2 games of Pin2k and went after the slot machine market instead. It wasn't hard to see why even with the math at the time. The economics weren't working for the pin route operator and instead of resolving the problem post-WMS/Bally they've gotten twice as bad as they were!
What has driven the "modern" pricing insanity was collectors and both Stern and (now) JJP's desire to try to capitalize on it. In doing so they've destroyed location games; very few people will pay $1+/play on a route machine and the few that will are only going to do it if it's in impeccable condition (and virtually none ever are.) You CAN'T double the per-play pricing without destroying the total number of plays that get tallied.
As a result I've not seen a "new" route machine in several years, and as long as the ticket price on the new ones is $8,000 I probably never will again -- and neither will you.
Eventually the market will "fix" this the same way it always does. Either NIB prices will collapse or the manufacturers will collapse. If the NIB prices collapse then the collector insanity pricing we have now (seriously folks, $5k+ for machines that were $3,000 when brand new?) will collapse as well, and if not then both Stern and JJP will eventually be effectively selling exclusively to collectors, which will work for a little while but ultimately is a doomed business strategy; nobody has infinite space or infinite money and if there's no commercial activity going on at the consuming end of the chain then as the "fill factor" increases the manufacturers eventually run out of people because the collector will refuse to sell at half or less of what he paid for it (unless he needs the money to make the mortgage payment!)