Jersey Jack Launches Elton John Pinball
Industry Pinball Wizard Steve Ritchie Designs Game Devoted to Music’s Rocket Man
Iconic performer Elton John’s long history with pinball – since his role as The Pinball Wizard in the 1975 film Tommy and Bally’s music-inspired Captain Fantastic machine in 1976 – has culminated with Jersey Jack’s tribute to the musician. It’s a game the company feels is sure to keep fans and pinball enthusiasts alike playing for a long, long time.
“I’m a fan. I know that there’s millions of fans around the world,” said Jersey Jack Pinball founder Jack Guarnieri. It’s fitting that the Wizard of Oz pin maker found himself at Elton’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in early 2019. (By the way, that tour started in 2018 and concluded this summer; at 330 shows, it became the highest-grossing tour of all-time.)
“During the concert, I just said to myself, ‘You know, that would be a great pinball machine,’” he said. “The music lends itself to it and there’s a lot to build a game around him if I could get the license. It took me about a year to get the Elton John license and license all the songs.”
Music, of course, is the foundation of the game and the JJP team worked hard in collaboration with Elton’s Rocket Entertainment and Universal Music Group. Not just snippets, Elton John Pinball uses 16 full-length songs. Because of that, Guarnieri noted, “It’s a little more expensive but it makes a better product.”
The setlist, delivered through a 120-watt, 2.1 stereo sound system, includes Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, Bennie And The Jets, The Bitch Is Back, Crocodile Rock, I’m Still Standing, Pinball Wizard, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Your Song, Take Me To The Pilot, Philadelphia Freedom, Levon, Honky Cat, Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock’n Roll) and Funeral for A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.
In addition to the studio master tracks, they got the legend himself to do 40 different game calls, “so you hear him actually participating in the game with you.”
While the music and custom speech is one aspect of a player’s immersion into the game, the visuals are also sure to draw the eye.
Guarnieri mentioned that his first game back in 2013 (yes, Wizard of Oz) had 139 RGB LEDs, while the Platinum Edition of Elton John has nearly 1,300 and the Collector’s Edition has nearly 1,600. It’s a visual show as much as a music show. “We keep putting a leap of technology into every game we build. It’s just an immersive experience. You feel like you’re at the concert.”
Bringing that to life was legendary game designer Steve Ritchie. Elton John was his first machine for Jersey Jack Pinball. “Steve was really excited because this is an iconic intellectual property,” Guarnieri said. “He really dug into it. He made a game that when you walk up to it, you smile. It’s got some great shots and is pretty easy to understand.”
Like Elton John is to music, he added, “Steve is an international star in the pinball world. And he had a great team of people alongside him. We had three different artists work on the two different models.” (The art package for the Platinum Edition was by Christopher Franchi and the Collector’s Edition art was by John Youssi and JP De Win.)
“Having Elton John actively involved in the creative process sets a new standard for pinball machines and showcases the passion and artistry that go into every aspect of JJP games,” Ritchie said at the time of the game’s release at Pinball Expo in October.
Some of the visual features included in both models are a rocket sculpture with LED flames; a Tiny Dancer motorized sculpture; a Crocodile Rock physical lock sculpture; a grand piano three-ball lock feature; a Rocket Man ball launcher; and Bennie And The Jets bumpers. The games also both have a 27” backbox LCD display with an interactive camera and enhanced backglass illumination.
Unique to the Platinum Edition is a dual layer acrylic LED topper and platinum metallic armor. For the Collector’s Edition, which is limited to 1,000 units, it’s a “Superstar” topper with dual 10” LED screens and an interactive laser lightshow as well as a golden metallic laser-cut armor.
In production now, the game was a “labor of love” that took time to properly cultivate. Guarnieri said of Ritchie and the team: “Like a good chef making a meal, you’ve got to wait until everything’s cooked just right.”
Part of that perfect temperature is that the gameplay itself is “very approachable” for a pinball novice. Players have to spell E-L-T-O-N-J-O-H-N, collect wardrobe items and complete similar goals. Like any good pingame, it’s also perfect for aficionados.
“I’ve been playing it for about two months and it’s really a cool game,” Guarnieri touted. “There’s a lot of shots. It’s not a stop-and-go type of game – it’s go-go-go.”
He continued: “It was an honor to do this game. I was at Pinball Expo and there were longtime customers of mine that had no interest in an Elton John game, or so they said. But after playing the game, they came up and bought machines.
“If you love pinball, you’re gonna love this game. I think it’s going to do well on location, and I personally can’t wait until Elton gets his games.”
Visit www.jerseyjackpinball.com/ games/elton-john-pinball-game for more information about the machine or contact your authorized Jersey Jack distributor for purchase options. The Platinum Edition is available for $12,000 and the Collector’s Edition is available for $15,000.