(Topic ID: 178853)

Who is STERN's target market?


By vdojaq

2 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 21 posts
  • 18 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 2 years ago by goatdan
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    #1 2 years ago

    I ask because of all of the playfield and code issues coming from STERN and their machines.

    Pinball was never meant to be made as a collectible. It had always been a commercial product as a means to make an income for the manufacturer, the distributor, and then lastly, the operator. Up until the late 80's , early 90's, trying to find a place to purchase a commercial amusement device geared towards the home buyer was slim pickings. As we lost manufacturers, Bally, Gottlieb, Williams, the scramble to find these machines and save them was on! Those of us who were lucky enough to be part of some of those infamous warehouse raids packed with off route machines were part of that home use movement.

    Your sole survivor for years is STERN Pinball. And up until just a few years ago Gary Stern would be at that podium pounding his chest at how the commercial end was his bread & butter and that the home market was just a small portion of the demand. STERN's focus was for the operator. Then came the testing of the waters and we started to see the LE models creep in. The LE's sell out and then come the Premiums. Now you have the Batman 66 at close to $15K. The operators sure as hell are not buying these! Oh, let's not forget the STERN accessory store with mods, toppers, side armor, and every other trinket they can sell. Who is buying this?

    My whole point is STERN and their marketing strategy has turned towards that home collector market, or the barcades that bypass the typical operator and own their own machines. The problem is their customer service is still in the dark ages. An operator doesn't give a shit about code updates, an operator doesn't care about a ghosting playfield insert or chipped clearcoat in the shooter lane. They care about a buck being put into their machines. They care about getting their money out of a machine until it no longer earns.

    However, STERN is being completely ignorant of it's home buying customer criteria, but the entire Premium, LE's and accessories are geared towards such. Someone who pays $7K plus want his machine regularly updated with latest code, he wants his playfield to hold up more than a few hundred plays, he wants his features to work. We want quality out of the box, especially the premium ware paying for these big boy toys. Yes, I really like STERN pinball machines, but they are NOT the ONLY pinball manufacturer in the world anymore and they need to STOP treating the home collector customer base as if they still were.

    It's pure bullshit that I am still waiting for my KISS LE code updates. It's pure bullshit that a guy like kpg has to settle for a buy back on his GB LE after Gary Stern made promises that were never kept. It's bullshit that we all sit in the dark while STERN continues to try and appease their customer base with "Our commitment to quality" or "stay tuned" catch phrases. I am going to use a term that I really can't stand, but STERN offers NO "transparency" when it comes to the support of their products. Unfortunately, the distributor hands are tied due to this. This has nothing to do with Pinside, RGP, or any other pinball forum. This all has to do with a business model that sucks for the home end user. If this were any other company in the world for another product, they would be put out of business.

    So I ask again, STERN, who is your target market?

    #2 2 years ago

    Collectors now, but I bet they are wishing it was still the operators. Less complaints from ops I would imagine.

    -2
    #3 2 years ago

    Another litany of boring and redundant complaints disguised as an actual topic/question. We get one of these every day. I'm surprised you didn't include a poll to make it even more "authentic."

    To answer your fake question, Stern's "target market" is literally anybody who will buy a pinball machine.

    #4 2 years ago

    As both an operator, and a collector, I can tell you that their current marketing strategy has resulted in the loss of this customer.... until they pull their shit together.

    The product needs to be both perfect for a collector, and durable for an operator. Currently, they're missing both targets. If I decide to buy another pin in the next year, it will be pre-owned.

    #5 2 years ago

    Their current target is home buyers with nostalgia, money, and a spot in their rec room. Why do they keep making games with poor QC and code? The majority of their customers DO NOT NOTICE. Us hardcore maniacs who are friends with distributors who give us good deals aren't keeping the lights on. It's the people we don't know - non-hobbyists who think it would be cool to have a pinball machine. They call their local gameroom store or pinball specialist - they pay MSRP + tax, someone sets it up for them, and that's it! No forums, no tournaments, no code updates...what's a ghosted insert? What's a dimple?

    We're loud. We're passionate. But we're not really the target.

    #6 2 years ago

    Eh.
    I took STERN off my want list years ago, due to the growing litany of issues they have shoved into the $5K+ market.
    Doing so helps my blood pressure (and blood sugar) since I don't deal with all that increasing 'drama.'
    It's all B/W SSs and GTB EMs for me.
    Thus, I am perfectly fine with all of STERN's growing issues.
    They sort of remind me of the US auto industry back in the 1970s - more shiny new objects ...

    #7 2 years ago

    Stern has a little something for everyone thanks to putting out so many games: collectors, ops, and one off game room additions.

    They have a wide range of licensed titles, movies, television shows, rock bands, and lately some nostalgia titles.

    They also generally have model choices: pro, premium, and LE.

    They now sell mods for their games.

    They've got some serious QC problems right now, but they'll get over it.

