A Nice Problem to Have
Multiple New Pinball Offerings Make Purchasing Decision Tough
by Adam Pratt, Game Grid Arcade & ArcadeHeroes.com
With every trade show there is always something that stands out to you above the other products and with Amusement Expo 2016, it was pinball.
To be honest, I never played pinball until I opened my own arcade since finding a working machine locally was difficult. The FEC where I worked in the late ’90s didn’t have any pinballs either. I did recognize that it was important to have so I purchased a pair of Stern machines for my place –– a Shrek and an Indiana Jones, both of which were new at the time.
Since then, I’ve sold my Shrek and I’m about to do the same with Indiana Jones to freshen up the selection. I also have a Stern Star Trek Premium on hand which has done well and enjoys play from some dedicated fans. After going to the Amusement Expo however, I’m finding what to replace Indy with to be a little more difficult that I thought it would be.
Stern debuted its Ghostbusters pinball at the show and it was exciting to be among the first to give the game a spin. (I was a major Ghostbusters movie fan growing up, having almost worn out the VHS tape of the first movie to the point that my mother “accidentally” erased it due to it being played too often. I can now understand her pain!) It would have been nice if Stern could have brought either a Premium or a Limited Edition to the show, but I was impressed with how the Pro played. I know some of that’s due to my nostalgic, rose-colored glasses and enjoying the many lines from the films, but it also had to do with the shot layouts, multiballs and capturing ghosts. Dr. Venkman’s ESP test video game was also a really nice touch. I’m glad the idea of playing a mini video game in pinball has made a comeback recently (this and Game of Thrones).
The problem in my pinball purchase decision came with the arrival of newcomer Heighway Pinball and their Full Throttle title. I had no idea that they’d be at the Expo so it was a nice surprise to get some hands-on time with a game I had only seen online. To be honest, I wasn’t sold on it after the first play, but kept giving it a shot. By the third play, I was hitting the ramps with ease and found it to be a very fun game. It has some nice, modern features that are hard to pass up, especially with the idea of swapping out playfields as kits. Given that Heighway Games will have Alien Pinball out this summer, I like the idea of being able to swap games out in what they say is just three minutes or less. That allows my location to cater to different players at different times of the week. I was also impressed by their team’s focus on operators. The reps constantly brought up location earnings and features to make life easier on location. While I understand why pinball tends to be marketed towards collectors, I believe that if every pinball was operator-focused first, then collectors would be happy with the end product either way (the same thinking applies to video games, too).
I should note that I played Jersey Jack Pinball’s The Hobbit at IAAPA 2015 and I enjoyed that game as well. The art package was spectacular, especially with the backbox LCD. The Medieval Madness remake is also an excellent piece, although that’s geared a little more towards collectors. I could also justify buying Game of Thrones or the new Spider-Man, but for now, I’m going to keep the limelight on just a few titles.
Now, as you read this, I’m sure that most are asking “Why not get them all?” Well, that’s certainly crossed my mind and, while my pure video arcade is breaking all of the conventional thinking on how such a place should do, my resources are still limited. Both costs and floor space have to be considered, the latter of which has prevented me from adding items like Barron Games’ World Tour Foosball. Also, I’m in the position of being debt free soon. Selling Indy will free up what I need for one game, so that’s what it boils down to for the moment.
Even though I can’t poll my readers in print, I’d love to get your feedback on my “which new pingame” debate. Let me know what you think by emailing [email protected].
Adam Pratt is the owner and operator of the Game Grid arcade near Salt Lake City, Utah. He also publishes the Arcade Heroes blog site and serves as an advisor for the web-based game supplier BMI Worldwide. He can be reached at [email protected].