(Topic ID: 193727)

Update: A retrospective: Madison Pinball > 5 years and 50+ games later


By Whysnow

2 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 24 posts
  • 5 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by Whysnow
  • Topic is favorited by 3 Pinsiders

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#1 2 years ago

It is easy to sometimes forget how far things can progress in a short time with a little effort, some great buddies, and a great community built up around pinball!!!!

Just 4 years ago there was no quality pinball to be played in our town. Dirty, broken, beat up games were the norm and only 1 or 2 games in a location. On a whim and a bet myself and a couple buddies decided to change that. What started with 1 location and only 4 quality pins has quickly grown to 4 locations and 35+ pins! We strive to keep them playing 100% and address issues as they arrise. It has been a lot of fun and I have learned a ton! Every quarter dropped goes right back into maintainence and new games to bring more pinball to the people.

I feel very fortunate to be part of this crazy trip and also for all the new friends I have met because of it. We have really seen a community bloom out of nothing and that is what it is all about, the PEOPLE! So many fun and cool folks that I would not know if it wasn't for these silly games.

Just feeling a bit restorspective today and wanted to share. Thanks to everyone that has helped pinball grow in Madison and made it all possible!

We started with this location, Pooleys. A sweet sports bar with room for 4 games. The lineup has changed and steadily evolves but has always been 4 deep. Some solid tables and a great place for a pint and sports memorbilia all over
https://pinside.com/pinball/map/where-to-play/6569-pooley-s-madison-wi

Next came Schwoeglers. We started with 4 which rapidly grew to take over the concourse with 8 and then more in the bar; at 13 now. The location is a bowling alley and bar. Great WI vibe, huge beers, and a selection of everything from EMs all the way to Dialed In! Pretty cool to be able to play so many era of games in one spot.
https://pinside.com/pinball/map/where-to-play/7239-schwoegler-s-bowling-entertainment-madison-wi

Third was Alt Brew a gluten free brewery and tap room (they serve gluten beer also form all over the state and fantastic nachos). This location is a favorite as the back room is all pinball and a great place to go on a quite day and be able to hear and really dig into a game.
9 games now and feature some oddballs like Atlantis, Aliens and soon a 2 player Joust.
https://pinside.com/pinball/map/where-to-play/8428-alt-brew-madison-wi

4th spot is the recently opened Maria's / Art-In. A music venue with a HUGE range of bands in the back room (everything from screamO to bluegrass to jazz to ? in a single week) 9 pins now and more to come. Everything from an awesome pop-a-card EM all the way to the newest SWpro! Also and ICB for those fiends. Consumat eastside Madison hip with a nice beer selection and now liquor license. In the same building is the Parched Eagle taproom which is a nice break for a pint of local brew also.
https://pinside.com/pinball/map/where-to-play/10094-maria-s-madison-wi

#2 2 years ago

Just linked all 35 games to the thread for the fun of it. Amazed how many it has grown to and excited what the future holds!

#3 2 years ago

Congrats! Its awesome to have operators who take pride in there machines.

We have some great places to play in Boston (Roxy's arc4de, flattop Johnny's ect.) Still wish there was something closer to me. After working all day the last thing I want to do is drive an hour or so into Boston with traffic. Someone start an arcade on the South shore of mass!!!!

#4 2 years ago

Hopefully game #36 is ready to go out soon. Put in a new parts order yesterday.

#5 2 years ago
Quoted from Mfsrc791:

Congrats! Its awesome to have operators who take pride in there machines.
We have some great places to play in Boston (Roxy's arc4de, flattop Johnny's ect.) Still wish there was something closer to me. After working all day the last thing I want to do is drive an hour or so into Boston with traffic. Someone start an arcade on the South shore of mass!!!!

thanks. It is myself and u2sean and bigdaddybanjo that do this crazy thing.

I vote you find a location and go for it! It is lots of fun!

#6 2 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

I vote you find a location and go for it! It is lots of fun!

Dam I would love too. My friends always were amazed that I had a machine that could "make money" lol. I told them it's not that easy to make money with it but it can maybe fund a hobby.

now you actually have me really thinking about it

#7 2 years ago

My general tips are:
4 pins is the real minimum to start a "spot". You can do less, but 4 is enough to create a thing which people will make a night out to do

Bullet proof a game before it goes out. Mylar in wear spots, rebuild everything, and plan on it still breaking down. It happens but working on them is way more fun at home.

