REVIEW OF THE YEAR

Story dated 23rd December, 2000

Welcome to this, the very first Pinball News Review of the Year - a look back at the events of the last 12 months. At the end of this page you can share your thoughts about the past year of pinball with fellow readers.

2000 has been an exciting year for the world of pinball, following the depressing news of Williams' withdrawal from pinball manufacturing which so marred the end of 1999. From the ashes of William's rose several new companies hoping to rebuild the pinball market, while diversifying into new areas.

First up was Pat Lawlor Design. The ubiquitous game designer was joined by Louis Koziarz and John Krutsch in setting up the new company, with the aim of designing games for the coin-op amusement industry.

Secondly, Illinois Pinball Inc was formed by collector and enthusiast Gene Cunningham. He announced the company's intention to produce games using the former Capcom technology he had previously bought.

Third, Roger Sharpe the former Licensing and Marketing Director at William's, created Sharpe Communications. His company offers licensing, promotion, public relations and advertising skills to the coin-op industry.

All three companies are based in, or around, Chicago.


Meanwhile, the one company still manufacturing pinball games showed what it was made of, when it showed off a couple of new machines of its own design.

Last year Stern Pinball had produced first South Park and then Harley Davidson after the buyout from Sega. South Park in particular was exceptionally popular, requiring a second production run to satisfy demand.

This year, though, Stern had to start producing games meeting Gary Stern's criteria of simpler, more fun mechanical-action pinball. Their first game - Striker Xtreme - was premiered at ATEI London in January. Designed to appeal to the European market in particular, the game was a little clunky in play, though it felt very solid and was a good start. The second game - Sharkey's Shootout - was a great improvement, with a much smoother gameplay and attractive look. Sharkey's clearly benefited from the injection of some former William's talent.

Sharkey's should build up interest in Stern's next game. Many pinball enthusiasts were so shell-shocked by the William's announcement that they've not yet appreciated the offerings Stern has produced. 2001 should be the year that gives Stern the attention they deserve starting with High Roller Casino - their next game - to be unveiled at ATEI in January 2001.

Along with the new games, Stern has also found time to produce their own web site. With good content and links, along with an extensive ROM library, it has to be considered an invaluable resource.


The rumour mill has been grinding away at top speed this year mainly due to the lack of hard information. The main target has been Gene Cunningham and Illinois Pin Ball Inc (note the two worded spelling) and their purchase of various ex-Williams' assets.

It has been suggested that IPB had bought the rights to manufacture new William's games, to use the Bally name, and the two Pinball 2000 uncompleted games Wizard Blocks & Playboy.

It seems that none of these were true. So far, IPB appears to have bought the rights to manufacture parts for spares use only - not for inclusion in new games. He has also bought the remaining inventory of spares from William's, and is looking at buying some of the spares left at the manufacturers.

Nothing has been heard about the manufacture of new games by IPB. Gene was showing three games called Pool Player at the AMOA trade show in September, but these were rebadged Breakshot games and proved not altogether reliable. A flyer for the game was released, but since then IPB has been tied up with the spares issues.


2000 has also seen the departure of two famous names from the industry. Following on from the mass layoffs from William's, this year saw Jon Norris leave Stern after the imposition of a workplace smoking policy. Jon as an asthma suffer found the situation untenable and left.

Then in December, industry patriarch Steve Kordek retired after 63 years in pinball. He had been working on archiving the pinball-related material at William's since the closure.


Finally, 2000 saw the launch of this web site. In April, Pinball News began with the aim of bring you the latest news in a clear and concise manner.

Since then the reaction has been overwhelming, and a huge thanks goes out to our readers and to the many people who have contributed articles, reviews, pictures and ideas to make this first year of Pinball News such a great success.


Now, here's your chance to comment on the past year in pinball. What do you think have been the highs and lows, who will be most missed and what hopes do you have for 2001?

Let us know by either email to review@pinballnews.com or click here to go to our direct response page.

You can read the comments sent in by readers here.

In the meantime, Pinball News wishes you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2001.

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