- 1 Chicago Gaming Company, pinball machine manufacturer since 2003
Chicago Gaming Company, pinball machine manufacturer since 2003
Manufacturer since 2003? But didn’t we say that Stern Pinball single-handedly ruled the 2000s, and was responsible for all the new pinball machines of the period? Every single one… Except one! And we’re going to talk about it, along with the history of Chicago Gaming Company.
Doug Duba was originally a subcontractor for Stern, manufacturer of pinball boxes and playfields. Doug takes his company, Churchill Cabinet Company, from his father Roger, who bought it in the 1970s. It’s an old institution, having been founded in 1904.
In 2001, Doug took the plunge and set up a new company, Chicago Gaming Company, which to this day shares premises with Churchill Cabinet Company. Needless to say, the company is headquartered in Chicago, as are (almost) all American pinball manufacturers.
How do you get out a pinball machine without offending your manufacturing customers?
For an entrepreneur, taking on a business that competes directly with his customers is a risky gamble. The man takes the risk, selling his first pinball machine only to individuals. He therefore withdrew the coin slot.
In December 2013, CGC released its pinball machine Vacation America. Despite illustrations by Paul Faris, to whom we owe some thirty pinball machine atworks between the 1970s and 1990s, the machine didn’t make much of an impression. Only 530 units were produced, and today’s reviews on pinside or the internet pinball database are few and far between. The price at the time also shows that this is no rarity.
This is Chicago Gaming’s only “non-remake” experience until 2023, and you’ll have to wait over ten years to see them produce a new model. So much for the only non-Stern pinball machine during the 2000s.
Remakes are all about safety!
Apparently, Gary Stern doesn’t hold grudges, since his company, CGC, and Planetary Pinball Supply (a manufacturer of parts for Williams and Bally machines) have signed an agreement for the three of them to produce reissues of legendary machines from the Bally/Williams era. Each of them has the know-how on a part of the parts.
And here, the 3 partners are going for some very heavy stuff: Medieval Madness to start with, then Attack From Mars and finally Monster Bash. The licenses are still owned by Williams Electronic Games (which now only makes slot machines), and Chicago Gaming provides technical support.
Under the hood, the components are not the same. But having played both the old and new Monster Bash, you’d have to be something other than a Low Score Pinball Wizard to notice differences in gameplay feel.
With Stern’s practices having been emulated, each of these hits is produced in several versions, as you’ll find below.
The latest remake is Cactus Canyon, announced in 2021. This pinball machine is known for its code, which was originally never finished. Chicago Gaming Company announced on release that the missing piece of scenario would be added via paid content. The manufacturer is having trouble delivering the machines. What’s more, Lyman Sheats, who was working on the code update, dies in early 2022.
Pulp Fiction, the anomaly
In 2023, CGC teamed up with Play Mechanix (manufacturer of arcade terminals) to bring out the Pulp Fiction pinball machine, which is absolutely not a remake but an original creation. CGC brought its expertise to the deal, and is responsible for both production and marketing.
Is this a change of strategy or an opportunistic decision? Time will tell. In any case, it seems that Chicago Gaming still has no desire to recruit designers to come up with its own machines, since in the case of Pulp Fiction, the design is the work of Mark Ritchie at Play Mechanix.
Pinball machines produced by Chicago Gaming Company
- Vacation America : 12/2003
- Medieval Madness Remake : Limited Edition: 03/2015 – Standard Edition: 2016
- Attack From Mars Remake: Special Edition: 06/2017 – Limited Edition: 07/2017
- Monster Bash Remake Classic, Limited and Special Editions: 11/2018
- Cactus Canyon Remake Limited Edition, Special Edition, Special Edition plus: August 2021
- Pulp Fiction Limited Edition, Special Edition, Special Edition [DBV Ready]: March 2023