Run a monthly meetup for fun. The real perk is meeting new people and building a community.

Be legit and make a LLC and get insurance. You wont likely need it but you dont want to take the risk just in case someone does something stupid.

Ideal location will have good foot traffic already but those are tough to get games in. Sell yourself as the reason a bar should give up the space for pins.

Have fun. If you go in with the attitude that it will be challenging but also an opporunity to learn then you will be happier when you get a call at 2am and have to go attend to a game

#8 2 years ago

Also, wanted to note that in a 4 pin collection I think variety is important. Ideal woudl be 1 early bally, 1 sys11, 1 classic B/W DMD, and 1 newer game.

#9 2 years ago

Good tips! It would be tough for me to get 4 pins. What about buying a SW pro and putting it in a busy bar 5 min away from me? Would that be a good way to start?

#10 2 years ago

new is a great way to start IMO. New also means less total worry about upkeep. Keep in mind EVERY game will have some bugs to work out in the first few weeks and then things tend to stabalize.

I would just make sure the bar you pick has room for some growth. If 1 does well then you will want to expand with a few more.

#11 2 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

new is a great way to start IMO. New also means less total worry about upkeep. Keep in mind EVERY game will have some bugs to work out in the first few weeks and then things tend to stabalize.
I would just make sure the bar you pick has room for some growth. If 1 does well then you will want to expand with a few more.

Ya definitely. Would prob bring it to my house and put so plays through it first and bullet proof it. Also do bars usually want a cut of your money? Or do you just tell them it will eventually bring in more paying customers

#12 2 years ago
Quoted from Mfsrc791:

Ya definitely. Would prob bring it to my house and put so plays through it first and bullet proof it. Also do bars usually want a cut of your money? Or do you just tell them it will eventually bring in more paying customers

they will likely want a cut. Negotiate whatever you can get away with

Historically it was 50/50 split after sales tax. I have heard some barcades letting you keep 100% so I say go for it

TBT, pinball is expensive to buy and maintain and the operator should get all the coin drop IMHO. Reality is you should try to set yourself up for success.

#13 2 years ago

Tucson Pinball has followed a similar path. We are almost 2 years old at this point, have 14 machines across 2 locations. My pitch to our first location was 75% to us and we will hold at least one event a month there. That's still going great. Our second location came to us and said they didn't even want a split. We have a 3rd location coming soon and they are offering 100% as well. These two locations see the value in giving their customers something to do, to stay longer, and buy more beers.

Honestly, anything less than 75% is a non-starter these days. At least for me. There isn't a ton of money to be made, so I track both $ income and gross % of the cost of the machine that it has paid for. I know it's not perfect, but it's a good indicator as to how long a machine takes to get to 100% from the day it starts. When a machine gets to 100% it's just a good feeling. In reality, all of the money goes towards saving for or paying off the next machine with parts orders sprinkled in whenever needed.

The takeaway is that this should be fun (most days) and done to get pinball out in the public. I'm not retiring, I'm not funding a dream lineup at home, I'm super happy that we are having to scramble at times to buy machines to go into a new location. It's great to meet and talk to new players who may turn into regular customer. Getting more tournament players is a challenge, but that's a different aspect.

#14 2 years ago

Thanks guys! Ya I wouldn't want to do a 50/50 split. Maybe 75/25 and see where it goes. If it gets more games there and brings in people for meets then more to 100 percent. Whysnow has got me thinking about it

#15 2 years ago
Quoted from Mfsrc791:

Thanks guys! Ya I wouldn't want to do a 50/50 split. Maybe 75/25 and see where it goes. If it gets more games there and brings in people for meets then more to 100 percent. Whysnow has got me thinking about it

what do you honestly have to lose?

Worst case scenario, you blow some time trying it out and decide it is not for you after 6-12 months. You likely still walk away with a couple bucks in your pocket/ a game that others got to enjoy and is paid down a little.

Best case scenario is you find a new part of the hobby you enjoy and meet some new friends.

