This article contains the original interviews with Ron and Neil – enjoy!
Ron Richards – Co-founder & CEO – Scorbit
Hi Ron, nice to virtually meet you, in a few sentences can you please introduce yourself for our readers?
Hi BenJ! Nice to virtually meet you as well. My name is Ron Richards and I’m one of the co-founders of Scorbit.
Scorbit is a platform for connected pinball. We do that via an app where you can keep track of your scores, stay in touch with friends who like pinball, compete in challenges and earn achievements from playing pinball.
We also created a hardware device that can go inside a pinball machine and connect it to our platform, so you can automatically save scores and unlock all sorts of data and access to the machine. Scorbit hardware works on any machine from Solid States of the late 70s/early 80s, to DMDs of the 90s all the way up to the modern machines coming out today.
We hope we’re helping bring pinball to the 21st century!
Are you more a pinball player or a collector?
I’m definitely more of a player than a collector, but that’s only because I’ve been limited by space. When I got into pinball I lived in a small apartment in San Francisco, CA.
Then I moved to a small apartment in NYC and both were limited on space for machines.
But I recently moved to a house with some more space and finally got a couple of machines and have a new one on order!
Are you a competitive player?
I try to be when I can. When I first got into pinball, about 10 years ago, I was one of the founding members of the San Francisco Pinball Department, one of the best leagues in the world.
Then I moved to NYC and played in the weekly league at Sunshine Laundromat in Brooklyn. I’ve played at a few Pinburgh’s (the highest I ever placed was the B Division) and have played in my share of tournaments. My competition days have been less though recently due to the pandemic, as well as having kids which keeps me at home. But I look forward to getting out and competing more soon!
Do you have a gameroom at home? If yes, which machines do you own? (arcades, pinballs…)
I finally do! As mentioned above, I recently moved to a house where I had room for some pinball machines and got a Guns N’ Roses (Data East) and Raven (Gottlieb), two of my favorite machines of all time. I also recently put in an order for a Cactus Canyon Remake, another one of my favorite machines ever that I never thought I could afford, so the prospect of the remake is exciting! Can’t wait to get it next year.
My partners in Scorbit, Jay Adelson and Brian O’Neill, have many more games than I do and I’m very jealous of them. Someday I’ll catch up!
Scorbit has been in the works for a few years now, can you please tell us more about the process that led you to create the platform, and a company to sell this amazing solution?
It’s been almost seven years since we started working on Scorbit. Originally a passion project, it eventually picked up momentum and has become a business that keeps us all very busy.
Myself and my co-founders all come from creating and scaling large Internet and media companies, so every step has been carefully considered, particularly in areas of scale. You could think of Scorbit being two areas of focus: The Scorbit platform, which has to look, behave and scale like any massively available Software as a Service company; and The Scorbit hardware, which somehow has to be engineered to work with machines over a 40-year span.
These are each worthy challenges for a company on their own, let alone combined, so to say this has been a long and creatively challenging road for us is an understatement!
If you can share with us, how many users of your platform do you have today?
For a bunch of reasons, we can’t share specific numbers but I can share with you that thousands of users have been posting hundreds of thousands of scores since we launched last year.
We’re growing at a really solid and steady pace.
How are you creating awareness on your platform? in one of the interview I saw online, you were talking about IFPA tournaments, are you continuing to sponsors those events? and do you have plan to eventually be present at some events in Europe?
We’re a small company and pretty much focus on word-of-mouth. If players love the experience, they challenge their friends and share their results with others. We are a very proud sponsor of the IFPA, as well as the tournament community, including integrations with tournament software such as MatchPlay and DTM.
We all play in tournaments as well. We absolutely want to make a presence at European tournaments, and plan to do so as the pandemic subsides and travel is a little easier again.
Outside of Neil in the UK with Domino Arcard, that I am also inteviewing for this article, I don’t know many places where we could find your products in Europe, do you know some cool places where we could have a Scorbit experience ?
We’ll be happy to provide some examples for you, let get back to you with a list of locations…
I know, it’s not exactly the same market you are adressing (as yours is broader) – but what do you think of the entry of Stern in this “pinball connected market” with Stern Insider ?
We’re super excited and impressed with Stern’s Insider Connected platform. We think Stern is responding creatively to changes we’ve all witnessed in how players interact with each other on a global basis.
We’ve enjoyed trying their new service along with the fun new ways to interact with their games. We look forward to seeing more from them as they roll out!
We’re all Stern fans, so our door remains open to them to collaborate and we will continue to work with Stern if they decide to participate with our open network.
What are your plans for the future of Scorbit, if you can give us some exciting news 😉 ?
We have a lot of really cool stuff coming! You can expect to see more game support from more manufacturers, expansion of our achievements platform to work with DMDs and Solid States.
We’re really excited to show the world what we’ve been working on for our new payments platform, as well as a whole long list of new operator features in the coming months.
Most of all, I think you can expect to see more people playing pinball than ever in history and sharing and enjoying pinball with their friends via Scorbit!
Thanks for all these detailed answers Ron, and I look forward to meet you in person in the near future, in one of the convention I will try to attend in the USA.
Neil J McRae, owner of Domino Arcade and founding member at Flip Out London Pinball Club
Hi Neil, nice to virually meet you, in a few sentences can you please introduce yourself for our readers?
Hey I’m Neil McRae I work in technology and in Internet, security and Telecommunications in the UK and I’ve been playing pinball on and off since 1990!
Are you more a pinball player or a collector ?
I’m kind of both and to some extent an operator. At home I have an arcade room with 20 pinball machines from Stern Meteor to the latest just delivered Godzilla!
