(Topic ID: 243035)

The Current State of Pinball Manufacturing


By Borygard

5 months ago



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  • 86 posts
  • 50 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 4 months ago by vicjw66
  • Topic is favorited by 6 Pinsiders

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    91
    #1 5 months ago

    In my travels as a pinball tech I've seen machines from every manufacturer, both used and more often than not these days new in (or just out of) box. This post has been coming for quite a while, but I just can't hold my tongue any longer. In my opinion, there are no pinball manufacturers currently building games that are at an acceptable quality level that justifies their $6K-$12K price point.

    I realize I'm not going to make many friends with this post, but I'm tired of the same horrible out of box experience over and over again. Manufactures need to step up and address their continuing issues or they're going to run out of customers to burn.

    Stern Pinball-
    The Good- Stern gets it done. Game announced, game produced, game ships. Everything done far quicker and way more efficiently than anyone else.

    The Bad- Seems like the same thing over and over for the most part. Many games feel like they're cookie-cutter efforts and could just as easily been any other theme.

    The Ugly- Never ending node board issues. Why is Stern still having node boards fail three years into Spike? It would make sense if there was a one-off issue with a specific game, but node boards have failed on every game from the first to the current.

    My Hope- Start making games that have playfield toys that actually interact with the ball. I got excited about Metallica, Sparky and The Hammer had actual ball interaction. It's been mostly non-existent since. Black Knight looks promising, but I need more time on it.

    Jersey Jack Pinball-
    The Good- Gorgeous games that are very different from each other.

    The Bad - JJP has the worst quality control of all the manufacturers. I have yet to unbox a JJP game that is playable as intended out of the box, and it's always due to numerous missed QC issues. Low quality control is completely unacceptable, especially since JJP is far and away producing the priciest games.

    The Ugly- Announce games WAY before they should be announced. Delivery time for games after announcement is painfully too long.

    My Hope- JJP steps up and corrects the horrific QC. It shouldn't be mandatory to have a tech visit for unboxing a game.

    Chicago Gaming Company-
    The Good- Now have a good starting price, and they're building solid games.

    The Bad- QC isn't the best. Among many other things, I've had to rewire lights out of the box because they didn't light the proper insert.

    The Ugly- Registration issues. I've seen games that have playfields that should never have been put into games they were so bad.

    My Hope- They continue to bring their price point down, forcing other manufacturers to compete harder.

    Spooky Pinball-
    The Good- They are making great strides in everything they're doing. The quality difference between America's Most Haunted and Alice Cooper's Nightmare Castle is night and day. Spooky takes honest feedback to heart, making changes needed to make their product better.

    The Bad- Parts quality. This may simply be the state of today's pinball parts, but Spooky games seem to have premature parts failure more often than other manufacturers.

    The Ugly- Rob Zombie

    My Hope- They continue to improve and listen to constructive feedback.

    Deeproot-
    Can't give a good, bad, ugly, with absolutely nothing produced except press releases. They need to manufacture something or stop distracting everyone.

    American Pinball-
    The Good- Solid games that look good and are fun to play.

    The Bad- Horrible themes. Time to produce something someone cares about and has intrinsic route draw.

    The Ugly- Strict warranty. They're not building brand loyalty and doing their customers a massive disservice not covering known issues, even if outside of warranty time frame. They should use the auto industry as a guide; if a recall is issued then the issue gets fixed whether the original warranty is still in effect or not.

    My Hope- They come up with a theme that actually resonates with
    someone not on the payroll.

    --
    Rob Anthony
    Pinball Classics
    http://LockWhenLit.com
    Quality Board Work - In Home Service
    borygard at gmail dot com

    #2 5 months ago

    Nailed it

    #3 5 months ago

    Thanks for this Rob! This thread needed to happen by someone with your reputation in Pinball. I appreciate your courage to step up and talk about a sore subject.

    13
    #5 5 months ago

    As far as Black Knight, you would expect a very small licensing fee would be counterbalanced with a more populated mechanical playfield. But Black Knight is the most barren playfield I have ever seen in the history of modern playfield design. It makes Star Wars look like Twilight Zone. Don't get me wrong, it is a fast and fun design by the king of flow. But it is what it is.

    #6 5 months ago

    I think there are two points you left out about Stern that are positive as well.

    - Stern has stability. If pinball loses some popularity, Stern has a proven track record of being able to pull through that. I don't know if JJP could survive that.