#16 2 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

what do you honestly have to lose?
Worst case scenario, you blow some time trying it out and decide it is not for you after 6-12 months. You likely still walk away with a couple bucks in your pocket/ a game that others got to enjoy and is paid down a little.
Best case scenario is you find a new part of the hobby you enjoy and meet some new friends.

Well the easy part is buying a new star wars pro

Then I need a location. There is a bar 5 min from me that gets packed on thurs, Fri and sat nights. Problem is it probably has a night percent of college kids. It's not a dive bar it's actually a pretty nice place but can also get pretty wild on weekends

#17 2 years ago

you will never know unless you try it

I would find the location BEFORE buying the game.

#18 2 years ago

As someone that lives in the Madison area and remembers how bad route pinball was prior to 2013, I really appreciate all that Madison Pinball has done for location pinball in my area! Thanks Hilton, Sean and Garrett for all you have done and continue to do! Madison has turned into a pinball destination as I will commonly run into people that drive hours just to play pinball here. It's been a very cool thing to experience!

#19 2 years ago

Once you've picked out a bar, maybe approach them asking to keep 100% of the coin drop. If they're skeptical you could explain that back in the day splitting coin drop was common but that machines are much more expensive these days and are a real draw since they're rarer, plus you're investing in a brand new and very enticing machine in Star Wars, and you'll be super-attentive to any issues with it as it's your only machine on route. Emphasize that you'll be fully licensed/ensured/whatever, so you're not going to be an added headache for them, and that money made will go to maintaining this game and if things go well, toward buying future hot titles for this location. Basically sell your game and yourself as part of the package. Then fall back to 75/25 if they're balking at giving you 100%. Another concept might be that you get 100% for first X months, then shift down to 75/25.

Of course I defer to the operators in the thread that have actually negotiated with location owners before. But just knowing that some operators are now getting 100% makes me think you have a shot, and if you can pay your game off 25-50% quicker, and/or afford cheaper per-game prices to increase player interest, so much the better.

#20 2 years ago
Quoted from MikeS:

As someone that lives in the Madison area and remembers how bad route pinball was prior to 2013, I really appreciate all that Madison Pinball has done for location pinball in my area! Thanks Hilton, Sean and Garrett for all you have done and continue to do! Madison has turned into a pinball destination as I will commonly run into people that drive hours just to play pinball here. It's been a very cool thing to experience!

thanks Mike. It has been fun to be along for the ride and none of it could happen without the community.

I am pretty sure we are now the largest operator of pinball machines in the state?

#21 2 years ago

One thing about talking %. I'm not the "drive a hard bargain" type of person, but I have presented the 100% split a few times without much pushback. I prefer to phrase it differently though. I say that I would like to bring in a few pinball machines and will maintain them (which worries location owners) and in return players will add their location to their routine and probably have some beers. As long as they aren't hurting for space/tables, they often don't mind giving up a little space to add another attraction to the location. If they can see it as something they are adding, but don't have to worry about very much, it's normally an easy sell.

#22 2 years ago
Quoted from desertT1:

One thing about talking %. I'm not the "drive a hard bargain" type of person, but I have presented the 100% split a few times without much pushback. I prefer to phrase it differently though. I say that I would like to bring in a few pinball machines and will maintain them (which worries location owners) and in return players will add their location to their routine and probably have some beers. As long as they aren't hurting for space/tables, they often don't mind giving up a little space to add another attraction to the location. If they can see it as something they are adding, but don't have to worry about very much, it's normally an easy sell.

Yes that's how I would try and word it. Especially if they have any 'dead' space, you can present it as a way to use that space to draw in more customers.

#23 2 years ago

Should change topic to advice on starting a route

1 year later
#24 1 year ago

5 years and now a 5th location!

Over 50 games now out on route in Madison.

Thanks to all that come through and support!

I/O Gaming Arcade > 720 Williamson st. Madison, WI is our newest location.
11 pins, 30 arcades, streaming content, board games, 20 taps, full bar, board games. This place has it all and the only actual barcade in the city!
So excited to be part of this one and my new favorite bar to hang out at!

https://pinside.com/pinball/map/where-to-play/11852-io-arcade-bar-madison-wi

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