    #8 2 years ago

    For years, Gary essentially dismissed the "enthusiast" market in every talk I heard him give. That began to change in the last couple years and the first real acknowledgment of a new market dynamic came at the last Expo. It appears that our (hobbiests/enthusiasts/Pinsiders/whatever you want to call us) share of the market is increasing (I suspect more taking share from operator sales rather than market growth). The market segments are probably something like this:

    1) Traditional Operators (split with location)
    2).Locatiom Owner/Ops (barcades or no split)
    3) Us
    4) Retail "it round be cool to buy a pinball" buyers

    I suspect #4 makes up such a small percentage of sales that they are lumped in with us.

    With a few exceptions, you have to assume most LE games never get operated commercially and that the LE buyers are far more likely to be "collectors" that care far more than any of the other three groups about playfield wear, deep code and other issues a once in a blue moon player never notices. Yet the LEs are typically built first before all the things that really bother us are worked out.

    Perhaps the Stern model needs to evolve with different standards such that LE designates a different level of support then a game that will spend 90% of its life on location. Essentially LE = consumer product, Pro = commercial product with appropriate standards for each, especially playfields.

    #9 2 years ago

    The question at hand has a bit of a false assumption. That there can only be one target.

    A company can (and often should) have more than one target market. That's the whole point of market segmentation. Levi gets closer to it, in that the target market is more or less anyone who will buy pinball, but Stern isn't a small mom and pop shop. The strategy is definitely deeper than that.

    This is just a guess (an educated one, but a guess) - Among Stern's market segments would be Operators, Private Collectors, Nostalgia Seekers, and Status Buyers. They probably have more than 4 segments, but these are the big, obvious ones.

    Operators are more likely being targeted for Pros. They're cheaper, return their cost more quickly, still draw customers, and have less that can go wrong.

    Private Collectors are likely being targeted for Premiums and maybe LEs. They want to purchase an "experience".

    Nostalgia Seekers and Status Buyers. This is the boutique product and the SLE crowd being focused hard right now. In every single entertainment industry, nostalgia is selling HARD. This is the market that needs an experience from their past, has a strong emotional (not rational, which is important) demand for the product, and they don't care about cost. The status buyers also fall here, because they get value from purchasing a product that many others cannot afford. It's the same reason exotic car manufacturers advertise to everyone. Some products gain value BECAUSE they are unattainable to the average person.

    #10 2 years ago
    Quoted from vdojaq:

    I ask because of all of the playfield and code issues coming from STERN and their machines.
    Pinball was never meant to be made as a collectible. It had always been a commercial product as a means to make an income for the manufacturer, the distributor, and then lastly, the operator.

    And here lies the problem. Stern is in fact now targeting the home market, but they are totally out of touch with what it takes to satisfy that market (and it's a tough one). With the asinine pricing they have, you would think they would have the support in place to appease home buyers, but as of now they are a long ways off. I am already priced out of the market, but I would hate to see prices go any higher, oh wait.....

    #11 2 years ago

    Rich old farts with no real life trying to relive their youth thru a coin operated machine.

    #12 2 years ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    Rich old farts with no real life trying to relive their youth thru a coin operated machine.

    Yep! Heck, I lived my youth the first time through a coin op game.

    #13 2 years ago

    I think the target market changed once Stern switched to the Pro/Premium/LE model. If games were all still $4K delivered to your door I doubt many people would really care that much about ghosting. I remember there being inconsistent playfield quality in the early 2000's (LOTR with blurry and muddy playfields, Simpsons with registration issues, etc.) and for the most part people didn't seem to care. My old TSPP had a black blotch above Homer's head on the center of the playfield and it didn't affect my enjoyment of the game at all. I think when people started paying $7500+ on games that it really became a big concern.

    #14 2 years ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    To answer your fake question, Stern's "target market" is literally anybody who will buy a pinball machine.

    In that sense you are 100% correct. But you have different target markets, commercial buyers and home use buyers. Forever, the target market WAS the commercial end of it. But that has changed, and so have the buyers.

    If I want a new car, I really only need basic transportation. However, if I have disposable funds, I want the leathers seats, the satellite radio/gps and 20" wheels. But no matter which one I buy, I expect it to be 100% functional and working properly. And if it doesn't, I don't need the run around for months to get my issues resolved. Because if it does, X brand isn't the only game in town. Next time around I will buy brand Y.

    A real good example is Nissan. In the 80's they were a top 4/5 auto maker. Now, find me one model of Nissan in the top 10 of sales? They got more expensive, quality went down, and service went to shit. Not to mention they now have Kia and Hyundai kicking their ass. Nissan is hurting. The buying public went elsewhere.

    STERN keeps up this way of doing business, they open the door to the competition and they could end up being on the outside looking in. Gottlieb of the 80's comes to mind with the piss poor street reliability.

    #15 2 years ago

    If Costco did not have such a friendly return policy I am sure Stern would be selling a bunch there to families that don't realize how hard it will be to keep the game playing well.