    - Stern's Pro level gives some of the best value in pinball in my opinion, aside from the argument that they could be cheaper (and have been in the past).

    #7 5 months ago

    And they couldn't even put a proper bash toy in it. Just a crappy stand up target in front of him. I expected the Black Knight to move when you hit him, maybe taken aback or a small vibration, Nope. Maybe he moves his head side to side? Nope. Maybe he jumps up and down when you hit him in the midsection? Nope. Maybe really cool interactive call Outs? Nope. Maybe a few cool led flickers? Perhaps with the next code update.

    George Gomez bitched about LCD screens and wanting to keep the "world under glass". Boy was he full of shot. Stern sold out the "world under glass" for cheaper and more reliable LCD animations and hand drawn artwork. I'll take mechs over artwork any day of the week.

    #8 5 months ago

    I think whole playfield RGB lighting and the screen have replaced more mechs for Stern. This creates a game that you can update, increased reliability and pretty much a better experience than watching a mech do the same thing over and over. While Black Knight and star wars look boring And empty when shut down, the games are both adrenaline pumping fun when they're on. This is the future of pinball. You don't need fancy ways to pick up a ball to have a fun game.

    -6
    #9 5 months ago
    Quoted from vicjw66:

    I expected the Black Knight to move when you hit him, maybe taken aback or a small vibration, Nope. Maybe he moves his head side to side? Nope. Maybe he jumps up and down when you hit him in the midsection? Nope. Maybe really cool interactive call Outs? Nope.

    They create the motion with the lighting. Play the latest code, it's pretty sweet. That flame panel is well utilized and totally badass. The Knight vibrating up and down wouldn't have enhanced the game in the least.

    #10 5 months ago
    Quoted from fattdirk:

    They create the motion with the lighting. Play the latest code, it's pretty sweet. That flame panel is well utilized and totally badass. The Knight vibrating up and down wouldn't have enhanced the game in the least.

    How much does stern pay you to say such bullshit. You know you are full of it and so does any old school pinball player. You might as well play video pinball.

    -6
    #11 5 months ago
    Quoted from fattdirk:

    The Knight vibrating up and down wouldn't have enhanced the game in the least.

    Holy shit. You might as well report me to the pinball gestapo, because I seriously feel like I'm talking to a Stern Bot.

    #12 5 months ago

    Missed one though probably for good reason. See if you can guess which one.

    The Good - new proposed manufacturer surrounds himself with Aussie sycophants for feedback from day one and then fails miserably when international collectors on pinside won't behave in the same obsequious manner.

    The Bad - new manufacturer makes a neverending series of strategic business gaffes, faux pas and various other inappropriate comments along the way then blames it on everyone but himself.

    The Ugly - Having to watch the down under arselicking play out on pinside for four years from shills who should have known better then watch them switch sides at the eleventh hour and try to rewrite their unquestioning blind faith to one of post facto scepticism.

    My Hope - Mr "one hundred machines a week" drops the Clive Palmer personality disorder and starts getting proper feedback from those with genuine experience instead of local toadies. Otherwise history is just going to be repeating itself.

    #13 5 months ago

    Older games pre spike have just increased 10%+ in value after your post Rob

    Agree with most if what you said Rob. Thanks for posting.
    As a pinball tech Ive put a hold on servicing Spike games until I understand the platform better. I heard seminars or classes were foing to be offered by Stern at some point. This may help.

    #14 5 months ago
    Quoted from pinsanity:

    Missed one though...

    There are some makers of games that weren't included here. Maybe these "Pinball Manufacturer Qualifications" should have been defined for my post.

    1- Produce more than a handful of games.
    2- Produce games that people actually want to own.

    --
    Rob Anthony
    Pinball Classics
    http://LockWhenLit.com
    Quality Board Work - In Home Service
    borygard at gmail dot com

    #15 5 months ago
    Quoted from vicjw66:

    How much does stern pay you to say such bullshit.

    It’s an opinion, and I happen to agree with him.
    I own nothing newer than a 1980s game. I’ll take simple, fast, fun and reliable over toy filled any day. Toys are fine as long as they don’t obstruct or dull play, and I prefer them to a stand up flat printed plastic figures.

    #16 5 months ago

    QC is always going to be an issue....It always comes down to people.

    (Not defending anyone....just that it is hard to do......perfection to all points...... is offset when issues garnish more thread input, sometimes)

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    #17 5 months ago
    Quoted from Borygard:

    The Bad- Horrible themes. Time to produce something someone cares about and has intrinsic route draw.

