Story dated 28th December, 2001
to this, our second annual review of the past year in pinball - and
what a year it's been.
started with January's launch of Stern's third game - High
Roller Casino. The game premiered at the IMA show in Neurenberg,
Germany and appeared again a few days later at the ATEI show in London.
Naturally, we had the first full review of the game.
were happy to report that the game shows a continuing improvement
over the earlier Striker Xtreme
and Sharkey's Shootout in
terms of game play, construction and enjoyment.
HRC was still at the prototype stage in January, when it started production
some important and welcome changes
were made to improve the rules and game operation.
March saw the end of an era as Electrical
Windings closed its doors after more than 60 years servicing the
pinball industry. Donal Murphy's company supplied coils, transformers
and sundry other parts but the decline in game numbers finally took
its toll and the firm - founded in 1937 - shut up shop.
In April we ran our first birthday
competition with a bunch of prizes up for grabs. The lucky winners
were Michael Burke from New Zealand and Peter Hall from England. Will
there be another great giveaway in 2002? That would be telling!
Gaming laws across Europe have been changing with a move away from
gambling devices but sadly this has been at a time when pinball is
unpopular with operators, leading to other types of amusement devices
filling the void. Hopefully, Stern's newest games will help repair
the reputation of pinball - currently seen as an uneconomic and unreliable
form of gaming.
In May, Illinois Pinball wrote an open letter
to the pinball community in an attempt to clarify the status of spare
parts orders and to outline the deal owner Gene Cunningham made with
William's to buy certain rights and parts. Even now, the exact details
of the deal remain obscured but the fact remains that parts are shipping,
though you do have to order them through the old William's network
The second new game of
the year appeared first in the US and then very soon after in the
UK. Austin Powers was
the first game to follow Gary Stern's intention to use licensed themes
for future games. "Our
strategy is to stick with long-term, classic licences, rather than
ones that come and go."
Based on the eponymous
British spy created by Mike Myers, the game was well received by operators
and players alike. This was Stern's breakthrough game. It showed how
a popular theme can not only boost sales but attract the fickle player
to a familiar and welcoming game. The game sold well and may yet reappear
when the third movie in the series hits the screens in Summer 2002.
While sales were good, they were not enough to stop a cost-cutting
exercise at Stern's Melrose Park facility. In July, three members
of the game design team left while Gary stern avowed his intention
to work out more deals like the one with Pat Lawlor Design. "We
will continue with outsourced designers." he said. Pinball News
revealed that Gary had been in talks with Larry DeMar, former William's
Head of Pinball Engineering about designing a game. So far those talks
have come to naught but that may change in time. In the meantime,
twelve hourly-paid workers - believed to be employed in game manufacture
- were made redundant.
what was to become of that deal with Pat Lawlor Design? It was announced
back in November 2000 that they would be
producing a game for Stern and finally we received the first pictures
of the resulting game.
made a big splash when it first appeared, and once again we had the
first full review of the game. The game had to be popular for so many
reasons. The reputations and strategies of both PLD and Stern were
riding on this. Fortunately for all concerned the game proved very
popular with many home sales adding to the order books.
There was much anticipation
when the PLD deal was announced, just as there was when Pat revealed
at Expo that the company
has agreed to make another pinball game for Stern. We can expect that
around October 2002.
But if real games were selling well, computer simulations were doing
even better. Visual Pinball brought
us the means to make our own games and download other people's. Visual
PinMAME - when added to Visual Pinball - gave us the chance to play
all our favourite games from the comfort of our keyboards. The popularity
of these two packages rocketed and you can now play almost any game
from recent years. Best of all - like Pinball News - it's totally
For us here at Pinball News it's certainly been a busy year. We've
reported in depth from the ATEI
show, the Dutch Pinball
Open and Pinball Expo
and brought you the first and the fullest reviews of the new games
from Stern. The size of the site has more than doubled in the last
12 months and we've introduced audio
clips from the keynote speakers at Pinball Expo.
What can we expect from
2002? For a start we should get Stern's latest game early in the year,
possibly at IMA/ATEI but perhaps Monopoly is holding up the next game?
Rumours suggest it will be a Playboy themed game and that the next
game will be another Simpsons game. We should also get Pat Lawlor
Design's new game. Will that be the Simpsons game?
As ever in pinball, speculation
as to the next game will be plentiful and some of it will be wrong.
We'll continue to filter out the rumour and bring you the facts, the
reviews and the reports.
the meantime, Pinball News wishes you a very happy and prosperous