Future reissues of Stern pinball machines

Stern Pinball has made a habit of launching new production salvos on pinball machines that have been on the market for a few years. For example, in autumn 2023, the Elvira’s House of Horrors (2019) and Jurassic Park (2019) tables were treated to some very nice new editions. The Netflix Stranger Things (2019) table, meanwhile, has been given a new run with an almost identical machine.

Is it possible to predict future Stern reissues? Our friend Zex, who loves challenges of all kinds, lends himself to the exercise.

Licensing: the key to analysis

When a pinball machine manufacturer negotiates the rights to a franchise, there are a whole series of limitations. For example, having the rights to a film does not necessarily mean having the rights to the image of all the actors. Hence the “non-resembling” faces we occasionally saw on 90s pinball machines, or the total absence of characters on artworks. A case in point: Pinball Brothers’ Alien pinball machine, which until very recently had no visuals of Sigourney Weaver.

Flipper Alien - Pinball Brothers
Alien Pinball Brothers

It can also be temporal. The license must be exploited over a given period. In the case of Stern, Zex estimates that licenses are contracted for 10 years, or 5 years (with renewal option? To be seen). It’s probably no coincidence that the last three Stern reissues announced for 2023 originally date from 2019. Stern has given itself a year to produce and sell the new pinball machines before the 5-year anniversary date.

Moreover, to date, there have been no re-runs more than 10 years after initial release.

License anniversary dates

There’s another parameter that affects reissues or new editions. More precisely, it’s a pretext: anniversary dates! It’s easy: they occur every ten years, or even every 5 years if you’re not too fussy.

If you cross-reference the expiry date of franchises (5 or 10 years) with anniversary dates, the prediction has a solid basis. Of course, the pinball machine also needs to have had some success in its first years on the market.

Upcoming Stern Pinball re-runs

Let’s start with a little fortune-telling, but at least you know how we’ll draw cards:

  • TMNT (2020) will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2024
  • Deadpool (2018) could be re-released in 2026 for the 10th anniversary of the first film or the character’s 35th birthday
  • Iron Maiden (2018) turns 50 in 2025
  • Batman 66 (2016) could be re-released in 2026 for those over 60 after 1966
Flipper Deadpool Premium - Stern Pinball

Re-run Star Wars and Ghostbusters pinball machines?

For these two games, prediction meets headwinds. Star Wars pinball machine (2017)… Well, pinball simply isn’t one of the best machines of its generation. The license is the most powerful imaginable, but will it be enough?

For the Ghostbusters game (2016), the reason is more… Creepy. The table’s designer is John Trudeau, an authority in the world of pinball, whose creations include Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Flintstones, TX-Sector… Except that in 2018, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison for pedophilia.

Given the importance of the designer in the promotional communication of Stern and manufacturers in general, it seems delicate to reissue a machine forever associated with a criminal. Disassociating the man from his work could be an argument in favor of a re-run, but American companies have learned not to risk a bad buzz on this kind of subject.

What can we expect for these 2 machines? The best thing for Stern would be to redesign the machines:

  • Improve the Star Wars pinball machine’s playfield to convince those disappointed by the first version.
  • As for the Ghostbusters pinball, distract the attention with an alternative artwork by Zombie Yeti, the artist behind the visuals. Communication would then focus on a “vault” edition, where the game doesn’t change but the look does. Add to this a few additional cosmetic aspects, such as side armors, and you’ve got a game that’s sure to please. Cynical perhaps, but likely.
Flippers Ghostbusters - Pro - Premium - Limited Edition - Stern Pinball

Changing the design of a playfield means reinvesting in design. We could then expect higher volumes than a classic reissue, to amortize the investment.

Zex forecasts: a medium for debate

We at Pinball Mag. love Zex’s theories. They’re well-argued, presented with a margin of error and humility, and allow for dispassionate debate. And since we love debates, that’s a good thing! Whether you agree with these hypotheses or not, we’d be delighted to discuss them with you.

Collector of friends who have pinball collections.

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