    I think that's a bit harsh.

    Houdini is an incredibly recognizable name. Plus the game looks great overall, and grabs your attention. It was a hit at the show I held last summer and consistently had the most attention and longest line.

    I agree that Oktoberfest is a bit of an odd choice. But again, it's a name that most people have heard of. So far, the feedback I've been hearing has been positive.

    If you put Dialed In next to a Houdini or Oktoberfest, which one do you think someone from the general public would approach first? My guess would be Houdini.

    Unlicensed themes are hard to pull off these days.

    -20
    #18 5 months ago
    Quoted from vicjw66:

    How much does stern pay you to say such bullshit. You know you are full of it and so does any old school pinball player. You might as well play video pinball.

    I talk to players at my locations weekly who rave about the latest Stern's. Come to the future old man. Noone gives a shit any more about dolls glued to the field or some vibrating action doll. It's all about code and gameplay and Stern has nailed it.

    As a side note, video pinball sucks balls much like your opinion.

    #19 5 months ago

    You make some valid points personally I would add to the good the people that work at Stern and JJP I see at the shows they are awesome.

    Also while some Sterns might be considered cookie cutter I don’t see it in IRMD, GB, BM66, Mustang , Got to name a few.
    Adding deadpool

    #20 5 months ago
    Quoted from indybru:

    You make some valid points personally I would add to the good the people that work at Stern and JJP I see at the shows they are awesome.
    Also while some Sterns might be considered cookie cutter I don’t see it in IRMD, GB, BM66, Mustang , Got to name a few.

    The Cookie Cutter label is probably most related to Borg games, and to a lesser extent Ritchie games. I'm looking forward to what Elwin and Eddy can bring to the table next, albeit with the miniscule BOM and endless Gary Rules limitations.

    #21 5 months ago

    I have a single point. Take Roadshow, two Talking heads, assembled gears in an Automaton.

    12 years ago, when I started Laser scintering of parts..3D printing, I had a nice chat with Gary,
    that Automaton figures could be printed all at once, all gears assembled with complex movements.
    Back then it was too costly. Today it is not.

    I would love to see more physical animation using 3D printing...Cheaper than Parts and assembly in low production
    runs....

    Im not sure why this has taken so long to Not see.

    #22 5 months ago

    More mechanical stuff would sure be great. Going to be hard not to be cookie cutter when making so many.

    #23 5 months ago
    Quoted from Wolfmarsh:

    I think there are two points you left out about Stern that are positive as well.
    - Stern has stability. If pinball loses some popularity, Stern has a proven track record of being able to pull through that. I don't know if JJP could survive that.
    - Stern's Pro level gives some of the best value in pinball in my opinion, aside from the argument that they could be cheaper (and have been in the past).

    Stern was able to do that when there wasn't any other competition. I still think they'd have the best chance of being the last man standing, but that's not a given.

    12
    #24 5 months ago
    Quoted from ForceFlow:

    I think that's a bit harsh.

    I think it's a hard truth they need to hear. There are no points for 'you tried' in this business.

    These games are too much money for being half assed, regardless of other merits, that's what I took away from the opening post in general. And I sure agree.

    16
    #25 5 months ago

    Great post.

    Never have we had so much choice and yet....... I don't find anything compelling enough to buy at current price points.

    #26 5 months ago

    Excellent post.

    #27 5 months ago
    Quoted from indybru:

    Also while some Sterns might be considered cookie cutter I don’t see it in IRMD, GB, BM66, Mustang , Got to name a few.

    Keith did Iron Maiden on his own time as Archer originally, BM66 is literally a retheme of Dark Knight with a couple cost cutting changes and GB / Mustang (I would add Wrestlemania too) were Trudeau games who was known for doing different designs all the time...and he isn't going to be designing another game anytime soon, so if you think those are the highlights for non-cookie cutter variety games Stern has to offer, that doesn't bode well for the future.

    #28 5 months ago
    Quoted from LesManley:

    Keith did Iron Maiden on his own time as Archer originally, BM66 is literally a retheme of Dark Knight with a couple cost cutting changes and GB / Mustang (I would add Wrestlemania too) were Trudeau games who was known for doing different designs all the time...and he isn't going to be designing another game anytime soon, so if you think those are the highlights for non-cookie cutter variety games Stern has to offer, that doesn't bode well for the future.