    The truth is that the key customers for sustaining a business like pinball are repeat customers. The family that gets only one pin that they keep forever is not enough to make a huge difference in such a niche business. If those families get hooked and buy more then the manufacturers have something.
    The new collector market is the reason Stern expanded their factory and JJP is able to make more games. Barcades also helped some.

    #17 2 years ago

    I bought 2 new pins from them in 2016 so lets say I'm in their market somewhere. I would assume I'll continue to buy but the facts are I have limited room , and don't need another comic book/ super hero or music pin. I would like more diversity. I like the idea of the VE's that's why I bought SM . Both games SM and Met were proven winners with lots of game play before buying. I played some of the recent titles and it didn't work for me. I'm in no rush I have plenty of pins to play as it is.

    #18 2 years ago
    Quoted from vdojaq:

    I ask because of all of the playfield and code issues coming from STERN and their machines.
    Pinball was never meant to be made as a collectible. It had always been a commercial product as a means to make an income for the manufacturer, the distributor, and then lastly, the operator. Up until the late 80's , early 90's, trying to find a place to purchase a commercial amusement device geared towards the home buyer was slim pickings. As we lost manufacturers, Bally, Gottlieb, Williams, the scramble to find these machines and save them was on! Those of us who were lucky enough to be part of some of those infamous warehouse raids packed with off route machines were part of that home use movement.
    Your sole survivor for years is STERN Pinball. And up until just a few years ago Gary Stern would be at that podium pounding his chest at how the commercial end was his bread & butter and that the home market was just a small portion of the demand. STERN's focus was for the operator. Then came the testing of the waters and we started to see the LE models creep in. The LE's sell out and then come the Premiums. Now you have the Batman 66 at close to $15K. The operators sure as hell are not buying these! Oh, let's not forget the STERN accessory store with mods, toppers, side armor, and every other trinket they can sell. Who is buying this?
    My whole point is STERN and their marketing strategy has turned towards that home collector market, or the barcades that bypass the typical operator and own their own machines. The problem is their customer service is still in the dark ages. An operator doesn't give a shit about code updates, an operator doesn't care about a ghosting playfield insert or chipped clearcoat in the shooter lane. They care about a buck being put into their machines. They care about getting their money out of a machine until it no longer earns.
    However, STERN is being completely ignorant of it's home buying customer criteria, but the entire Premium, LE's and accessories are geared towards such. Someone who pays $7K plus want his machine regularly updated with latest code, he wants his playfield to hold up more than a few hundred plays, he wants his features to work. We want quality out of the box, especially the premium ware paying for these big boy toys. Yes, I really like STERN pinball machines, but they are NOT the ONLY pinball manufacturer in the world anymore and they need to STOP treating the home collector customer base as if they still were.
    It's pure bullshit that I am still waiting for my KISS LE code updates. It's pure bullshit that a guy like kpg has to settle for a buy back on his GB LE after Gary Stern made promises that were never kept. It's bullshit that we all sit in the dark while STERN continues to try and appease their customer base with "Our commitment to quality" or "stay tuned" catch phrases. I am going to use a term that I really can't stand, but STERN offers NO "transparency" when it comes to the support of their products. Unfortunately, the distributor hands are tied due to this. This has nothing to do with Pinside, RGP, or any other pinball forum. This all has to do with a business model that sucks for the home end user. If this were any other company in the world for another product, they would be put out of business.
    So I ask again, STERN, who is your target market?

    I agree, but I don't think it's Gary's company any more. Isn't someone else calling the shots?

    #19 2 years ago
    Quoted from MikeS:

    I think the target market changed once Stern switched to the Pro/Premium/LE model. If games were all still $4K delivered to your door I doubt many people would really care that much about ghosting.

    Based off of the postings I have seen in the last year here I feel most of the crowd on pinside would still find the ghosting unacceptable at $4,000. .

    You ever read reviews on the Apple Store or Google Play Store? People are complaining like crazy on a $10 game that has bugs and broken code. Hell even the free apps people bitch.

    $4,000 is still an expensive toy though and i'd be upset if the company wasnt willing to resolve a known issue.

    #20 2 years ago
    Quoted from Methos:

    I agree, but I don't think it's Gary's company any more. Isn't someone else calling the shots?

    You mean just like Jersey Jack? I was under the impression that Gary only sold stake in the company, not shot calling majority. Maybe I am wrong?

    #21 2 years ago
    Quoted from jfh:

    (I suspect more taking share from operator sales rather than market growth).

    I won't comment on the criticism versus anything else but...

    The market has grown considerably recently. It wasn't that long ago that Stern was shipping probably around 2000 games per year. While they haven't said exact numbers, just based off LE sales, they are shipping more than 2000 LE games per year.

    The market has grown. It's why Stern ended up in a larger facility, and why JJP, Spooky and now the P3 system are all competing in the same or a similar marketplace depending on how you look at it. Additionally, based on what I have heard from people who I know who operate, more pins are going back on route and earning better again than they have been.

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