Why Did Pinball Die In The 1990s?

(Topic ID: 226379)

Why Did Pinball Die In The 1990s?


By sataneatscheese

5 months ago



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  • 213 posts
  • 89 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 months ago by xTheBlackKnightx
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    There are 213 posts in this topic. You are on page 5 of 5.
    #201 5 months ago

    So true, my dad's mom had a "browncafe" in the middle of Antwerp. Could buy a TAF in 1992-1993 for 12000bfr - > around !300Euros ! Didn't bought since it was used trash and customers wanted new new new

    Quoted from cudabee:

    Another problem was the older pinballs traded in for new ones were worth nothing even if they were 3 years old. There was no home market at all and almost no market for second hand pins.That made it nearly impossible to make it profitable in those days.
    It was a pile of problems for pinball that killed it, at least here in the Netherlands.

    #202 5 months ago
    Quoted from vid1900:

    If he's giving a speech on his new game, ask him without insulting him "Steve, I've heard ACDC is the largest selling modern Stern?" .
    Look directly at him, because he needs to read your lips.
    He's super cool, if another game sold more, he'll come right out and tell you.

    I've never met him but he seems super cool. But wiseass I am I'd probably ask "so, do you think we can expect Flash sales numbers on your next game?"

    #203 5 months ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    If you count the about 1500 pinsiders that show this game in their collection, and the others who are not showing they own it for one reason or another and probably a few others not on this website, you are going to have a hard time getting to 6-8k.
    I know not everybody into pinball is on pinside, but I'd imagine most that chose to own this particular game probably are.

    Do the serial numbers on the modern machines give any clues as to how many?

    #204 5 months ago
    Quoted from xsvtoys:

    Do the serial numbers on the modern machines give any clues as to how many?

    No idea.

    #205 5 months ago

    Interesting thread. Even though I loved pinball in the 80’s, I didn’t seek it out in the 90’s after college. I think I’m like a lot of people here: it was nostalgia that got me back into pinball around 1998, a way to relive my lost youth. It wasn’t until about 2004 that I got into DMDs, and I didn’t get into competitive playing until around 2012.

    Funny thing is, I remember seeing Congo in an arcade in the 90’s, and I thought “yuck, is this what pinball is now?”. 20 years later, it’s one of my favorite pins.

    #206 5 months ago
    Quoted from o-din:

    I've never met him but he seems super cool. But wiseass I am I'd probably ask "so, do you think we can expect Flash sales numbers on your next game?"

    Which old school games sold more than Flash? I know Addams, I'm talking Ballyhoo and stuff like that.

    #207 5 months ago
    Quoted from Mitch:

    Cars never died off for 10 plus years neither did music.

    music kind of did

    #208 5 months ago
    Quoted from Frippertron:

    Which old school games sold more than Flash? I know Addams, I'm talking Ballyhoo and stuff like that.

    Bally's "Eight Ball" sold 20,230 to "Flash"'s 19,505 according to IPDB. There may be others.

    [ I'm just using the Banning spreadsheet I made ]

    #209 5 months ago
    Quoted from DropTarget:

    music kind of did

    For the most part music has been dead for a solid 20. Theres good stuff out there but....

    #210 5 months ago

    I REPEAT the recommendation to watch this video to have a very basic understanding of changes to the pinball market in 1990s:

    TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball
    amazon.com link »

    More entertaining overall although a bit jaded from the standpoint of designers.

    Final notes:
    The home console market was a major contributor of losses combined with operator unwillingness to purchase games based on return of investment after 1996. "Arcade video games" was NOT the downfall. "Bally/Williams closure" was NOT the downfall, as pinball was already in a serious state of decline in 1997, and before the dreaded "Black Monday", 1999. Pinball simply could not compete against other forms of entertainment, and closures of arcades mounted across the United States made matters even worse. Foreign markets languished in the same manner based on slumped sales. For those of us that were involved during this time either as operators, technicians, or collectors (or combination), we saw the future end early, just like the changes today. The long term viability of pinball as commercial entertainment has formally ended, as well as the home environment collections within the next 20 years. Those that disagree are simply in a state of denial, although a few will carry the torch to keep machines in working order.

    #211 5 months ago

    I always appreciate your input on things like this, and am always fascinated by your experiences, but could you expound on this further:

    Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

    we saw the future end early, just like the changes today. The long term viability of pinball as commercial entertainment has formally ended, as well as the home environment collections within the next 20 years. Those that disagree are simply in a state of denial, although a few will carry the torch to keep machines in working order.

    especially the "future end early" part? Are you referencing p2k, or something else? I've seen t:tbtsp and it is fascinating. What do you see as similar to the late 90's/early 2000's to now; what about different?

    As far as commercial viability goes, I would generally agree, but I keep seeing machines appear in places I had never seen them before. And it's not for a lack of noticing. A large operator I am acquainted with, has been buying new Stern's like crazy; like 10 of each of the modern LCD and putting them on location, in many places, which have never had pinball before. That's a very small sample size, but it appears that the action of "pinball vending/operating for a profit" is alive and well, and possibly expanding, in my AO, at least.

