Roll Out the Barrel
…And Have a Barrel of Fun on American Pinball’s Oktoberfest
There’s no doubt that pinball is “back” in both American culture and in the industry. Among the newer entries to the game manufacturing side of things is American Pinball. The company, founded in 2015, recently debuted its second offering, Oktoberfest (shipping now), which the company expects to do well in bars and arcades, in addition to the home/collector market.
The new game allows players to experience the world-renowned Oktoberfest, traveling around the festival on the playfield, visiting over a dozen tents and collecting steins for various bonuses. Oktoberfest features multiple wireform ramps and a “Corkscrew Rollercoaster” ramp with twin loops and a zig-zag section. A “Shack & Beer Barrel” feature has 3-ball lock mechanisms and players are bound to run into Otto the Bartender along the way.
The playfield has three flippers, three pop bumpers, three slingshots, a ramp that raises and lowers, and four magnets – two of which are player controlled with MagNab cabinet buttons (also allowing players to control both flippers with only one hand).
“The gameplay feels like you’re really getting a lot out of it – it’s a jam-packed game,” said Nirmal Vasani, American Pinball’s sales and marketing strategist. “There’s lots of fun little stuff on the playfield.”
The company’s director of game design, industry vet Joe Balcer, whose résumé includes posts at Bally-Midway, Stern Pinball and Jersey Jack Pinball, had always wanted to do an Oktoberfest-themed game, Vasani said, which led to its creation.
“Everyone thought it would be seasonal theme,” Vasani noted, “but the festival itself is more indepth than what most of the world sees.”
The celebratory, carnival-like atmosphere has a party element that can be enjoyed in the new pinball game year-round. “The theme matches a lot of what locations are trying to establish,” he added.
It debuted last October at the Pinball Expo in Chicago, near where American Pinball is based, and has been shipping since April.
Oktoberfest is the pin maker’s attempt at breaking into the location-based market. Their first pinball machine was Houdini in 2017, which was aimed at the collector’s market.
“With Houdini, we aimed for a rather niche market,” Vasani said. “It was made to be quite challenging and it takes awhile to master.” Its difficulty ensures people get a lot of replay value out of the machine, he added.
He said the new game, however, has already made it into some arcades and bars while still appealing to the home market.
“The operator –– and arcade bar –– market is something we’re still trying to understand as a whole,” Vasani explained. “I think it’s going to be a significant part of our future, especially with Oktoberfest. A bunch of breweries and arcade bars have reached out and talked about how much they like the machine.”
American Pinball’s newness to the industry doesn’t make them green to the development process. Parent company Aimtron, owned by Vasani’s father Mukesh (Nirmal’s cousin, Dhaval, is the CEO), has been manufacturing PC boards for coin-op game companies for almost a decade. They also build products in the medical and aerospace fields, among others.
Nirmal has been working with the company since he was 16, and joined American Pinball after graduating from college – glad to be a part of the growing family business.
That growth includes a third pinball machine in development and a redemption unit, both expected to be unveiled later this year or early next.
“I’m excited,” Vasani said. “I think this is an interesting turning point for the market. The customer base is growing, and the manufacturers are growing along with it.”
American Pinball can be visited online at www.american-pinball.com; phone: 847-893-6800.