PLANETARY PINBALL
SUPPLY


Date: 15th October 2010

Just two days ago, we reported on the sale of various rights to manufacture parts and games using the Bally name from Mr Pinball Australia to a new company, Planetary Pinball Supply.

The Planetary Pinball Supply logo
The Planetary Pinball Supply logo

Since then, PPS's owners - Rick Bartlett and Matt Christiano - have been busy working out the details and setting up the new business. But they found time to talk to Pinball News and answer many questions which arise from the deal.


PBN: Why did you go after this deal and how did it come about?

Matt: We are both passionate pinball people, and we saw an opportunity to make some money, have fun, and improve the flow of parts to the collector community.

Rick: It came about mainly through the many routine discussions I had with Wayne (TPF) around helping to get the parts routed faster to market, as well as BAA had started producing parts (such as molded plastic parts, etc). In addition, over time I think it became apparent that staging and shipping parts back and forth to Australia was not cost effective.

The pinball business is really tough but we really feel that we can bring some positive things to the hobby that need to come in order to help it survive - including working better together, finding new ways to get parts to market, getting more parts via partnerships, etc. If you do all of this and charge a fair price, hopefully you can make it a business.


PBN: You both have different backgrounds in pinball. What do both of you bring to the company, and the deal?

Matt: We both bring years of experience managing high-tech businesses as well as managing multiple partnerships to expand those businesses. We believe that partnerships are the key to expanding the business as well as getting more parts to the market quickly.

Rick: We also look for innovative ways to accelerate and scale parts into the market - we want the parts available 'before we die' which sadly in many cases may not happen in the current environment.


PBN: In the short term, what differences will pinball parts buyers notice as a result of this deal?

Matt: In the short term, none really.

Rick: Short term is probably 30 days - in these times, we are listening to the distributor needs and will be using that input to improve things. In addition, we've been approached for new parts from new suppliers to us, so we are spending a lot of time to queue up new suppliers and streamline existing suppliers as appropriate.

In the medium term, parts should be available more quickly both in terms of new part introductions as well as the logistics of getting parts shipped from the initial manufacturing location through PPS to the distribution channel. This will also reduce shipping and handling costs.


PBN: Longer term, how will Planetary Pinball Supply operate differently from the way The Pinball Factory operated?

Matt: Since we don't feel like we need to squeeze every last dollar out of every transaction, we will be focused more on partnerships to bring parts to market more quickly and more efficiently. We know that we can't do everything ourselves, so it makes sense (to us) to utilize the skills of others in order to bring the widest variety of parts to the market.

Rick: We leverage some core skills around quick order fulfillment and strive for best customer satisfaction, which is always a challenge with the complexity of parts and the expectations of our customers - we always try to take the view of the customer - this culture will be imposed on PPS.


PBN: How does this deal impact on The Pinball Factory's plans to re-make Medieval Madness and those who have outstanding deposits?

Matt: While we would love to comment on this, we cannot at this point. Hopefully, we will be able to answer this question at Expo next week. (but see below for more)


PBN: The Pinball Factory soon turned from good guys to bad guys once they started clamping down on unlicensed parts. How will PPS maintain the initial goodwill and avoid becoming the new bad guys?

Matt: As we said, we plan to bring more suppliers into the market. However, these suppliers must be licensed. Having said that, we see people making unlicensed parts as a resource, and our plan is to turn them from unlicensed manufacturers into licensed ones. On the other hand, there will always be people who will refuse to become licensed, and in those cases, we will need to deal with them appropriately.

Rick: Also, a lot of frustration (has been) due to not listening and making parts available. We will try to address this by bringing more supplier parts to the market faster, as well as taking input and converting that to product as best we can.


PBN: How do you think the deal will impact on the relationship between The Pinball Factory/PPS and Illinois Pinball? Do you expect it to lead to better co-operation, or will you remain fierce competitors?

Matt: While we will always be competitors, we fully expect to work with IPB in a more cooperative manner than has been the case in the past. Rick and Gene have a long history of working together, and we don't see any reason for this to change. In fact, we were discussing new playfield production with Gene earlier today.

Rick: I spent a week in Bloomington working on Big Bang Bar production, as well as having enjoyed a long and positive relationship with Kim at IPB over years. I also had a great time at PPE - Gene and I were together all weekend at the PPE show, and had several discussions about exploring new projects we could do together.


PBN: How can Bay Area Amusements remain as 'just another distributor' when BAA is one of the two partners in one of the companies providing the parts? Won't BAA get advantageous terms and be able to undercut competitors?

Matt: BAA is a separate company from PPS, with different ownership and separate inventories. The ownership of PPS is committed to treating all distributors evenly and fairly. Having said that, BAA will always have one advantage - since we are in the same city, shipping between PPS and BAA will always be faster and cheaper.


PBN: If potential parts suppliers wanted to go down the licensed route through PPS, what should they do? And why should they choose PPS over Illinois Pinball?

Matt: They should contact Rick Bartlett (rick@planetarypinball.com). We welcome anyone who wants to make quality parts for Williams and Bally games. They would want to choose us because this is the way we intend to work - that is, we will make some parts, but we will always work with independent suppliers to bring more parts to the market more quickly.


Shortly after conducting this interview, Rick and Matt clarified their position regarding the planned re-make of Medieval Madness by Mr Pinball Australia. They told Pinball News:

Regarding the Medieval Madness (MM) Remake, as PPS have now had a discussion with Williams (WEG) on the topic here is some additional info:

- All parties involved are supportive of the WEG-approved MM remake project and have a desire to see the game completed and the customers satisfied.

- Mr. Pinball Australia has financial and project responsibility for the project to completion, working with PPS as the WEG licensee. PPS purchased only the WEG license and spare parts inventory from Mr. Pinball Australia. The MM remake project, including deposits, were not part of the assets transferred. Parts sufficient for the game production were retained by Mr. Pinball Australia.

- PPS will provide assistance to Mr. Pinball Australia to complete the project as appropriate. PPS will provide help with the creation of any additional parts required, as well as PPS will be the interface to WEG for approvals, etc.

Our hope is for the project to accelerate and complete as soon as possible..

 

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