25 Year Old Pinball or Boxed Wine

Newer isn't always better.  

Increasingly I feel like that craggy old shotgun wielding archetype that Robin Williams would go to for laughs in his routines..  You know the one.  He's sitting on his front porch with a stained trucker hat with a dirty slogan.  A highball in an unironic "old fart" coffee cup sits on a folding table next to a rolled up newspaper and his rants about kids these days are hard to make out around the wad of chew in his mouth.   

New in Box Pinball isn't for me.   They just don't make them like they used to, etc etc.

Except for... I'm not even 40 yet, I don't like mouth and throat cancer, I happen to like loud music and I'm quite optimistic about where "kids these days" will lead our future society in terms of not being assholes to fellow humans and improving life through technology.

Except for pinball.   You see: "In my day we didn't need HD screens, instead w..."

On podcasts like Kaneda's pinball podcast there are recurring themes, paraphrased:

  • New Pinball is Best
  • Remakes are better than Originals
  • We need more collectible, exclusive pinball

Pinside posts with themes of "DMD is now VHS" and  "LCD games dethroning the DMD juggernauts" leave a narrative that the future of pinball is about media immersion, LCD screens, run by PCs and surface-mount modernized components.

I couldn't disagree more.

New Pinball is Best

New pinball is new.  The best pinball ever, is the new one just around the corner.  Until 4 months from now when the next-new one is shipping.  Somewhere in this cycle of FOMO-fueled madness, there probably is some good pinball.   You know how you'll find the best pinball experiences?  With time.  Over time, you'll discover the best pinball machines of the current release generations.   


Remakes are better than Originals

The remakes are cool.  Not necessarily better.   The remakes have bigger, color displays and modern components.  Modern components that are modeled in design off of disposable consumer electronics.  Surface-mount components and a closed, non-modular system are found on the remakes.  You loose customization and repairability and trade them for a miniaturized components.  Hopefully, they hold up over time because these remakes are being applied to some of the best pinball ever made.  That's a $9k, 20 year gamble.


We need more collectible, exclusive pinball   

Pfft.  Pinball as a collectible.  Seriously?  Pinball is meant to be played, not idolized.  It's a game to be enjoyed with friends, not a trophy to lord over your jealous peers.  $30k pinball machines to sit in some rich guy's trophy room does nothing to spread the love of the hobby.

For me, I'm watching for known-awesome Bally / Williams titles more than NIB pinball.

Some pondering that led me here, your mileage may vary:

  • Theme alone, can't save a pin but can sink it.
  • The Pinside Top 100 List is good but also skewed temporarily by new-pinball
  • Stern will keep the line running, no matter what. 
    • If you are holding a Stern title as a collectible, that probably isn't going to work out, long term
    • Expect re-runs of past titles to augment disappointing sales or delays on new release titles (ac/dc recently)
  • Stern will address quality issues but to an operator's-level of satisfaction. 
    • Check your collector quality OCD at the door.
    • Expect issues to be blamed on mods
    • Go through distributor to get repairs, even out of warranty
  • Stern's licenses often require protections that lead towards hostility towards game customization businesses. 
    • Alternate translite artists get take-down notices
  • SAM-games were over-built in a good way.  Electronics, playfield, clear coating, cabinet, welds and connector solder - all better in SAM titles.
  • SPIKE v2 isn't there, yet. But will get there.
  • JJP titles are well built in terms of cabinet and playfield but the electronics are less proven and may not age well.
    • how many 20 year old PCs do you have that are still working?
    • support is problematic
  • JJP Production tooling time is too high to release themed games on a schedule relevant to IP
    • Last POTC movie was released in Summer of 2017.  In Summer of 2018, you still can't own the POTC pin in your home.
  • CGC Remakes are good but different in important ways.
    • The electronics may not age well
    • They can't be customized
    • They emphasize bling over truth-to-the-original
  • Spooky Pinball's commissioned titles lack replay-ability and depth, they are missing that x-factor. 
    • TNA will end up being the Medieval Madness of this era of Pinball
    • Extra attention to the BOL tells me they have a keep eye on bottom line, don't expect lots of code updates long term 
      • Except for TNA - Danesi will continue to make it a great experience, on his own time and probably dime.
  • American Pinball is hopeful but still a gamble.  Houdini plays well but production ramp up is taking forever. Probably not sustainable.
  • Dutch Pinball - Expect them to fail.
  • Heighway Pinball - They are in the process of failing.
  • Deeproot Pinball - Too early to tell, expectations are currently low.

I recently found this stash of 25 year-old single-grain (yes, grain) Scotch rebottled by "That Boutique-y Whiskey Company".    It is tasty and more affordable than one might imagine.   You can drink Boxed wine or a 3 year old blended Whiskey.  They'll both go down.   Me?   I'm thinking quality of quantity.  You can have your new in box LCD pinball.  Keep selling those Bally-Williams titles to make room for the new Sterns.   They'll be making about 4 a year until the cows come home.   

You can stare at your $40k SUPREME pinball or your $15k Super-Limited Edition Re-themed Batman. I think I'll grab a $12 bottle of wine or $80 bottle of aged scotch and go play my players quality $5k AFM with a buddy.