Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Community News Network

January 11, 2013

Slate: Can this man save pinball?

(Continued)

LAKEWOOD, N.J. —

But around 1986, the arcade bubble burst. And though pinball had a brief resurgence a few years later — 1992's "The Addams Family," the game I played obsessively in my college rec center, sold more than 20,000 units, making it the most-popular machine since the 1930s — that market collapsed again in the mid-1990s, leading the majority of manufacturers to abandon the business for good.

Pinball succumbed to the same forces that killed the video arcade. In the 1970s, arcade games far outclassed the entertainment competition, which consisted primarily of three channels of lousy network television, staring contests and throwing rocks at cars. But with the spread of home consoles and cable TV (and eventually ubiquitous Web access and smartphones), paying to play video games at some retail establishment felt inconvenient and outdated, like carrying a boombox on your shoulder or using an outhouse.

Pinball in particular became a relic from a pre-modern age. Compared with simple video games, which require little maintenance, pinball machines are loaded with mechanical parts that inevitably break down. Video games also generally take up less space than bulky pinball cabinets, and the advent of multi-joystick (and multi-steering-wheel) play allowed operators to earn more than they ever could from a one-player-at-a-time, flipper-based machine. As pinball lost its cachet, then, arcade owners happily shoved aside the less profitable, more aggravating machines in favor of reliable revenue generators such as driving games and games involving spine ripping.

With pinball largely banished from public spaces (unless you live in a hipster haven like Portland, Ore.), most of today's machines end up in the hands of collectors. Chicago's Stern Pinball — whose website declares it "the only maker of REAL pinball games on the planet!!" — produces three new titles each year, with recent games including Transformers, AC/DC, X-Men, and Avengers. According to company president Gary Stern, his firm sold more than 5,000 games in 2012. Though Stern says business was up last year, those numbers are bracing — that means an entire year's run of today's machines adds up to 25 percent of the sales of a blockbuster like The Addams Family.

Text Only
Community News Network
Features
AP Video
Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Obama Asks Central American Leaders for Help Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Obama Advisor Skips House Hearing Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman
Facebook
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Upon completion and reopening of Third Street, should the City of Knoxville wait to start the next stage of the Streetscape and Infrastructure project until 2015?

Yes
No
     View Results