(Topic ID: 237052)

Stern Design Quality

By jwilson

3 months ago

Topic Stats

  • 94 posts
  • 42 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 12 days ago by Gumby510
  • Topic is favorited by 4 Pinsiders


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#13 3 months ago

It really is a shame.

Still have my 2004 LOTR and it's been flawless after many thousands of games (only replaced the Gimli switch after the first month of ownership). Considering the demise of pinball back in the late 90's, you'd think Stern would have learned cost of ownership/maintenance is critical to their longevity. Sure, public pinball is back in many cities, however nothing lasts forever. Lowering the cost of ownership is goodness for everyone. The Spike games are just so cheaply built...cheap node boards that fail often, cheap power supplies, cheap/noisy fans. I respect that Stern is in the biz to make money, but given they are the only volume producer, I believe it's possible to build higher quality games and still make a healthy profit.

I've been a loyal customer since 2004, but I have to admit, I'm close to throwing in the towel.

#16 3 months ago
Quoted from JodyG:

Smart home use buyers buy used machines that are a year or two old...let the first guy take the depreciation hit and work all the bugs out.

So true. It amazes me that some still worship "NIB". I'm guilty of buying NIB, but it's just out of impatience. As you say, smart/patient buyers purchasing from known collectors is the best deal in town. You save $$, get a dialed in machine with finished software.

Quoted from Rdoyle1978:

I’m wondering if there’s just something we are missing as far as their business plan. They are cranking out TONS of games, and it seems to me maybe even more per year recently (that may be me just paying more attention). Maybe they’re betting on volume and NIB buyers trading the games out after a short window, then on to the next one. That would seem kinda risky to me - but who knows, maybe the numbers add up.

I'm convinced it's because they feel little pain. Between the hobbyists that work to fix build issues and distributors, Stern is buffered from the day-to-day pain. Many of us invested significant time "dialing in" IMDN. Since the game is solid otherwise, it is a worthy investment. Nevertheless, to my knowledge, Stern didn't issue one f-ing bulletin on the many issues with the Premium/LE. Instead, they let everyone sweat custom hacks for issues as basic as getting the shooter lane to work!

Until pain is felt, they will continue to cut corners. Unfortunately, a major recession is likely to occur within the next 1-5 years and operators might get fed up with their investment. When I think of the problems I've dealt with over the past couple years (with NIB games), it amazes me that these games are surviving in a high-play public setting.

#35 3 months ago
Quoted from CrazyLevi:

There is zero evidence - zilch - that pinball machines being built today are of worse quality or less reliable out of the box than the sainted glory games built in the 90s. It’s all confirmation bias by people who want to complain and are nostalgic for something they didn’t experience and didn’t exist: the impeccable glory days of unimpeachable pinball quality.
They are pinball machines. Shit breaks. Always been that way.
Stop your uneducated whining. It’s unseemly and dull.

Nice 'tude. I guess you're the omniscient authority on quality! Sure, "shit breaks", but that doesn't mean anything. Like anything, quality is relative, and Spike components aren't as reliable as Whitestar/SAM from my limited experience as a home collector.

I can't speak for the 90's NIB B/W. I can only comment on Stern NIB since 2004, when my NIB journey began (with LOTR/TSPP). I've been buying NIB Sterns for 15 years and as the years have rolled on, I've had MANY more problems with quality...especially with Spike.

My brand new Munsters Pro stopped working after 50 plays. Will hopefully receive a new CPU board Monday. KISS Premium node board crapped out after 300 plays. Never had any of these board problems with the Whitestar & SAM platforms. My NIB LOTR must have over 10k plays with 0 board issues.

So from my limited perspective, the Spike platform has been a big disappointment in terms of reliability.
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#38 3 months ago
Quoted from fattdirk:

Do you install any powered mods on your games?

Pinstadium lights (which I have on IMDN Premium, Beatles, SWLE, & TRON LE). LED strips use very little power...no?

It's also a Pro, which should have some extra headroom (since it excludes all the mechs on the lower PF).

#44 3 months ago
Quoted from jawjaw:

That's the debate. Leds do draw low voltage but there is more to it than that from what I read. Game was not designed with powered mods in mind so could be pushing something over the line or maybe the leds spike power at times like on startup. If it was me, I would power any mods with external power source just to be safe. Knowing Stern, doubt they are overbuilding these pins. I'm hardly the expert but do recall blowing out a gi string on my Getaway long ago when I added one small power strip. I still had incandescent bulbs in the string and it was already at the limit from the factory.

It's not a debate. Stern supplies a plug in the back box. If the plug is being used for something as modest as an LED strip and doesn't work (as you suggest), then the plug should be omitted from the back box.

I sincerely doubt the Pinstadium's have anything to do with this. Before the board took a turn for the worse, I unplugged the strip and the behavior was identical.

#48 3 months ago
Quoted from TrueJedi:

My issue with Stern is more so with how I'm seeing and hearing them manage quality issues. I've had a few minor issues. What's frustrated me is I had to chase people down within Stern to get a response. Send an email. Wait 1-2 weeks. Send another email. Wait another week or two. Ask my retailer who has a stronger relationship to inquire. What I would find after the fact is that they are looking into the issue or doing another run of the part for impacted customers. No customer should have to follow up on their service inquiry. No customer should be left in the dark. Acknowledging receipt of your inquiry (other than automated), advising it's being looked into, and providing an ETA should be expected. Very simple customer service. Conversely, I've had two small issues with parts on my JJP. They acknowledged receipt of my issue within hours and helped to fully resolve my issues amicably and expediently. No matter who I purchase from I fully expect imperfections. New or used. But if a manufacturer wants me to continue to buy from them they need to treat me as a repeat customer and manage my service issues with priority and value as their customer. I

Makes sense! No doubt the feedback loop can be spotty/random. For minor issues, going through your distributor may or may not make sense.

