Pinball is probably one of the most universally loved games, appealing to young children and old alike. By reading this page and following the links provided, you’ll discover that pinball is still a very much alive market, whether it’s second-hand or sold new, in cardboard boxes.
- 1 Pinball machine: definition
- 2 The history of pinball
- 3 Buying guides and pinball tips
- 4 Pinball manufacturers
- 5 Mods & accessories
- 6 Pinball people
Pinball machine: definition
Pinball machines are designed for purely recreational use. It can be found in public places, as well as in private homes.
The principle of pinball is to influence the trajectory of a metal ball rolling on a wooden plate, by means of flippers. These flippers are activated by buttons on the sides of the machine. The ball hits elements on the playfield (bumpers, targets) or runs through loops and ramps.
The objective of a pinball game is twofold, and depends on the player’s ambitions:
- Achieve the highest number of points and enter your name (or initials) on the high score board
- Complete the pinball scenario, broken down into missions that must be successfully completed.
A pinball consists of :
- a wooden box containing the board and electromechanical components
- a vertical pediment whose function is decorative, but which also includes a screen, speakers and electronics.
- four feet on which the body rests
The history of pinball
Pinball, a bar and arcade game, has its origins in bagatelle, an 18th-century French amusement. It then took root in the United States, where it gradually took on the form we know today, notably by becoming electrified. Initially regarded as a game of chance, its history is linked to that of Prohibition and the Chicago underworld. This sulphurous image is still present in the memories of old-timers.
After the Second World War, pinball gradually conquered the bars and pubs of Europe. Technological evolution continued, with the addition of flippers, bumpers, digital screens and other elements that today make up a classic machine.
The 1990s saw the heyday of pinball, with the spread of arcades and game rooms. The 2000s almost saw it disappear, pushed out by home consoles. But the perseverance of some industry players paid off in the end. Since 2010, new pinball machine manufacturers have emerged, supported by nostalgic gamers willing to pay big bucks to revive their memories. They are bringing with them a new generation, attracted by more modern machine models and attractive licenses.
Buying guides and pinball tips
Pinball is a particularly attractive and fun game. But its price and the fact that it’s still very much a cottage industry mean that you need to be accompanied as you take your first steps. You may also need to know how to judge a model. Here’s a series of guides to help you make your pinball purchases.
Since the 2010s, the number of pinball manufacturers has grown steadily, and the range of pinball machines on offer has diversified. Although pinball remains a predominantly North American market, more and more manufacturers are springing up outside the USA, particularly in Europe.
Since 1999, Stern Pinball has been the most prolific pinball manufacturer, as well as the one selling the most machines. Its hegemony in terms of volumes is still solid. But it has found serious competitors in the field of originality and innovation, notably with Jersey Jack Pinball. The latter, for example, was the first to include LCD screens in the pediments, which were impressively large compared to the small Dot Matrix Display screens that had previously been the norm. More recently, manufacturers have been multiplying around the globe, as demand has outstripped supply, at least for the serious international players.
Mods & accessories
When you buy a pinball machine, it already seems packed with gadgets, ramps and lights. But there’s so much more you can do! Each pinball machine comes with complementary accessories sold by the manufacturers, as well as a potentially infinite number of mods, designed and sold by a very active community. These mods and pinball accessories make each machine unique, in the image of its owner.
The history of pinball has been shaped by the characters who have contributed to its success. Designers, manufacturers, distributors… Our passion owes much to these pinball personalities. Here is a gallery of portraits.