    What about deadpool? Nothing else shoots like that. Too much BS about "cookie cutter layouts" coming out from Stern. Stern still makes fun games with the best art, most variety of designers, and are by far the most reliable on route.

    #29 5 months ago
    Quoted from guymontag451:

    What about deadpool? Nothing else shoots like that. Too much BS about "cookie cutter layouts" coming out from Stern. Stern still makes fun games with the best art, most variety of designers, and are by far the most reliable on route.

    Borg and then Ritchie.

    #30 5 months ago

    Missed Multimorphic too. I'd say they check both of your boxes:

    Quoted from Borygard:

    1- Produce more than a handful of games.
    2- Produce games that people actually want to own.

    #31 5 months ago
    Quoted from westofrome:

    Borg and then Ritchie.

    I think that your point is they make cookie cutter layouts? My point is that they are also legends that make the best games. That's the trade off for exceptionally smooth shooting games. All the best shots in pinball have already been figured out. An innovative or different layout is usually clunkier. In Stern's defense, they give us both kinds of games. And still get killed for it.

    #32 5 months ago
    Quoted from Aurich:

    I think it's a hard truth they need to hear. There are no points for 'you tried' in this business.
    These games are too much money for being half assed, regardless of other merits, that's what I took away from the opening post in general. And I sure agree.

    exactly

    #33 5 months ago
    Quoted from pinlink:

    Missed Multimorphic too. I'd say they check both of your boxes:

    Sort of.. not sure how many p3’s are actually out there or are selling so it’s hard to say on both points

    #34 5 months ago

    can't argue with anything OP said

    #35 5 months ago
    Quoted from guymontag451:

    What about deadpool? Nothing else shoots like that. Too much BS about "cookie cutter layouts" coming out from Stern. Stern still makes fun games with the best art, most variety of designers, and are by far the most reliable on route.

    I like Deadpool a lot. Just played it again last night. In fact, I played it exclusively instead of trying the new code on Munsters or playing their newest Stern game Black Knight as unfortunately I think are both those games are steps backwards for them. Along with Iron Maiden, I think Deadpool has turned out to be one of the best games Stern has released in years. Deadpool is a Gomez game and every time I play it, it reminds me that it is becoming everything that Avengers should have been. I have no problem giving credit where credit is due, but I'm also not going to be afraid to call a spade a spade either.

    #36 5 months ago
    Quoted from pinlink:

    Missed Multimorphic too. I'd say they check both of your boxes:

    Rob did tech support them for awhile. Maybe he didn't want to appear biased in any of the good, bad, ugly, categories ?

    LTG : )

    #37 5 months ago

    In what other industry can you release an unfinished product (such as GB’s unfinished code) and not do anything about it for years? (So far) Yes, Ghostbusters is playable as is but not to the extent as promised. It is buggy, unbalanced, unrefined and unfinished.

    We haven’t bought a NIB Stern for our location since GB’s last code update 2 1/2 years ago. Voting with my dollars.

    #38 5 months ago
    Quoted from MrArt2u:

    We haven’t bought a NIB Stern for our location since GB’s last code update 2 1/2 years ago. Voting with my dollars.

    Voting with my wallet too. I sold my GB and have not/will not buy another Stern NIB for the same reason. I'd rather wait the extra months to get a JJP with nearly complete code than 'hope' Stern will complete code when they get around to it if ever. 2 1/2 years... seriously Stern?!?!

    #39 5 months ago
    Quoted from LTG:

    Rob did tech support them for awhile. Maybe he didn't want to appear biased in any of the good, bad, ugly, categories ?
    LTG : )

    Makes sense. Either way, I agree with everything Rob posted.

    #40 5 months ago

    There's a reason Rob is a LEGEND!

    #41 5 months ago

    Great honest post. Most important thing is build quality and quality components. I don’t get too hung up on theming. Theming is very subjective to the individual and much harder to rate IMO. I think some people are a bit tried of “ Dont say anything negative to those building new machines or they will quit building and we will have no new machines”. There may be a pinball resurgence but if prices keep going up at the same time quality is going down business for new machines could eventually go in the tank. So saying nothing will backfire IMO. Do I see some unreasonable expectations from some? Sure but most complaints seem to quite reasonable to me. I mean bad PFs being put into machines over and over. Give me a break. This stuff has to stop...