I also go to various events around the UK and around the world.
I’m also a founder of Flip Out London Pinball Club which is a co-op pinball club that I run with some other friends, we have 60 games (flipoutlondon.com). I run tournaments also.
Are you a competitive player ?
I am but I’m not a top player. I like to try and play in competitions and my goal is to play as best as I can. I love being at competitions and have been to Pinburgh, INDISC, D82, NYCPC, TPF and Flip Out at Pinball Expo.
Domino Arcade looks amazing, did you create this place on your own ?
Yes, long story but I was into pinball when I was a teenager but stopped playing as I was working on a start-up company in the 90’s and we pretty much did nothing except work!
I got back into pinball when I was at a work event in 2016 where they had arcade machines and pinball machines. And after playing a few games of pinball I’d bought one of eBay before I’d got home! Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve got more games than space so I decided to build a dedicated arcade room at my house. It currently has 21 pinball machines in it!
Our article is about Scorbit which has been in the work for a few years now, can you please tell us more about how you are using it and what it brings to your arcade and the tournaments you are organizing ?
I mentioned that I work on the Internet and I love to get things connected to the Internet. I often thought about how pinball could interact with the Internet, at INDISC 2020 they were using Scorbit to help collect scores for the tournament and to display them on stream. I was very impressed by this and started to follow what the Scorbit guys were doing. Later that year they launched and I ordered a few of their Scorbitron’s to test on my games.
The Scorbitron is a small device that connects to your pinball machine, either through the DMD, through the Score displays, or via the USB port to the Internet via Wifi. The first games I connected were Walking Dead, Star Trek, Meteor and Iron Maiden and I was very impressed on how it worked.
You use the Scorbit app to tell the system who you are and as you play it updates your score and when you finish your game you can save or share your high score. Scorbit also has Scorbitvision which allows you to create fantastic scoreboards for real-time scoring or leader boards for high scores.
Scorbitvision is incredibly powerful and you can set it up in many ways, for example have your own family leaderboard, or a leader board for your pinball buddies or even a leaderboard that covers everyone playing a game across the world.
I’ve since put Scorbit on all my games they currently support and Scorbit support more and more games every week. One of the recent highlights that Scorbit have released is a collaboration with JJP. All JJP games support Scorbit and they have added Achievements – which is a fantastic new addition to the platform.
First Scorbit have enabled ANY JJP game to be scorbit enabled. So GNR just needs to be connected to wifi and you can run Scorbit! With older JJP games such as Dialed in, you buy a small WiFi USB dongle and update the code and you are online.
I recently put my own Dialed In online via Scorbit and its added a huge number of achievements that you collect through the game adding another awesome dimension to pinball!
My key use case for Scorbit though was to run tournaments more easier and we used Scorbit to run the UKPInfest Tournament here in the UK and it made the tournament much easier to run using Karl DeAngelo’s DTM tournament software. Matchplay is also testing a new version that will have Scorbit support which I’m testing and it looks excellent.
You can see my live scores for Domino Arcade here: https://sv.scorbit.io/viewer/comboboards/181
In my arcade I have two screens that display live scores and high scores and it makes it easy for all players to see who’s winning in the various tournament games. For the 40 games that I have connected to Scorbit it costs me around $191 a year, so less than $5 for a huge amount of functionality. The Scorbitrons cost around $299 but there are discounts if you buy a few.
Outside Domino Arcard in the UK, do you know other places accross Europe that are also using Scorbit ?
I’ve seen a few of the European pinball streamers using Scorbit and many folks using it on JJP games and there are quite a few Brits with it at home.
With the global pandemic though many places have been closed but there are many places in the US with Scorbit and I expect more will get connected. Scorbit is great for your local pinball community.
My last question, what do you think of the entry of Stern in this “pinball connected market” with Stern Insider and were you able to test it, and how do you thinki it compares to Scorbit ?
Yes I’ve used insider and it’s also a good system. My impression is Stern are using this to create their own Stern Insider pinball community which is fantastic. But as we know, pinball spans many communities and eras from EM’s to SS to DMD to LCD and I believe strongly that it’s important that we have a platform that allows as many games as possible to participate, especially when running tournaments.
Scorbit supports Stern games from the 1980’s right up to The Mandalorian but I’d love to see Stern work more closely with Scorbit to enable more of the functionality that we see from JJP and others.
Nobody is buying a pinball machine because of its online capabilities so as a differentiator in selling games it’s pretty limited and in that scenario it makes little sense to not work together on an open platform like Scorbit especially for tournaments. Also as noted running an online platform is not an easy task.
The Scorbit team have a very long history in running Internet platforms and are legends in this space, they understand what it takes to scale and build secure hyperscale architected infrastructure.
I think any pinball manufacturer will struggle to run a platform like this over time as it’s a serious commitment, you have to take care of security laws, privacy and ensuring that the platform scales which is harder than most people realise.
I think it’s possible for Stern to run their own community AND work with Scorbit even more to make it easier for us running events and tournaments and I really hope they work together as I can see them complimenting each other hugely.
George Gomez who is a really inspiring name in pinball once made me realise that pinball is all about the ball and the flippers and getting that right is the single most important thing in pinball and Stern are doing a great job on that but I worry that perhaps the stretch too far in trying to run an online platform and as I noted above, not a single pinball machine purchase will be made because of what it does online.
Thanks Neil for your feedback on Scorbit and letting us know more about you. Hope to have a chance to meet you in person and discover your amazing Domino Arcade place or the Flip Out London Pinball Club in the UK.