(Topic ID: 1383)

Q & A with Gary Stern

By drbond

9 years ago

Topic Stats

  • 14 posts
  • 11 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 9 years ago by scooter
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    #1 9 years ago

    Stern pinball's Facebook update today links us with the new Q & A they did with Gary Stern. I'd have to read it again, but it looks like the features we asked for in "Pro" models like LED/LCD displays isn't going to happen anytime soon. It also sounds like networked games on location is still up in the air. It seems they intend to increase userbase/traffic by selling "gimped" pinballs at Costco/etc.


    Question and Answer Session with Mr. Gary Stern – Founder, CEO and Chairman of Stern Pinball, Inc.

    Q: Gary, there seems to be a lot going on at your company these days. Can you tell us a little about it?

    Gary: Yes, we’re living in interesting times, aren’t we? Pinball was born during the Great Depression and the industry has never seen economic times like that until the current Great Recession started in the second half of 2008. When the credit markets froze, it caught our entire industry (and most of the world) by surprise. Our games are expensive to design and build and, as a result, their price points are relatively high. Most buyers end-up financing their purchases. When they couldn’t get credit, they had no choice but to slow buying.

    Q: Are things getting any better today?

    Gary: A little. The credit markets are starting to open up a bit but there’s still a lot of bad economic news out there so buyers are understandably skittish. But we are seeing pick-ups in volume, which is encouraging.

    Q: What has the company been doing in light of the times?

    Gary: In November of 2009 we partnered with a group that has been helping us in many different ways. They brought capital to the table and expertise that complements skills we already had in-house. They’ve helped us shore up the business, think through the future direction and execute several initiatives that are in various stages of completion.

    Q: Can you give us a few examples?

    Gary: Sure. A few of the items that are visible to the public include upgrading our on-line presence. We recently launched a new website and upgraded our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites. Our primary goals with those efforts have been to provide additional places for pinball fans to get together and to raise overall awareness of the game. We’ve also begun to test what we call a “Standard” version of our games that is designed for what we believe is a largely untapped segment of the market. Buyers in this segment are interested in owning a pinball game that is simpler than our traditional “Pro” (coin-op) model. With fewer features, the game also carries a lower price.

    Q: Does the introduction of the “Standard” model mean that the company will be moving away from the types of games it has produced traditionally?

    Gary: Not at all. We will continue to produce our main “Pro” models with features designed for location play and, of course, our “Premium” models that are designed for pinball enthusiasts and collectors. In fact, we hope that we’ll be able to incorporate some of the results from our R&D work associated with the “Standard” model into our more expensive models. The goal is to bring down costs and price points without adversely effecting game play.

    Q: What other things are you working on at the company?

    Gary: We have many other initiatives underway including improving our product development and manufacturing processes and leveraging the e-commerce capabilities of our new website. As volume picks up, we also expect to add talented new people to our team. We’re also excited about the new titles that we anticipate bringing to market later this year and in 2011. It’s been a tough stretch, but our optimism is growing.

    Q: Your last few games were developed with your in-house design team. Do you expect to use outside designers in the future?

    Gary: Absolutely. Our in-house team has really done a great job on the last few games but it’s important to partner with outside designers too. We will continue to do that.

    Q: Do you see any major innovations in the game somewhere down the road?

    Gary: I think in terms of “improvements” and “innovations”. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the game. We’re currently focused on reliability and ROI improvements. With regard to innovation, we believe we need to innovate; our market demands it. The rate of innovation is affected by economic conditions of course. There are more resources available for innovation when times are good. Times haven’t been so good as of late so out of necessity our pace of innovation has slowed.

    Q: Can you give some ideas of the types of innovations you’re working on?

    Gary: We are beginning to experiment with new ways to make the games more engaging for participants on location. Networking games in different locations is another area of interest to players and us. We’re in the early stages of both of those initiatives.

    Q: Thanks very much for your time today. Would you be willing to do this again?

