We all know that Stern Pinball is the only manufacturer of new pinball games on the market but a question for everyone for sometime now is where is the company headed? To be honest, it felt like they would just keep on doing the same thing that they have been doing, creating about four games a year based upon movie licenses. But that might change, thanks to a new investor coming into the company who is focusing on turning things in a new direction. Part of that includes developing a new business plan and making changes to the way that they market their products. The first step in that direction includes a new Youtube channel showcasing their latest products and we will have to wait and see what else they will be doing to get the word out.
On top of that they are looking for customer feedback on how to improve the products. As not only a pinball player but an arcade operator, I have a few ideas about what pinball could do better that I have mentioned on this site before. First would be to no longer release games with shoddy software – that was a problem with Batman and a few others and while the problem seemed to have been taken care of fairly quickly, it can leave a bad impression for players while operators wait. Another example of where the software could have been better is Indiana Jones. Seeing how they licensed the name, I have been baffled as to why they never properly updated the Crystal Skull portion of the game with real clips from the movie which has been available for some time now on DVD/Blu-Ray. Even before it was they should have been able to get some clips that weren’t 2 second affairs from the trailer or give operators an update that makes that part of the game a little more exciting like the other scenarios.
But on top of that I also think that it’s far beyond time to ditch the orange dot matrix displays. In an age of HD movies, television and video games, monochromatic displays are ancient technology and small LCD screens could be used for cheap, thus providing a better presentation not just for the person playing the game but for those watching it.
Also we are in an age of internet gaming and while some past pinball efforts have allowed for networking games together in one location or allowing an online high score table, this is something that should be standard in today’s pinball games. I would think that if you could network two games together that it would entice collectors and operators to buy more than one game as long as they could afford it.
As for the game itself it could always use new kinds of targets to hit, from kinds that offer different force feedback than what you get with the circular bumpers to kinds that change color depending on how many times they are hit (which should be easily doable with LED’s and translucent plastic).
Even though pinball is decades old, there is still plenty we could get out of it so hopefully we will start seeing that happen in 2010. While I would like to see them do a few original games (i.e. not using movie/TV/game licenses) I do admit that I would love to see a TRON Legacy pin at the end of next year.