    #42 5 months ago
    Quoted from pinlink:

    Missed Multimorphic too. I'd say they check both of your boxes:

    well, ive never seen one anywhere but at a show and there are 8+ locations near me (within an hour in any direction) with 20+ games so i dunno

    #43 5 months ago

    Good post
    Stern has definitely done a lot of listening to their customers, code improved, qc improved, metal ramps are legit, mechanical action could upgrade (gimmicks, there's really none) and system could be better but I'm betting they'll update from spike in the future and are probably developing that.

    American pinball. These guys could use some geometry lessons. They're making good toys but could use some basic pro playtesting with constructive feedback like, that shot doesnt feel right would do wonders, you cant just be pumped to shoot a new game it needs criticism.

    Spooky is making some cool stuff, retro theme, monster theme, our ACNC has broken down a lot but gets tons of play, they hired Bowen and hopefully will have better shots in future games. We loved our TNA and I probably couldn't say enough except it later seemed too simple.

    JJP improved on qc from back in the day. (Currently have a broken woz, fuck lightboards). Dialed in has been really solid for us, I really cant complain, high quality with the toys I really want (cant speak for Wonka, havent played it). Pirates was awesome but of course spinning disc fail. I totally agree they just need to announce games and produce, I've backed out because games weren't ready, they're just hurting themselves.

    Chicago gaming, to me, makes great new versions of the classics, I cant complain. When you own an old monster bash or medieval and you spend a ton of time fixing it vs. an occasional fix to a brand new version that's solid and loaded, clean, there is no comparison. They can improve and expand and update code but they're doing good at the least.

    Deeproot- damn I hope they make games that check all of the boxes, they have the teams that can but who the eff knows.

    Multimorphic has got some good ideas and stuff. They're a little easy and could grow with a pros guidance. It's a cross between physical and digital pinball so kind of in it's own realm and still very much in a growth phase.

    #44 5 months ago
    Quoted from ForceFlow:

    I agree that Oktoberfest is a bit of an odd choice.

    Why is it odd? I think it's a fun theme for a pinball machine. It's different and I'd rather see more of this than the usual TV/Movie/Band theme that keeps getting churned out.

    19
    #45 5 months ago
    Quoted from Borygard:

    My Hope- They continue to improve and listen to constructive feedback.

    You mean like when an incredibly smart and experienced tech who travels with his awesome puppy companion says we need to add strain relief to the coils to keep wires from breaking and we do? (and like 100 other things we've had suggested)

    100% fair assessment... any yes, we DO listen.

    #46 5 months ago

    Good post Rob. I think that sums things up quite nicely.

    The Stern node boards are what scare me. I know others are doing similar boards but Stern charges hundreds of dollars for what are for many throwaway boards. And newer versions aren’t always backward compatible. Don’t know what I do in a few years when one stops working on my Batman 66 and replacements aren’t available and/or cost a fortune. Also makes me think twice whenever I think I want a new Stern.

    The JJP QC concern is valid. I don’t know anyone with a JJP game that hasn’t dealt with something out of the box. Every game can’t be perfect but they need to be better.

    Thanks for all you do for this hobby.

    #47 5 months ago
    Quoted from jfh:

    The JJP QC concern is valid. I don’t know anyone with a JJP game that hasn’t dealt with something out of the box. Every game can’t be perfect but they need to be better.

    Just received my POTC LE today. The backbox speaker panel screws weren't even installed. The backglass and speaker panel were just lying in the backbox. When I went to tilt the head up, everything wanted to fall out.

    I later found the 2 srews/washers lying on the carpet at the rear of the machine.

    #48 5 months ago

    I’m A-ok with the price points honestly.

    These are modern pinball machines. They aren’t meant to be put on location and earn reliable income for ops...they’re meant to sit in basements, collect dust then break down after a few plays...

    Can’t put a price on fun right?

    #49 5 months ago
    Quoted from MrArt2u:

    In what other industry can you release an unfinished product (such as GB’s unfinished code) and not do anything about it for years? (So far) Yes, Ghostbusters is playable as is but not to the extent as promised. It is buggy, unbalanced, unrefined and unfinished.
    We haven’t bought a NIB Stern for our location since GB’s last code update 2 1/2 years ago. Voting with my dollars.

    Does KISS even have half of the intended rules implemented yet? I gave up on stern updates years ago.

    #50 5 months ago

    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/price-of-nib-pins-back-in-the-day

    Lowest Adjusted Price for 2019:2007, FGY: $4,200
    Highest Adjusted Price for 2019:1992, TAF: $6,400

    In 2019: Anything north of $6,500 is now out of bounds (compared to historical figures.)

    -mof

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