Story dated 11th April 2002.

This month's copy of Intergame includes an article not just about, but written by Gary Stern.

In the article Gary describes pinball's role in the amusement industry and the steps Stern Pinball Inc has taken to keep up with the changing demands of the players.

InterGame is a specialist magazine covering games and gaming published by Intergame Ltd in the UK.


Some people think that hi-tech is the answer to creating success. It can be a part of the answer, but the purpose of games is entertainment (fun), whether by hi- or low technology. Game play comes before presentation.

Pinball is a small part of our game industry, but manufacturers and operators should strive to preserve every genre of game. Touchscreen games and charging AWPs may have the largest market share. However, if we lose dart games, videos, pinball, pool tables, etc., then the operator will no longer have available alternate and additional forms of entertainment to provide locations and players.

What is popular today may wane over the years, because of both new entertainments and rejuvenation of older forms. Witness today the renewed popularity of Pacman/Galaga, especially in America.

All style and entertainment follows this cycle. "What goes around comes around." Outside of our industry the popularity of retro products like the new VW Beetle and the Chrysler PT Cruiser is evident. I distinguish between nostalgia (driving old Beetle) and retro (modern Beetle, fun to drive). Similarly, remakes of older movies are very popular but made with today's special-fx.

Proper style of game play broadens the player base for all games -
hi-tech, low-tech, retro. Many games became too hard to play. Games were made harder to play as players got better. The experienced player base aged, not frequenting our locations as much; the new patrons are not good enough players to enjoy the games. Our industry's products are played by too few of the patrons in a location. Games should be fun for all players.

Stern Pinball has enhanced its pinball in a number of ways. We have changed design concepts, continuing to challenge the great player so as not to lose our established base, but also making the game fun for the casual player. More important, we make mechanical action pinball. The casual player understands mechanical parts changing when hit by the ball. The simplest example is stand up targets vs. drop targets. Casual players do not see the light turn on in front of a stand up target when hit. They do see a drop target fall when hit. The casual player feels satisfaction of accomplishment; he has taught himself what to do (self-educating); he wants to do it again (Pavlovian pinball).

We have added more "toys" to our mechanical action pinball, making retro pinball, not nostalgic. Players have fun with ramps. Playboy centrefolds and tease screens, Monopoly water works and banks, and more.

We utilise licenses for our game themes, selecting licenses with longevity. Playboy and Monopoly are well-known successful licences on pinball machines or other coin-op products. Austin Powers has a multi-movie history and a new movie coming out this summer. A licensed title gives the designers ideas and a framework within which to design.

We have enhanced our design teams as the industry shrank to include other successful designers. Monopoly was designed by Pat Lawlor, known for his Addams Family, Fun House, Twilight Zone and many others. Playboy was designed by George Gomez, best known for Monster Bash. These designers make games that are fun.

We have improved reliability and serviceability. Some operators do not want to operate pinball because of service. Similarly, some don't want to operate video games because the games must be moved around locations. In America many locations bought their own easy to operate pool tables and took over the inexpensive service. This trend continues with other products. If operators choose only the easy games to operate, where is the value added by the operator? Not only will the operators lose the potential of various genres of games, but without adding value the can become dispensable.

Finally, with all the above and more, we have improved pinball's ROI (return on investment). Games are better designed and attract more players, earning more because they are fun. The games are more service free. And the games have a great resale value. With rational levels of pinball machine production in recent years, there is a shortage of good used games, for sales to operators and for sales to homeowners, particularly in America. The result is a high resale value worldwide for pinball. This may be unique to pinball.

Elsewhere, Gary has taken time away from Chicago to visit Hugh Hefner and present him with a Playboy pinball game. Over the Easter weekend the Stern family visited the Playboy Mansion and naturally played a few games of pinball with his host.

Here's what Stern Pinball Inc had to say:

Last weekend Gary Stern and his family made a visit to the Playboy Mansion where Gary presented a Stern PLAYBOY pinball machine to Hugh Hefner. Hef is a self-proclaimed fan of pinball, and has been ever since he got his Bally PLAYBOY pinball machine twenty-five years ago.

Hef said to Gary that Stern's PLAYBOY is his favourite of the three PLAYBOY pinball machines (Bally's PLAYBOY; Data East's PLAYBOY: 35rd Anniversary), all of which he had in his gamehouse. Hef is enjoying the Stern PLAYBOY pinball machine so much that he's already bought three of them.

After playing a few games of pinball with Hef, Gary and his family took a tour of the Playboy Mansion.

"We had a great time!" exclaims Gary. "He was such a gracious host to me and my family. And the fact that he loved our new pinball machine made it all the better."

Not only does Stern's PLAYBOY pinball machine play great, but it is sure to be a collectible like the other two PLAYBOY pinball machines and many other Playboy products.


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