Not long ago there was an announcement about a credit card company that was becoming involved with Jersey Jack Pinball. We don’t often have discussions on credit cards in what is still often referred to as the “coin-op” industry, although alternative forms of payment have been around for a while now. Paying for a game with a credit card is starting to happen in a couple of instances but it is still rare. Otherwise I will readily admit that I am not an expert on credit cards by any means.
Having followed the progress of Jersey Jack Pinball since they first announced their intentions to liven up the pinball market with some actual competition, one story that had me a little confused was this article about the ePlate by Dynamics Inc. That was my fault for not really studying the story as I browsed it instead of digesting it. Thus I went away thinking it was some unique way to pay for a game. Paying for some pinball by credit card would certainly be a new idea but that is not what it was about. The story came and went until ePlate was brought up again with the recent coverage of Pinball Expo 2013. Shortly after that I was contacted by Dynamics Inc. and I got a chance to find out what this was all about directly from their CEO Jeff Mullen.
One thing that becomes quickly apparent as to why a credit card company is doing anything with pinball is because Mr. Mullen has a real passion for it. In addition to picking up #138 of Jersey Jack’s Wizard of Oz Emerald City Pinball, he also owns Monster Bash and recently bought a Fish Tales for his brother. There is a “Pinball Alley” setup at the Dynamics Inc. offices, spreading the pinball love to the other employees there. He also collects vintage games, having recently sold a limited edition sealed-in-box MegaMan 1 for the NES for $5500 (something that his fianceé was questioning the wisdom of, until seeing the monetary value in that at least). He also discussed his efforts to draw that fianceé into pinball by visiting PAPA events like Pinburgh. I can understand that relationship “battle” if you will. My own wife doesn’t exactly share my love of video games and arcades but on occasion she has a little fun with it.
Jeff was very impressed with what Jersey Jack was offering to the world of pinball and wanted to get them involved with their own product, the ePlate. When he took his financé to that Pinburgh event, “she lit up when she played the Wizard of Oz. It was the type of pinball game that was opening up the pinball world to a more general audience than ever before.” Given the coverage we have given to WOZ over the years, I cannot disagree with him.
As mentioned, the ePlate card that Dynamics offers is not exactly for swiping on the machine to play. It is a credit card that offers rewards for “meaningful, passionate experiences as opposed to painful ones”. The example Jeff used was how most card companies out there promote their rewards with the generally unpleasant experience of commercial flying and being rewarded through miles. His experience is similar to what many of us face, where usually we want to get off the plane as quickly as possible as opposed to sticking around to enjoy the offered experience. Once again, I cannot dispute that having been on a few international flights before and not having great memories to share from those events.
The ePlate allows uses to choose their rewards by logging into their bank online and choosing which rewards they want to accumulate – something that can be changed from day to day if the user wants it. Jersey Jack Pinball is just one of 52 reward programs and they are adding new programs weekly. There are two “Experience” buttons on the card which you can press before swiping to choose the reward you want to accumulate. The card is battery powered and has LED lighting, helping make it the “cool card” for consumers to have as Jeff explained it. He even told a story about how they have received feedback that the cards were an excellent conversation starter and even led to blossoming personal relationships. I had heard that one about Pong before but not a credit card.
As for which rewards one can get, Dynamics has setup a webpage to get into the details of the percentage rewards as well as the prizes you can get if desired specifically for the Jersey Jack experiences. I’ll let that do the talking for the ePlate, percentages and rewards; suffice it to say you can get some cool WOZ pinball related items including signed translites. This will spill over to The Hobbit Pinball once that game is made available next year.
There is a little more to the relationship that Dynamics is creating with pinball, which is the unexpected part. At the Pinball Expo 2013, there was an announcement that Dynamics was working with Jersey Jack to create some new modes of play. This has been a little confusing and fortunately Jeff cleared it up for me. “It’s like DLC for the games. Imagine if you could take a Medieval Madness or a Monster Bash and add some additional modes to it. We believe that every fan should support the notion of supporting constantly updated platforms. I refuse to believe that people never want their games to be updated again.” This reminded me that there is support for such an idea already, such as the new code shown off for Bride of Pinbot. The difference here it seems, is the idea being floated for a much newer game. Jeff addressed that as well: “The concern from the pinball community about our idea has been that the final version of code [for WOZ] hasn’t been released yet. Who’s to say that these modes wouldn’t have been developed at some point down the road? That begs the real question, do you want the extra modes or not? Just because the “final code” hasn’t been released yet does it mean that the people who paid is getting a diluted version. That’s simply not the case.”
He wasn’t able to get into details about what the modes might entail yet but it sounds like something to keep an eye out for down the road. The entire coin-op industry is still slow to embrace the idea of DLC but that’s mostly because its been very slow at fully embracing the opportunities and features the internet offers. After seeing mods of games like Sega’s OutRun 2SP, I would think that DLC even this far down the road would still be welcome in many circles.
As such it sounds like such rewards programs could also be offered for other video game companies, whether they are involved in the arcade industry or not but we will have to wait and see what happens there.
My thanks to Jeff Mullen and Adrian Sexton at Dynamics Inc. for the chat and the info!