SDCC 2015: Is Pinball making a comeback?


San Diego Comic-Con is humming right along and out of it has come many revelations and scoops as to what is going to be the future of geek culture. While lines for Funko, Marvel, and Hasbro are hours long, there is another booth sitting on what maybe the resurgence of a past cultural phenomenon: Pinball. Stern Pinball is the number one manufacturer of pinball machines in the world and were here showing off some of their amazing new machines and talking about the future of pinball.

The three machines they had at SDCC this year were KISS, Metallica, and WWE Wrestlmania. The level of effort and quality is apparent in the final product of these machines. Just touching them brings back so many childhood memories of being in the arcade, and mashing the flippers with reckless abandon. Admittedly from Stern the company has survived on the success of partnering strategically with intellectual properties. Each machine has to be perfect, because with so few machines built per year, an unpopular intellectual property could be disastrous for reputation and sales.

While pinball is the ultimate man-cave toy and a timeless arcade classic, it has been in a bit of a slump, bottoming out in 2008. The bad economy among other issues hit the American pinball market pretty hard. The industry was on life support for a few years, but with the rise in popularity of geek culture, craft beers and barcades (video-game-themed bars) pinball is seeing a major resurgence. More and more pinball tournaments are popping up and while the grand prizes and following isn’t on the Major League Gaming level quite yet, it’s growing. Cameras are being incorporated to make it more fun for larger groups of spectators.

Stern Pinball wasn’t so much at SDCC to toot their own horn about their latest machine, but they are making it known that pinball is back. The pinball business is doing so well that Stern recently moved from a 35,000 square foot manufacturing facility to one that is over 100,000 square feet. They have not announced them yet, but they are confidently sitting on some top secret new machines based on some of the top geek culture franchises in the world. “Easy to play, difficult to master.” This is the reason pinball has remained relevant after all these years, and why it’s not going anywhere any time soon.




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