FUN EXPO 2010
Date: 10th - 12th March 2010
2010 brought a change to the usual spring amusement show as the ASI show was combined with the regular autumn AMOA event to create a combined AMOA/AAMA show called Fun Expo International. The location was the same though, the Las Vegas Convention Center.
We say it is called 'Fun Expo International' but in fact it was also referred to as 'Amusement Expo' on various posters, with the overhead signs alternating between the two.
So who knows what it was called? We'll go for 'Fun Expo' because it's more..... fun!
The first day of Fun Expo coincided with the last day of the Nightclub & Bar Show which was being held in another part of the Convention Center, producing quite some crossover between attendees of the two events.
Inside hall N3 where Fun Expo was located, many of the amusement industry's major companies were represented, showing off their latest products.
When we last visited the forerunner to Fun Expo - the ASI show - in 2007, it occupied two halls covering 167,642 square feet. Since then, the economic downturn and the shift towards home games means there was a little unused space even in this single 101,443 square feet hall, and when Fun Expo was the only show taking place at the Convention Center they didn't bother staffing the car park opposite, leaving it for visitors to use for free.
The show featured many large, set-piece, multi-player games such as this Tank! Tank! Tank! vertical blaster from Namco.
Like many such games at the show, the cabinet concealed a small camera to integrate player's faces into the graphics along with motion controlled seats and a large vertical display. Features like these seem to help differentiate these games from the X-box or PS3 variety which gamers can easily play at home.
While going high-tech was one approach, there were still plenty of classic themes to be found all over the show floor.
This whack-a-mole type game was based on the Batman comic books rather than the successful movies.
Meanwhile, on the right of that game was a throwback to a music track which is perhaps best forgotten by those who have it etched into their memories.
The retro theme was also incorporated in some of those large multi-player units as toy car racing made a return.
All these games feature unique cabinet designs, but few were as unusual as the huge molded plastic casings found on a range of Haunted House redemption games from 5 Star Redemption.
Naturally, we were at Fun Expo mainly to see the Stern Pinball stand, where Gary and his team had three Big Buck Hunter Pro machines and one Shrek.
The games were in almost continuous play, while for the first two days out of the three, Josh and Zach Sharpe ran a Pin-Golf Challenge competition on the Shrek and one of the Big Buck Hunter Pros.
More about the Pin-Golf Challenge shortly, but Stern Pinball was set up next to the Namco stand, and it was there we found Stern's former Director of Mechanical Engineering and Game Design, Ray Tanzer.
At the other end of the stand, Roger Sharpe and Steve Epstein were holding their own private battle on Big Buck Hunter Pro.
But Stern's stand at Fun Expo wasn't their only presence at the Las Vegas Convention Center because they were also in attendance at the Nightclub & Bar Show.
Pinball News weaseled their way into the Nightclub & Bar Show shortly before it closed on Tuesday and headed straight for the Stern Pinball stand.
Unfortunately, several distractions hindered our progress.
But after making our excuses and leaving behind the copious amounts of free beer, free exotic spirits and scantily-clad ladies, we resumed our journey and headed straight to the Stern Pinball stand.
OK, by the time we got there the show might have closed and the Big Buck Hunter Pro machine may have been sold and folded down, but we still managed to rustle up a few other refugees from the Fun Expo show to toast another machine sale.
Meanwhile, back at the Pin-Golf Challenge, the qualifying began when the show opened at 1pm on Wednesday and ran through until 3pm on Thursday. There were two divisions; Expert - for players in the top 250 WPPR rankings or those who relished a challenge - and Novice - for everyone else.
For their $10 entry fee, each entrant played a single game on each of the two qualifying machines - Big Buck Hunter Pro and Shrek - plus another game on the machine of their choice.
Both machines had a set score for the player to reach using as few balls as possible. For Big Buck Hunter Pro it was 10 million and for Shrek it was 20 million and both machines were set to ten ball play. The number of balls used to reach the score was their number of Pin-Golf 'shots'. The total 'shots' used for the three 'hole' course was recorded and put on the leader board.
When qualifying ended at 3pm on Thursday, the top four in each division took part in a final - a single four-player three-ball game on a machine chosen by the division's top qualifier to decide the outcome. The lower-placed qualifiers had the choice of playing position.
There were trophies made from Big Buck Hunter Pro and Shrek toys for the top three in the Expert Division and the winner of the Novice Division. These, plus the fourth placed Expert Division player, all received small cash prizes as well.
The Novice Division final took place first on the Shrek, with Brian Woodard taking the honours and the trophy, along with the return of his $10 entry fee.
In the Expert Division, top qualifier Jim Belsito also chose Shrek for the final. A play-off for the fourth place between Roger Sharpe and Martin Ayub who were tied on 11 shots resulted in a win - and a place in the final - for Roger.
After an average start by all four players and a close game throughout ball two, it was Jim Belsito who took control of the game on his final ball, achieving two Donkey multiballs and ending with a score of 155M. After he had finished, the other players all ended their games fairly quickly giving Jim the win. Josh Sharpe finished on 37M ahead of brother Zach on 9M and father Roger on 6M.
Finally, here's our exclusive Four Minute Tour of the Fun Expo 2010 show (sorry but we couldn't video the Nightclub & Bar Show), so just click on the image below to play the video.
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© Pinball News 2010