Pinball manufacturers

Historically, pinball machines were manufactured in or around Chicago. Proximity to the underworld, which ran speakeasies, was a matter of survival for this sulphurous pastime, which at the time was akin to a game of chance. Even today, the most important manufacturers are headquartered in Illinois and neighbouring states. The history of pinball can be divided into four periods:

  • The era of mechanical and electromechanical pinball machines (1930-1980), when Bally, Williams and Gottlieb formed the leading trio.
  • The electromechanical pinball era (1980-1999), the golden age when Williams bought out Bally to become the undisputed leader
  • The 2000s, during which only Stern Pinball continued to do business worthy of the name
  • The 2010s to the present day, with the emergence of new manufacturers, building on the ever-growing market base that Stern Pinball had maintained.

Manufacturers past and present, we try to give them all a place.

In 1999, Gary Stern bought Sega Pinball to create Stern Pinball. He gathered around him the best talents from Bally/Williams in particular. During the 2000s, Stern Pinball was the only manufacturer still in business, and developed a range logic, offering its pinball machines in Pro, Premium and Limited Edition versions. In the 2010s, Stern Pinball faces new competition, which forces it to modernize by replacing Dot Matrix Display screens with LCD screens. In the 2020s, the manufacturer launched its Stern Insider Connected solution, allowing users to keep track of their scores online, take part in tournaments and earn achievements… Stern Pinball machines are most often based on mass-market licenses, or those that appeal to nostalgic fans of the 80s and 90s.

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The Bally brand first appeared in Chicago in 1932, and enjoyed immediate success with its Ballyhoo mechanical pinball machine. The manufacturer was also the inventor of the bumper, now an integral part of pinball. Bally remained a major player in pinball until the transition to electronic pinball machines.

The Williams company was founded in 1943, also in Chicago, by engineer Harry Williams. He invented the flipper and the tilt bob. In 1988, Bally’s pinball division was acquired by Williams. The merger gave birth to the world’s largest manufacturer of pinball machines, Bally/Williams, which remained market leader until parent company WMS Industries discontinued the business in 1999. The latter refocused on slot machines.

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Jersey Jack Pinball

Jersey Jack Pinball was created in 2011 by Jack Garnieri. From the outset, JJP stood out for its toy-rich, LED-rich playfields and in-depth game rules. He challenged the leader Stern Pinball with a major innovation, installing large-format LCD screens on the pediments. Jersey Jack Pinball is now considered the world’s second-largest manufacturer, and is gaining ground with increasingly prestigious licenses.

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American Pinball

American Pinball, a manufacturer founded in 2016, is characterized by its pinball machines with unlicensed, often offbeat themes.

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Spooky Pinball

Spooky Pinball, founded by Charlie Emery and his family in 2010, is a serious outsider. As the manufacturer’s name suggests, the themes of their pinball machines are horrific or offbeat, and the quality of the machines has no reason to be ashamed of the competition.

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Chicago Gaming Company

Chicago Gaming, founded in 2001, specializes in remakes of mythical pinball machines from the 90s. Their latest pinball machine, Pulp Fiction, released in 2023, is an exception to the rule.

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European pinball manufacturers

In Europe, Pinball Brothers is the largest pinball manufacturer, even though it was only established in 2018. Dutch Pinball, founded in 2010, has so far released just one machine, but what a machine it is! Other promising players are emerging. These European pinball manufacturers are changing the center of gravity of the pinball world, bringing it closer to the Old Continent.

Small pinball manufacturers

Haggis is a recent Australian player who is finding his niche producing remakes of old-school 80s pinball machines. Multimorphic, for its part, innovates with a modular pinball machine, whose components can be swapped to change the theme. But there’s more!