Date: 30th January 2011, updated 19th February
Since news of Jack Guarnieri's new pinball manufacturing company Jersey Jack Pinball broke at the start of January, there has been a series of announcements about who has joined the company to work on their first product - The Wizard of Oz - and future game designs.
Joe Balcer was the first to be announced, since when Jerry Vandersteldt, Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres have all been added to the team.
With the playfield design and artwork for the playfield, cabinet and backglass all accounted for, the two remaining questions have concerned what goes on inside the backbox. Who would be programming the game, and which platform are they going to be using?
While we'll have to wait a little longer for details of the hardware, Jersey Jack Pinball today announced Keith Johnson will be the programmer.
Keith is, of course, well known in the pinball business, creating the rulesets for such classics as The Lord Of The Rings and The Simpsons Pinball Party - generally regarded as the two games with the deepest rules and the best use of the licence. He worked at Stern until October 2008, having transferred there when Williams closed their pinball division at the end of 1999. Keith said: "I'm excited to return to pinball with the Jersey Jack team and to be a part of the next chapter in pinball entertainment."
Commenting on Keith's addition to the team, Jack said; "Keith is an amazing talent with a passion for creating great games that are loved by millions of people. I'm proud to welcome him to our growing company. I love Keith's work and I have several of his games in my collection. It is so exciting for all of us and for me personally to make this all happen. It's really a lot of fun!"
Meanwhile, Dennis Nordman, who worked with Keith on Stern's Wheel of Fortune game went on to say; "Jack is assembling a team with some big firepower. This is very exciting!"
Keith was introduced to the rest of the design team at a special weekend summit which began with a meal at a local steakhouse in Rosemont, Illinois.
During the summit they selected the hardware platform and operating system to use in their games. Details of those will be released shortly and naturally you'll be able to find out what they have chosen right here at Pinball News..
Yet another well-known pinball name has joined the Jersey Jack team, this time to work on the game's music and sounds.
Chris Granner worked in the pinball industry for 22 years, starting with Road Kings for Williams in 1986. He teamed up with Pat Lawlor on all his best selling games such as Funhouse, The Addams Family and Twilight Zone.
After a brief stint at Capcom where he created the music for Pinball Magic and the unreleased Kingpin, he rejoined Pat to produce the games Monopoly and Rollercoaster Tycoon for Stern.
Following work on The Lord of the Rings and Elvis amongst others, he bowed out of pinball with Shrek in 2008.
Now he's back and working on Jersey Jack Pinball's upcoming The Wizard of Oz.
Talking about joining Jersey Jack Pinball, Chris said, "I can't even tell you how excited I am to be a part of this team! When I heard that Joe, then Jerry and then Dennis and Greg were involved, I was pretty impressed...when I heard it was going to be The Wizard of Oz, I was really impressed...and when I heard Keith Johnson would be programming, and what kind of a game was to be made, I thought, this is what I've been waiting for! A fabulous team, a Triple A license, a can-do, 'rebel base' mentality -- sign me up!"
He continued, "There are SO many great songs and themes, and the characters are so vibrant. It's really amazing how this story has become part of our cultural backdrop, especially in recent years, having a new way to look at wicked witches. This is going to be a VERY special game, I'm very grateful to be a part of it, and I can't wait to get started!"
Head of Jersey Jack Pinball, Jack Guarnieri said, "Chris has been out of Pinball for over five years and this was a great opportunity to grab this brilliant talent and add him to our team. I am thrilled."
The news comes as the deadline for the next pre-order payment approaches on 13th March, 2011. Those who put down the initial $250 deposit will then have to decide whether to proceed and pay a further $1,000 to secure one of the1,000 Emerald City Limited Edition games.
Jack has said over 300 potential purchasers have paid the $250 deposit, which is fully refundable if they decide not to complete the pre-order purchase.
Jack said, "This is a very exciting time for me and for all of us. I can tell you that our team is working very hard with a lot of passion and dedication to create what we believe to be the very best game we can make."