    Gary: I’d be happy to do it again.

    #2 9 years ago

    Thanks for posting this. They didn't ask the question I really wanted them to, though:

    Q: Is there any chance we will ever see an original design theme concept from a Stern-manufactured pinball in the future and NOT another blasé licensed theme, such as "Dancing with the Stars" ?

    #3 9 years ago

    I don't think you'll see a non-licensed pinball for a very long time, if ever. I guess it's a money risk thing, Stern seem to go with their biggest target market, machines that will be easily recognised by the masses and appeal to most. Remember Batman was called Batman not The Dark Knight so it appeal to more people, earn more money,blah, blah blah. Being the only true manufacturer of pinball at this time there is no competition and they have no need to change their ways and unfortunatly pinball at this time has a small volatile market so Stern will stick to the sure bet. I'd love to see some original non-licence machines being produced, and the only way I see this happening is with a larger fan base and competition in the pinball market. I think Stern ARE doing a great job and all we can do is spread the word, share your passion for pinball with others and hopefully in the future things may change for the better.

    I'd like to see Sterns next effort be a Futurama licence, also heard that Tron could be on the cards too.

    #4 9 years ago

    The on location upgrades are nice to hear. I've always thought having a pinball machine that has video out to a big screen people can watch is a good idea. Incorporating other features would go against a good business model. If people see .. people will go play. And the ability to show off to others is very motivating. It wouldn't even have to be a camera view of the real game. It could be a animation of the real game play in progress. People could watch from their table etc. and not have to stand around the machine.

    #5 9 years ago

    I like how you posted the interview here so that we don't have to go to the Stern website...Hah! Very ironic indeed. Cheesy press release if you ask me. Here are two better ways for getting his views out more professionally:

    Start his letter with "Dear Pinball Fans," and just say what he thinks and avoid the triteness of faux Q&A.


    Do nothing at all and continue to simply put factual information on their website.

    Again, hey, it's great that they feel the need to get some sort of message out, but their manner in which they did so seems a bit, shall we say, antiquated. It's like they just discovered the internet and that you can self-publish but are still hemmed in by their 1980s corporate style. Mission statement anyone?

    Ah well, glad they continue to produce pins and continue to sell them. That's the whole point in the end.

    #6 9 years ago

    I heard recently from someone who is well connected in the industry that Stern's next game will be Tron. They also said that in order to keep the cost down, it will not have as many "bells and whistles" as some of their more recent games. Can anyone else confirm or deny this?

    #7 9 years ago

    I wouldn't doubt it would be one for Tron. Would be pretty cool if you ask me. Would be even cooler if they get George Gomez to design it (he helped design the original Tron video game in arcades). A lot of merchandise for the new movie has been showing up, coming out soon.

    As for features being kept at a minumum gweempose, I'm pretty sure its about toys specifically. Stern wants to reduce the amount of expensive toys in the games, and I don't blame them (barring they price their games accordingly).

    #8 9 years ago

    "also heard that Tron could be on the cards too."

    Oh, crap! If true I need to start selling what I can (my blood?) and saving my pennies as this might be the first, and perhaps only, NIB pinball I buy! Oh the humanity of it all!

    #9 9 years ago

    This has to do with the upcoming movie:


    The MCP wants you !!!!

    #10 9 years ago

    Lol Brokedad!

    I cannot wait for TRON: Legacy and I am so happy that they were able to bring both Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner back for the film! Too bad that Cindy Morgan could not return...

    #11 9 years ago

    Get this clown trained. I want him in the Games so that he dies playing.

    #12 9 years ago

    and Pro -

    #13 9 years ago

    If Tron IS the next pin, you'd think there'd be possibility for some video modes there.

    #14 9 years ago

    I wonder if premium means a modded up version of the pro?Looks to me like Gary left the door open on innovation and new technologies,hope we get to see some in the next few games!!
    I am fine with the license themes as long as they are popular movies or shows!

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