PINBALL EXPO 2003
6 November, 2003
After the Stern factory tour it was back to the Ramada for the welcome luncheon.
As the show halls didn't open until 6pm and the seminars wouldn't start until 2pm there were a couple of hours to kill, so the luncheon provided a suitable place to wait.
Various pizzas, snacks and cheese chunks were available with soda to wash it all down. Rob Berk and Mike Pacak welcomed visitors to the show and left us to get on with it.
We look at the seminars in parts five and six of our report, so let's jump forward a few hours to the opening of the exhibition halls.
The doors were opened just after 6pm and we got to see the games available for play.
The first thing you see as you enter the main hall is the bank of eight Terminator 3 games. These are here for the tournaments and performed well throughout events with very few problems.
Both halls were well populated with games. Some came and went over the four days, so here is a list of those available to play on Saturday morning.
Theatre of Magic(B), Monopoly(S), Centaur(B), Rockstar(G), Spanish Eyes(W), Bowling Queen(G), Criss Cross Hockey(C), San Francisco(W), Sky Line(G), Star Trek-TNG(W), Ball Park(B), Basketball(Gen), Star Trek-TNG(W), Stargate(G), Black Rose(B), Cirqus Voltaire(B), Cirqus Voltaire(B), Alien Poker(W), Vector(B), Demolition Man(W), Star Gazer(S), Meteor(S), Bow and Arrow(B), Monday Night Football(D), Rollergames(W), Diner(W), Bon Voyage(B), Twin Joker(B), Joker Wild(B), El Toro(B), Lucky Ace(W), Quick Draw(G), RoadShow(W), Star Wars Episode 1(W), Independence Day(Sg), Lost World(B), Freedom(B), Triple Action(W), Kabuki(D), Star Wars Episode 1(W), Guns`n`Roses(D), Hi Score Pool(C), Tommy(D), Banzai Run(W), The Simpsons Pinball Party(S), Viper Night Drivin'(SG), King Kong (D), Tommy(D), Centaur 2(B), Q*bert's Quest(G), Vacation America(CG), Ramp Warrior(B), Revenge From Mars(B), Joust(W), Virtual Pinball(T).
Of these games, around a dozen were switched off and as the show went on that number increased as buyers wanted to protect their purchases. This rather defeats the rule about not removing games before the end of the day, or the end of the show. It's pointless leaving them on the show floor if they're perfectly playable but switched off.
As usual, the games varied enormously in their quality. Some were dead from the start, others began in pristine condition and, thanks to the attention of their owners, stayed that way.
There were plenty of interesting items to see and play. Korn's ST-TNG wasn't as loud as last year's BK2K, but still shook and illuminated the floor.
And this is why. With a 500W power amplifier for the sub-woofer and halogen lights in the bottom of the cabinet, it stood out even with the cabinet closed.
Other notable games included this Zaccaria which needed sunglasses to play.
The Farfalla was in beautiful condition and really invited you to play. It is a confusing game and the Zaccaria reverse flippers in the outlanes don't make it any easier to comprehend or control.
There was this rare Williams Joust two-player game.
It was a great game to play head-to-head, but not entirely obvious how you score points. In each of the games I played, both players' scores ended up around the 300,000 mark with only a couple of thousand points between us.
Next to the Joust was TAB's Virtual Pinball.
Although the game (Rock Star) has been improved since we first reviewed it, there are still far too many inadequacies to make this a viable game for pinball fans. The ball physics appear unchanged and everything flashes up on the screen far too quickly to read and many of the 3D elements don't appear to have any depth but still interrupt the ball's movement. Most players left the game feeling unimpressed.
Next to these two was a group of other interesting games.
The Tommy on the far left was a prototype game with an enormous plane mounted at the back of the playfield and many other differences to the game's features. Next to that was a Data East King Kong - a game that never went into production and looking at the number of playfield elements it is easy to see why. The cost would have crippled Data East, and it wasn't even a particularly good game.
Further along the line was a Sega Viper using a prototype playfield layout. The main shots were all in the centre of the playfield and made for a tedious game. The final version played much better. Finally there was a Simpsons Pinball Party fitted with the ToPS tournament system to raise money for charity.
A little further into the hall and you come upon this unusual game.
Kabuki is a form of Japanese theatre and a favourite of the head of Namco - the games company - in Japan, for whom this game was built. It's not unique because two of the games were made. One still lives in the Namco HQ, while this is the other.
A quick glance at the playfield and you will recognise it as a converted Tommy. When you play it, you realise what a partial conversion it is. Many of the DMD animations are unchanged, even those using the Union Jack flag but the artwork looks very striking and original.
So, those are the games at the show, but what of the vendors?
It's good to report that there were plenty of parts sellers at the show and the range of parts available was even better than last year.
Here is a list of the vendors appearing at the show, again the list was complied on Saturday morning by which time anybody who was intending to appear would have arrived.
Rob Berk, Mayfair Amusements, Coin-op Contraptions, Larry's Pin Stuff, Funhouse Pinball, Donal Murphy, LM Amusements, Graphic Dimensions, Flip'n Out Pinball, Chicago Pinball, Mantis Amusements, Tim Arnold, PinGame Journal, Pinball Pro, Mike Pacak.
Pinball Exchange, Pinball Inc, For Amusement Only, Illinois Pin Ball, Midwest Pinball, Kirk Weaver Enterprises.
For me, one of the great finds of the show was a company called Graphic Dimensions.
I have a Demolition Man where the backbox side artwork has been attacked leaving it scarred and with some missing sections. I have been looking for a way to repair the decals and get a good colour match. As I browsed through the goods on sale at the Graphic Dimensions stall in the main hall, I found a pair of Demolition Man backbox decals. I was astonished. They looked fantastic and cost $50 for the pair, so I snapped them up. I asked what other games they make the decals for and their reply was "all of them". While that may or may not be true, it's probably worth contacting them if you need any of these. In case you can't make out the number from the picture above, it is: 630-417-5742.
A word of warning though, later in the show I saw Illinois Pin Ball's Gene Cunningham having serious discussions with Graphic Dimensions. I did wonder how they could produce this artwork without infringing on IPB's licence.
Speaking of which, in the second hall, Illinois Pin Ball had some new products on display alongside lots of NOS plastic parts. Apart from the Kiss playfield we covered last year was the new Addams Family playfield.
As you can see, these were priced at $400 each plus shipping, plus you could buy the gold kit of side rails, lock-down bar and legs. You could also buy these in red, green and blue if you so desired. Addams Family Green anyone?
Also new were Indiana Jones cabinet decals and there were full plastic sets on show for Addams Family, Theatre of Magic, Twilight Zone, Cirqus Voltaire, Indiana Jones, Monster Bash and Medieval Madness. Frustratingly, you couldn't buy these at the show but had to order them through a distributor. You could buy the partial plastic sets though, and I picked up a few of these.
Pinball Inc had their selection of replacement plastic ramps on display and they shared their stall with PinLED and their selection of replacement displays which are covered elsewhere in the News section.
Prices on most stalls were fair, if not exceptional, but there were quite a few "Show Special" price reductions and in any case it's always much better to actually see what you're buying before handing over the cash. Plus you save on the shipping charges.
So that concludes this part of our Pinball Expo report. In the next sections we'll be looking at the seminars and the fireside chats and there's lots to report from those.
© Pinball News 2003