    I also find that the home collection market is expanding. WAAAAAAAYYYYYYY back in the early 2000's (haha), I never met anyone that personally owned "modern" (dmd) machines in the home, other than myself (I was at the time managing a small social club, and was usually presented with the option to buy "end of the line" machines from our operator, for a couple hundred dollars. I kick myself now because I ended up selling these machines for essentially what I paid, figuring I could always get them back for about the same price...big mistake as we all know). I knew a couple people that had a single em or early solid state, but never more than one or two, and NEVER anything newer than 10-20 years old, at the time. Nowadays, well, I know MANY people, who have 3, 5, 10, 20, even 50+ games at home. I know that's a byproduct of re-engaging in the hobby myself after being out of it for 10-15 years prior to picking it back up, but even back then, I only knew a very few people that even had a single old em in the basement, let alone a basement full of modern machines. No doubt that operators then were less inclined to sell machines to the general public for fear that it would cut into their own profits, but still. Home ownership of commercial quality machines was just not as big of a "thing" then, as it is now.

    Again, small sample size, but the venue in which I play league in, has by my estimate, grown 50% in attendance since I started going regularly a couple years ago. Seemingly, every new season, the league has been growing by about 20%-25%. These are not hard numbers, just my estimate, but the league has for certain grown since I started attending.

    Even using myself as an example, I jumped back into pinball collecting/restoring/playing substantially more in the last few years. Years ago when I first bought machines, pinball was just a "thing", a "distraction", "something to do". That's how it always was; even when I was a child. I wouldn't have called it a "hobby", per se. It was just something to kill time with my friends, and a few years later, a thing to do while drinking beer with my friends. Fast forward to today, and now I actively play regularly (almost too much, haha), I have machines again (and will probably get more), I have gotten a growing number of folks reacquainted with the game ("wow, pinball is still a THING?!?") or outright introduced them to it, and have seen a good number of people start collections of their own. And as the used market tells me, I don't think it's one person replacing another when one person leaves the hobby; for every one person leaving, there are at least two entering.

    Perhaps I live in a bubble, or an echo chamber, but it appears, at least to me, that pinball IS expanding; in physical places to play, in more people's homes, and probably most importantly, in people's minds.

    #212 5 months ago

    I personally know local to me 12+ who own pins in their home and who didn’t own any 15-20 years ago but just got into the collection of pins in the last 12 or less years.

    This is just the people I know and there are people I don’t have any idea about who may be another 12+ and I’m not sure if this is something that will grow over time or stay the same.

    I’m sure there are hundreds of people who I know that have seen my pins or heard me talk about them, only one guy I introduced has got pins in his own collection and he’s not a super collector. He had just 2 pins and not got anything in the past 10years.

    I don’t know if that normal, for people to hear about pinball from us guys but that’s as far as it goes or is it sometimes that those acquaintances will get into the hobby and they tell others and so on.

    #213 5 months ago
    Quoted from Grandnational007:

    I always appreciate your input on things like this, and am always fascinated by your experiences, but could you expound on this further:

    especially the "future end early" part? Are you referencing p2k, or something else? I've seen t:tbtsp and it is fascinating. What do you see as similar to the late 90's/early 2000's to now; what about different?

    The end of pinball in the 90s was not difficult to spot, if you were buying games regularly. The most evident of points was closeouts of titles which started as early as 1994-1995. This was an overestimation of potential presales. P2K was a grand effort to provide more the "give the player all", and had modest success, but still drove many pinball purists away based on the nature of the gameplay itself. By 2001, it was basically dead, even though Stern returned. Pinball has a habit at times to go in 10-15 year cycles, but technology is increasing at a much faster rate.

    Now onto your question expounded:
    Similar to the initial recovery of pinball in the 1990s, the same is seen today in terms of interest. Unfortunately, these types of periods are generally short lived. As soon as pinball stops having a retro "cool factor" with present millennials, the games will disappear from their new venues in barcades roughly in the next 5-10 years. Presently, the "return of pinball" has only improved since around 2010, but sales are not as strong as some might suggest. We reached a tipping point based on MSRP when games hit the $9K+ mark. Most operators are not inclined to use pinball as means of primary income for the same reasons that were problematic in the 1980s and later 90s, namely upkeep/maintenance. Smart operators have pinball as an added attraction for other amusements, but are hardly the big earners on full routes. Those roles go to things such as jukeboxes, ATMs, and even smoke machines. Only a handful of large operators can operate more than several dozen pinball machines on a route at one time. I am not considering any type of "pinball museum" location. A person can see what happens to an operator when they put all the efforts into pinball, the center cannot hold except in "mega" locations for the time being.

    Additionally, you have to consider the age of those that are buying games for their own collections. Majority of buyers are hovering in the 40-50s, at least for those that desire for NIB titles. The increasing costs of these games (including used) unlike the 90s has lead many long time collectors out of the market. Those that are new will buy based what they can afford, or what they expect as the current norm in pricing. In 20 years, when these games come of age, the market will have little use for these pieces of antiqued entertainment. Those that are buying presently will be selling their collections as the reach older age, but the market will not be anywhere as strong as today. You can compare this to say the jukebox or radio markets, presently. This does not even consider the fact that present machines have planned obsolescence based on the SMD technology they are using to build them, making them more difficult to repair than any other games that have come before this time.

    In summary, pinball of the future retains its extremely tenuous position in the entertainment market, like a match burning in a windstorm.
    However, this does not mean their will not be those that wish to retain pinball as a form of history and keep games working, similar to those of us who carried the torch prior to the latest revival. The best thing I have seen in the past 10+ years in availability of parts remanufacture, to help those who do restorations. However, if you want to see the how much pinball interest there is in the future, this commercial sums things up...

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    There are 213 posts in this topic. You are on page 5 of 5.

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