(Topic ID: 311181)

Why did Stern lower the height of their flipper buttons?

By AlexRogan84

2 years ago


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  • 12 posts
  • 8 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 2 years ago by zacaj
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#1 2 years ago

I have a 2006 Stern World Poker Tour and then a bunch of Bally/Williams games from the 90s like Getaway, Funhouse and Diner. I love the Bally/Williams machines and they just feel right to me. Part of that is the default height of the flipper buttons. It comes to something like 33" from the floor to the centre of the flipper buttons. My WPT is lower than that by about two inches and I wondered why?

Was there a conscious decision at some point to change what seemed like an industry accepted height? I have a Data East Lethal Weapon 3 and it is also the same height as the Bally / Williams ones. Not WPT though, it feels like you have to hunch over some. To me it does anyway.

A few others I have played on location from Stern of that vintage seem to be the same. Austin Powers for example seems even lower, like you need to be in grade school to be the right height for it.

Is there anything to this? Or others that have noticed? When you get a bunch of games from different manufacturers and eras lined up, you can really see the differences in the design and physical size of the cabinets. The height of the flipper buttons though really has an effect on gameplay. Just wondered how that came to be?

#2 2 years ago

i wonder if there's a grade-schooler out there somewhere, asking why Bally/Williams had to make the flipper button height like it was were for adults.

#3 2 years ago
Quoted from AlexRogan84:

I have a 2006 Stern World Poker Tour and then a bunch of Bally/Williams games from the 90s like Getaway, Funhouse and Diner. I love the Bally/Williams machines and they just feel right to me. Part of that is the default height of the flipper buttons. It comes to something like 33" from the floor to the centre of the flipper buttons. My WPT is lower than that by about two inches and I wondered why?
Was there a conscious decision at some point to change what seemed like an industry accepted height? I have a Data East Lethal Weapon 3 and it is also the same height as the Bally / Williams ones. Not WPT though, it feels like you have to hunch over some. To me it does anyway.
A few others I have played on location from Stern of that vintage seem to be the same. Austin Powers for example seems even lower, like you need to be in grade school to be the right height for it.
Is there anything to this? Or others that have noticed? When you get a bunch of games from different manufacturers and eras lined up, you can really see the differences in the design and physical size of the cabinets. The height of the flipper buttons though really has an effect on gameplay. Just wondered how that came to be?

Why not just adjust the levellers on your games so the flipper button heights from the floor to the button are the same across all your games? Please post a photo of what you are talking about.

#4 2 years ago

All my games are front legs as low as they can go and then adjusted to 7 degrees and I see what he’s talking about. I have a row of 4 games, JP Pro, Hook, LW3 and Striker Xtreme. The flipper buttons on striker are significantly lower than LW3 and Hook. JP is a little higher than striker but lower than both Data East games. On the other wall I have Comet and Dredd and Comet is much higher than Dredd.
When I had Wipeout a Gottlieb system 3 game they were higher than all of them and felt the best to play. I have to crouch or hunch or go super wide stance to play newer games more comfortably

#5 2 years ago
Quoted from AlexRogan84:

Is there anything to this? Or others that have noticed? When you get a bunch of games from different manufacturers and eras lined up, you can really see the differences in the design and physical size of the cabinets. The height of the flipper buttons though really has an effect on gameplay. Just wondered how that came to be?

Considering that the machines you've mentioned were from the time that Stern was the lone pinball company. My best bet was that they were experimenting in hope to increase sales.

I've notice that a lot of pinball locations at the time had stools in front of the machines. Perhaps, Stern noticed this and decided to cater to that trend.

#6 2 years ago

I suspect it could have been the suppliers they work with. Manufacturers are always reviewing the cost of parts and labor. At that time if slightly lower legs saved money with little to no impact on the end product why not. Pinball as a whole was in a much tighter struggle to survive. Every penny counts.
... but this is just a guess

#7 2 years ago

Did they lower the flipper buttons, or the whole cab? I assume the distance from the buttons to the glass is about the same...

#8 2 years ago
Quoted from zacaj:

Did they lower the flipper buttons, or the whole cab? I assume the distance from the buttons to the glass is about the same...

Looks like they raised the leg bolt hole position, all the cabs are 16” but as you can see in this picture their height from the floor is all different. This is assuming I have all the correct legs on the games, other than Jurassic Park I wouldn’t know if they came with the legs that are on them or not.
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#9 2 years ago

I would question whether Striker Extreme has the correct length legs installed, as it looks like the front is lower than LW3 by an inch or so. Anywhere in the course of the game's lifetime, someone could had swapped the wrong length legs.

#10 2 years ago

From the pics and info you've shared, I think it is mostly changes to the shape and size of the cabinet that made the flipper button height change.

The buttons are definitely not lower as compared to being farther down the side from the glass. That's consistent for them all.

The leg lengths are also pretty much the same and I don't think they elected to use shorter legs to save costs. One interesting thing I noticed reading a Stern manual was about how the intention when setting up and levelling is that you are to install all four legs with the levelers dialed all the way in and in theory, on a flat floor, this is supposed to be exactly the right pitch of the playfield. Unlike some of the other games (like Lethal Weapon), where the back leg levelers are jacked way up.

I also noticed on my own games right now that the angle of the Stern cabinets are different. While the playfield angle is still this 6 or 7 degrees we shoot for, the whole cabinet is pitched forward more than the others. I assume this is by design, but maybe it isn't and mine just went that way. You know how they say not to set the playfield angle by using the top of the glass? I think because the glass angle is not only different than the playfield angle, but it's different across games.

I don't have my WPT beside any of the Ball/Williams games at the moment, but it is right beside my LW3. Also right beside a 1976 Gottlieb Sure Shot... and that thing is tall and beefy too when you look at the height of things. There's almost no angle at all to the playfield in those old ones, but the height of the flipper buttons is way up there.

(I need to take some better pics of the WPT, LW3 and Sure Shot with the room lights on and the game lights off. It's hard to see them at the moment.)

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#11 2 years ago
#12 2 years ago
Quoted from AlexRogan84:

I also noticed on my own games right now that the angle of the Stern cabinets are different. While the playfield angle is still this 6 or 7 degrees we shoot for, the whole cabinet is pitched forward more than the others. I assume this is by design, but maybe it isn't and mine just went that way. You know how they say not to set the playfield angle by using the top of the glass? I think because the glass angle is not only different than the playfield angle, but it's different across games.

I think you've got the answer here. They wanted to incline the playfield more, but not make the cab taller, or lose space between the glass and the playfield, so they inclined the whole cab by mounting the legs higher on the front, which also had the effect of lowering the lockdown bar+flipper buttons slightly

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