Changes come to Stern Pinball as a new investor develops a new plan for the company

Shaggy December 3, 2009 7

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.

[Via Pinball News] [Discuss on the forums]


  1. igo December 4, 2009 at 12:26 am - Reply

    I guess that stern’s youtube channel is not active yet. I just did a quick search on youtube for it and couldn’t find anything.

  2. editor December 4, 2009 at 12:39 am - Reply
  3. igo December 4, 2009 at 4:37 am - Reply

    Thanks. It’s great for stern to do this and get some free advertising.

  4. BDD December 6, 2009 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    The idea of bumpers changing colors when hit is a good one. Why they haven’t thought of that one before is beyond me.

    • Shaggy December 8, 2009 at 2:52 am - Reply

      Thanks. I am surprised that they haven’t used LEDs more extensively as well – they are cheap, use little power and I have seen some videos online of some very interesting things that can be done with LEDs that could easily be adapted to pinball to make the game not just more colorful but to advance what you can do throughout.

      I would also like to see some experimentation with different kinds of flippers, maybe some controlled by a foot pedal that would be separate from the primary flipper; dual player pins where more than one person could play at the same time and more but I would probably have to become a professional pinball designer myself to see pinball go in that direction. 🙂

  5. Beth (Pin Chick) February 13, 2010 at 5:40 am - Reply

    I’m glad you mentioned the antiquated dot matrix displays. I wish they would just get rid of them already! I’d rather they weren’t even there at all on the newer games. Often times their little clips are just too long and/or distracting. I didn’t plunk down my $1 in quarters to stare at a mono-chromatic screen reminiscent of my first PC monitor. Their time has passed.
    LCD’s – great! Color-changing LED’s – fabulous!
    And that foot-pedal idea – whoa!
    Hopefully the folks at Stern read your stuff!

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