Pinball Around the World
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
In my travels in the past month or so, I visited Austria, Germany, France and various parts of the U.S. Pinball really takes me around the globe and that travel is always a learning opportunity for me.
To be with customers and players in other parts of the world truly gives me a different perspective. The economic strength or weakness in certain markets, as well as legislation, climate, traditions and holidays, play a role in what can be purchased and when. Of course, people in other countries respond differently to licensed title games. An entertainment act or movie popular in one place may be virtually unknown in another, and that needs to be considered when selecting properties to build games around if you want to successfully capture a particular market.
I’ll be in China next month since there is a tiny, growing interest in pinball there, even though I’ve been told many times that the game doesn’t really fit their culture. There is a pinball manufacturer located in China and they hope to capture that market with a game based on Chinese folklore. I hope they make some inroads. Putting our strongest efforts into markets that will yield the best returns makes the most sense. To put efforts into a market where there isn’t much interest seems a waste of time, but I still explore under rocks.
In Paris last month, the weather was perfect and the streets were filled with people spending money. In Germany and in Austria, it was much the same. The big-name, fancy stores on the main avenues of Europe had queues of people lined up to buy their high-end goods. The seats on all of my flights were packed, as were the Euro railways. Every hotel I stayed in was full or near full. It was difficult to get a table at restaurants in peak dining time and the economy seems pretty good for now.
Pinball: A True Game of Skill
Recent new regulations in Ohio have squarely restated that pinball is a game of skill. As such, they don’t even need a license under the state’s new gaming commission rules. There’s something valuable about that and there are literally thousands of locations that should (or did once) have pinball machines that should try them again. The pingames of today perform well, reflect the themes people love, work well, make money and have a very high residual value.
As an operator, I have often done what others overlooked, and for me, it seemed to work out well. My advice: Be a bit of a contrarian. Yes, it’s okay to fill up those cranes with rolls of tickets, but not every game can or should be one of those. You need variety, and some games out there are truly games of skill and would pass the AAMA’s Fair Play Pledge with flying colors. Always remember that there are boundless opportunities and that “Winners make players!”
See you somewhere on my road ahead.
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@ jerseyjackpinball.com.