News and Tribune

Community News Network

January 11, 2013

Slate: Can this man save pinball?

LAKEWOOD, N.J. — The last guys who tried to save pinball bet all their quarters on a bunch of 3-D aliens. With sales of new machines dwindling in the late 1990s, the top execs at Williams, the company that controlled 80 percent of the worldwide market, called on their designers to reinvent the game. They emerged with an arcade centaur — the head of a video game on the body of a pinball machine — in which pixilated, holographic-looking Martians marauded among the mechanical gewgaws. Pinball 2000 was a technological marvel. It also nearly killed pinball forever.

In October 1999, not long after Williams introduced Pinball 2000 in a promotional video featuring clips of the moon landing and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the company shuttered its pinball division. As the excellent documentary "Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball" explains, Revenge From Mars, the initial Pinball 2000 title, sold well, but a Star Wars Episode I-themed follow-up got less traction with the Jar Jar-hating masses. Rather than prop up its declining pinball operation, Williams chose to focus on a more promising line of business: slot machines.

Thirteen years after this failed holographic experiment, pinball is just barely alive. A single company, Stern Pinball, holds a virtual monopoly on new equipment. What was once a quintessential American pastime has been exiled from its natural habitats — bars, diners, and even arcades.

For Jack Guarnieri, pinball's decline brought on an existential crisis. Guarnieri has held most every job that has to do with flippers: repairman, game operator, reseller, inventor. With his livelihood and life's passion in peril, he figured there was only one thing to do: Create history's greatest pinball machine, one that would introduce a new generation to the pleasures of a well-struck ramp shot. Three-dimensional aliens couldn't save pinball. Can a small-business man in New Jersey?

1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
LOCAL MAGAZINES
Easter 2014 photos


Click on any photo to purchase it.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.