Bally was the first company to do that. They were the first company to get an official licensed theme. During the 1950s, Gottlieb had done some unlicensed themes. They had a game called Guy’s Dolls, and it just happened to come out at the same time as the Broadway play called Guys and Dolls. So they were trying to wrap themselves in the popularity of pop culture at the time without actually having to pay any money for it.
In 1975 Bally was the first company to pay for a license. The game was Wizard, which was based on the Tommy movie by the Who. They paid very little for the licensing at the time, but they were able to promote the machine around the movie. And since it was called Wizard, they actually would go around to different cities and give the machines away at pinball tournaments. They would host pinball tournaments to try and increase the popularity of their brand.
Then all the other companies followed suit. Gottlieb got a license in 1979 for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Williams did it to a much lesser extent. Bally was the key player in licensing themes. They really felt that they could bring new people in to play pinball if they recognized the theme.
Today, the only pinball manufacturer left is Stern out of Chicago. Just about every game they put out, if not every game they put out, is a licensed theme because they are really strong believers in the idea that themes attract new players to pinball. In other words, you can get somebody to play an Indiana Jones pinball machine because they just walked out of the Indiana Jones movie, that sort of thing.
Bally also did a lot of games based on rock groups. They did a KISS machine, which was hugely popular, and one with Ted Nugent. The payments to these guys were so small. For the Ted Nugent game, everybody on the road crew, the m
anagement, and the band got a machine. That was the licensing fee, probably 15 machines. Stern did the Ted Nugent deal.
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