CGC (the remake company) has a really great online ticket application. I used it after my buggy AFMrLE was delivered. The bugs were a bummer, but the service process was really great. CGC techs would annotate the issue online and you could easily follow feedback/suggestions/etc. Stern should adopt it (of something like it). When Stern ships a part, they don't get tracking info. In the absence of tracking info, the online system would help understand if a part has shipped (even if you can't track it along the way). Business 101...it would save EVERYONE time.

#52 3 months ago
Quoted from Crile1:

I've pretty much given up the idea of buying another Stern NIB. Just can't justify the money for the quality. At a show last weekend, my family played the Beatles. All of them (wife and 2 kids) were "meh." They enjoy our EM at home more. My wife nudged the machine a little and looked at me and said the cabinet felt like an Ikea put it together yourself kit. She said, "It's no Jersey Jack." Sorry for the Stern bashing, but the modern era stuff just feels cheap.

Ikea? Beatles build quality is no different that your SWLE (which I own as well). No Stern is built like JJP...

#56 3 months ago
Quoted from Mike_J:

The quality of materials used by Stern seems to be absolute shit, but I just bought 16K worth of their games because they are a blast to play.
I wish Stern took a little more pride in the overall quality of their products, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon when a putz like myself keeps buying their games.

I agree with you on overall build quality and QA, however disagree the "materials used by Stern seems to be absolute shit". Depends on the platform.

And yes...as long as we keep buying them, nothing will change. My Munsters Pro is still unplayable...waiting on a CPU board that was suppose to show up today. Nothing like getting a new game with a defective board. Almost 2 weeks since taking delivery.

#63 3 months ago
Quoted from whitey:

Well I just got a Munsters LE. Beautiful to look at and a lot of fun but honestly
The metal back box is very tin like , the on n off switch sucks, lockdown bar is
Bullshit.I have 3 JJP games,4 CGC games
1 AP and Oktoberfest on order they are all built with pride ! I would rather pay another grand to Stern and have them get schooled by any of the guys I’ve mentioned.
Oh yeah the head bolts exposed on the back of cabinet ? Now that takes the
Stern lovers don’t get upset I’m just saying ! I wish AP or JJP was doing the next Elvira

I'm far from a Stern "fan boy", but I have a hard time sympathizing with your issues. The metal back box is tin like? On/off switch is fine (though location sucks. Lockdown bar latch system works great. Head bolts are functional and out-of-sight. None of these issues strike a chord with me.

My issues are: Noisy fans, common node board failures, poorly sanded PF's, game specific mechanical issues (like the op issue) and overall build quality lapses.

#67 3 months ago
Quoted from CrazyLevi:

After all they went back to actual playfield support rails, right?

True...but it unfortunately took years of whining. I personally/directly bent Stern's ear on the useless pegs for years. The "last straw" was receiving an AS Pro with wonky flippers and I couldn't fix them until I ordered the rails from PinballLife. If I told you what the OEM price difference was between the pegs/supports, you wouldn't believe it.

Since Stern does listen, it helps to whine about the legit issues (as you suggest).

#72 3 months ago
Quoted from jawjaw:

Then there are those that just want to complain because something is different. The Stern lock down bar system is perfect and works flawless. Metal backbox works fine and has advantage of display angled up a bit to prevent glare. It makes zero difference to the functionality of the pin. Funny how a common complaint of pins is how heavy they are but with Stern the complaint is that they are not heavy enough. Maybe Stern should throw in 100 lbs of dead weight in the cab then everyone will talk about how they are built like a tank.

As long as it's stable/solid, the lighter the better! Love my DILE, but at nearly 400lbs., it's too heavy! Nearly impossible to get up stairs.

1 month later
#76 50 days ago
Quoted from Gumby510:

Just got a Deadpool pro this week. Lasted 2 hours before a node board crapped out. Was told it was going out Thursday. Nope called for tracking and bitched to them to ship it 2 day. They did and the rep said it will go out today. I’m so pissed I get to stare at this piece of plywood with art on it over the weekend. Never again will I buy Nib. Told the rep it lasted 2 hours and his response was “ya it happens” not even a sorry. At least Chas was cool about it and said sorry when I called him but the customer service rep could give two shits.
[quoted image]

Sad that it takes bitching to get them to ship 2 day in circumstances like this. My Munsters CPU died after 30 plays. Took 2 weeks before I had a replacement (and that's with some bitching).

I've been buying NIB since 2004, and things have gotten much worse with the SPIKE platform. Considering how lightly used they are in the home, can't imagine what arcades are having to deal with.

#84 50 days ago
Quoted from guymontag451:

Sorry to hear that, but having an arcade I can say that the game quality that I have had with Stern has been exceptional. I think that basically crazylevi is spot on. ALL GAMES, BY ALL MANUFACTURERS, IN ALL ERAS have problems. Stern is no worse, and honestly from an operator's perspective, much more reliable than their current competitors. Learn to work on your games, it's part of pinball. It's a good with the bad kinda thing. Most fixes are exceedingly simple to get or keep a game up and running. Just takes a little time and patience and a will to learn. Stern gets WAY too much crap on their build quality in my opinion. We successfully operate dozens of Sterns from all their eras, and have no real complaints about them being "low quality" or "crap".

Dude, I'm very handy and "work on my games". Very rarely to I need help. Unfortunately, when node/cpu boards crap out, I'm not equipped to diagnose/fix this level of problem. Doubt you would be capable of fixing a SPIKE CPU problem as well.

This notion that "all games have problems" is proof that SPIKE board quality is acceptable is false.

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