Will Pinball Ever Die Off?

Was just thinking, (yes I know it’s dangerous) will the pinball story continue? Will people die?  Are young people getting into the pinball industry as game designers? Is pinball design a dyeing art? Is this industry attractive enough to entice young people to make it a career? Who are the youngest designers and who are they working for? I wonder if this age of being connected 24/7 and this generation that is growing up with the Internet in their back pocket will have any interest in this analog game?

It Could

New pins are expensive and going up too quickly to appeal to ops. That might be a broken model though as kids should not be the main target (through arcades at the minigolf facility). The real target should be teens and young adults, while throwing a bone theme wise to the 30+ population as often as needed for themes. You have to keep the full age range involved because they each help support things. Younger players ensure many years of playing, young adults (20-40) will be mopping up the $1k-$5k machines, 40+ will have the free cash to purchase the higher end machines.

Potential risk that could cause pinball to fade would be a) lack of exposure to the younger generation which will be hard to motivate them to work in the industry especially when compared to what’s out there in the job market with a similar set of skills and what they’d make. And b) price. The price of pinballs will be its undoing. think of the average cost of a new game and think of how long it will take as an investment on site for a operator, factor in time to repair and costs of parts and it’s not a wise investment especially with rising prices. Now ask yourself if the younger generation will want to spend $5000 – $9000 on a pinball machine and then factor in the rate of increased prices from manufacturers. Any kid these days growing up that doesn’t have nostalgia for the game will quickly figure out that money can be invested into other hobbies or into a house or towards their college tuition.

There’s Hope

Pinball can be saved from dying. Literally every game ever made can be saved and or restored if there is a good example of the needed item. Cabinets are documented and can be remade. Playfields can be scanned and new files generated on the computer to remake them. Unique parts (like ramps) can be remade with one good example being 3d scanned or molded from. The best part?! This can all be done at the hobby level if needed. The tools are out there, and they are affordable. An industrial base is needed in some sort for NIB machines, unless you like $10k+ runs of 25. But, the aftermarket hobby level support can keep these machines going as long as that support exists.

While there’s certainly less chance for public exposure to pinball at this point, something that’s different is that games are probably less likely to be destroyed when coming off of routes or when people get tired of owning them. That means more games in people’s homes. Really if collectors hold onto them and pass them off to other collectors, there’s no reason the current NIBs wouldn’t be around many years from now probably in roughly the same volume. The issue would be whether or not replacement parts are available to keep them up and running indefinitely.

There are quite a few expos around now, too, and I think kids end up going to those and liking them. I think the expo craze is pretty recent.

I find young kids of my family and friends interested in the pins when they see them at my house. If the generation of late 20’s/early 30’s who are just now at the point where they can afford pins end up passing the interest onto their kids, there’s a good chance people will be interested for a good while yet. I sure hope when I have a kid that I am able to get him or her interested.

I think what pinball has going against it is that the current late 20’s/early 30’s people are among the last to have memories of abundant public arcades. I think a lot of what drives the desire to own games is the nostalgia factor, well and that it’s just awesome! I fall into this group, but admittedly wasn’t into pinball as much as arcade games as a kid, so there’s hope for others to get into pinball later in life, too.



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