American Pinball on the Move
New Team Members & Legends of Valhalla Highlight Developments
by Gary Flower
American Pinball has been making big changes behind the scenes to strengthen their team and product offerings and the factory reports that those efforts are gaining traction.
Based in the Chicago metropolitan area, American Pinball got its start in 2015 with seed money from Aimtron Corporation, a company with a long history of manufacturing and servicing the needs of the coin-op industry. Their first project was the contract manufacturing of the Magic Girl pinball for Zidware and from there, they went on to develop their own line of pinball games starting with Houdini and going on to Oktoberfest and their first licensed game, Hot Wheels.
In December 2020, they changed top leadership, bringing in David Fix (previously with ICE) to lead as director of operations and marketing. At the time Fix joined American Pinball, sales had been lackluster and it was his mission to boost sales and establish the company as a major player in the pinball market.
They also added to their design team with veteran Dennis Nordman joining in January 2021. With a long and successful career with a number of companies, he’s been behind the introduction of such games as Scared Stiff (Bally), Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern), Alien (Heighway Pinball), Lexy Lightspeed: Escape from Earth (Multimorphic), The Wizard of Oz (Jersey Jack Pinball…Nordman collaborated on some of the game’s design elements such as the spinning house and the original melting witch mechanism) and, more recently, he worked on Elvira’s House of Horrors for Stern. Readers can expect to see Nordman’s first American Pinball game to make its debut during the first half of 2022. His reputation as an “A-list” designer is expected to make his next game of great interest to both pinball players and collectors.
Other appointments since Fix took the helm, include:
• Zofia Bil Ryan: Senior Mechanical Engineer. She has over 30 years’ experience in mechanical engineering in the coin-op industry and previously worked at Williams/Bally where she claimed patents for many unique mechanical devices, including the “Multiple Path Ball Ramp for Pinball” – Rotating Head (on The Machine).
• Jack Haeger: Art Director. He not only worked at Williams Electronics but also with Andy Warhol. Game titles in his portfolio include NARC, Terminator 2, Revolution X, NHL Open Ice and CarnEvil. More recently Jack has worked on Fishbowl Frenzy, Family Guy Bowling and Spins Ahoy! for Team Play which saw him reunited with his colleague from Williams, Ken Fedesna.
Beyond the talents of the team he continues to assemble, Fix is also keen to focus on the strengths of the games themselves, reporting good on-site earnings and excellent reliability from being built with dependable, industry-standard parts. Fix enthused, “Games are out on test with Betson with zero problems. Industry people are saying our games are built like tanks.”
As a result of tweaking under his leadership reign, the company has reported that a resurgence in demand for previous models. Of that lineup, each game appeals more directly to different player sectors: Houdini for all round play, Oktoberfest for bars and the over-21 age group and Hot Wheels for families/FECs.
Game #4 Is Here
Fix and the American Pinball team are also happy to introduce Legends of Valhalla, a fast-paced, Riot Pinball-designed game. “It’s from a new young game designer, Scott Gullicks, and is based on Norse mythology, a theme that resonates with young adults and has a real epic soundtrack,” Fix said, “It is reliable, low maintenance and features a new LED lighting system.”
The game has a standard body design with three flippers offering a variety of fast and unique shots, including three metal ramps. There are a variety of objectives the player must either start or complete as they work their way through the game, attempting to not only reach the wizard mode Valhalla –– the majestic hall of dead Vikings –– but also advance to the final epic battle known as Ragnarok, the super wizard mode.
Legends of Valhalla has 16 modes programmed in the form of Viking legends for players to explore along with many multi-balls and several mini-features that are unlocked during specific actions while playing the game.
The game also has fun playfield features such as the Kraken, which grabs the ball via a hidden magnet mounted underneath the playfield and flings it around in chaos. There is also a Viking ship where the player builds his army by locking balls inside to begin multi-ball play. And, Thor’s hammer, which is mounted on the back panel and activated by a third flipper button, comes crashing down onto the ball which is held by a magnet just over the top lanes, simulating a dramatic lightning strike, adding to the gameplay experience.
The team that worked under Gullicks’ direction attended Pinball Expo the last weekend of October where the game had its first public showing. They also presented a seminar explaining the development process of the title. The following weekend it was at the Midwest Gaming Classic in Wisconsin where it won the award for “Best in Show: Modern Pinball” (see photo). And, naturally, they also took it to IAAPA.
Fix said Legends of Valhalla is on production line one at the factory and Hot Wheels is on line two. Both games are shipping now.
And There’s More
Fix and the team continue to make headway in other areas as well including further development of the support section of the company’s website (www.american-pinball.com/support) to now include videos of tech tips and support documents in five major languages.
Of course, the real measure of success is sales and Fix was pleased to report that in the first hours of launch, Legends of Valhalla had received orders in excess of 500 games. “This exceeds any previous quarter’s sales figures since American Pinball opened its doors in 2015,” he said.
Visit the company online at www.american-pinball.com