Date: 15th - 17th January, 2019
Location: ExCel London Exhibition Centre, Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, London, E16 1XL, UK

We’re back in London’s Docklands area for the annual coin-op and amusements trade show, EAG International.  As usual it is being held at the ExCel London conference centre.

ExCel London
ExCel London

The exhibition centre is next to an offshoot of the River Thames as it heads off into the North Sea.  Its location is a former docks which has been redeveloped into housing, shops, hotels, restaurants, some light industrial units, and the ExCel.  All around are reminders of the area’s past.

A statue marking the former docks here
A statue marking the former docks here
Dockyard cranes, now merely decorative
Dockyard cranes, now merely decorative

The EAG International show is held in ExCel’s halls N1 to N3 on the north side of the building – the opposite side to the river.

The entrance to Hall N2 at ExCel London
The entrance to Hall N2 at ExCel London

Set up had begun on Monday ahead of the public opening on Tuesday at 10am, with the two exhibitors with pinball machines getting their stands ready.

Electrocoin had five Stern pinballs on their stand
Electrocoin had five Stern pinballs on their stand (picture: Gary Flower)
The Pinball Heaven team complete assembly of their stand (picture: Gary Flower)
The Pinball Heaven team complete assembly of their stand (picture: Gary Flower)

Entry to EAG International is free, and once inside the hall all the games are on free play, although some of the more popular titles might normally involve a little queuing before you can play them. 

The show is a mix of amusements, gaming, redemption and rides.  EAG International is paired with the snappily-titled Visitor Attraction Expo show, so there’s a wide spectrum of amusements to see and try.

Visitor numbers appeared reasonably low on the second of the three days which was when we visited, and reports suggest the first day was even quieter. The aisles were not busy and there were plenty of vacant games to try out, with only the very newest titles sometimes requiring a wait.

EAG International is paired with Visitor Attraction Expo
EAG International is paired with Visitor Attraction Expo

Let’s get straight to the pinball though, and as we saw earlier Electrocoin had five Stern Pinball machines on their stand – The Munsters Premium, The Munsters Pro, 2 x The Beatles Gold and a Deadpool Pro.

The Electrocoin stand
The Electrocoin stand
Stern Pinball titles on the Electrocoin stand
Stern Pinball titles on the Electrocoin stand
The Munsters Premium
The Munsters Premium
The Munsters Pro
The Munsters Pro

We had the opportunity to try the Pro and Premium models of The Munsters side-by-side.  The Premium with the lower playfield is definitely the trickier to play, not least because the orbit shot landed cleanly on the right flipper on the Pro, but hit the top of the right slingshot on the Premium.  Also, in the Munster Madness wizard mode you have to play both playfields simultaneously which adds an extra level of complexity, whereas in the Pro you only have the one playfield to worry about.

The Pro does have a different Grandpa’s Laboratory mode in lieu of the lower playfield, which involves shooting the standup targets either side of the ramps.  This is more dangerous since you can drain from those shots whereas once you are on the lower playfield you cannot lose the (full-size) ball. It was also easier to complete Grandpa’s Laboratory on the Pro than making all the lower-playfield shots, not all of which seemed to register totally reliably.

Players enjoying the Stern Pinball machines on the Electrocoin stand
Players enjoying the Stern Pinball machines on the Electrocoin stand

There were three Stern Pinball representatives at the show – Gary Stern, John Buscaglia and Doug Skor. They were in meetings a lot of the time, but we grabbed a quick chat with John and Gary at the end of the second day.

John Buscaglia and Gary Stern
John Buscaglia and Gary Stern

The other stand with pinballs was Pinball Heaven’s, who sell games from Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball, Chicago Gaming and Homepin.  They had titles from all these companies.

The Pinball Heaven stand
The Pinball Heaven stand
Pinball Heaven's Phil Palmer with his stand
Pinball Heaven’s Phil Palmer with his stand
The Munsters Pro and The Beatles Gold
The Munsters Pro and The Beatles Gold
Jack Guarnieri of Jersey Jack Pinball was here to promote his company's titles
Jack Guarnieri of Jersey Jack Pinball was here to promote his company’s titles

Pinball News teamed up with Jonathan Joosten from Pinball Magazine to interview Jack about the current and future Jersey Jack Pinball games.  You can hear the interview as part of our regular monthly podcast at the end of January when you will hear plenty of exciting news about upcoming games and prospects for the company’s future.

Jonathan Joosten, Jack Guarnieri and Martin Ayub of Pinball News
Jonathan Joosten, Jack Guarnieri and Martin Ayub of Pinball News

Pinball Heaven also had the three remake games from Chicago Gaming as well as Homepin’s sole title to date. Ryan White from Chicago Gaming was there to represent the company and help promote their games.

The three 'remake' titles from Chicago Gaming - Monster Bash, Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness
The three ‘remake’ titles from Chicago Gaming – Monster Bash, Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness
Thunderbirds alongside the four Jersey Jack Pinball titles
Thunderbirds alongside the four Jersey Jack Pinball titles

Looking around the rest of the show, pinball was not noticeably extending its reach into other areas of the coin-op business.  Only two companies had pinball-related games, and those were both kiddie titles.

Emoji Pinball from Fiam Automazione
Emoji Pinball from Fiam Automazione
Soccer Ball from Cool Things
Soccer Ball from Cool Things

Pinball did make one appearance elsewhere in the form of an illuminated sign, while a current pinball title was also found mixed up with a dazzling array of LED signage elsewhere in the hall.

Functional rather than inspirational
Functional rather than inspirational
See if you can spot the pinball references
See if you can spot the pinball references

That’s all the pinball we could find, so let’s turn to the trends we picked up from the many new attractions on offer.

VR Goggles on one of the smaller virtual reality amusements
VR Goggles on one of the smaller virtual reality amusements

Although it’s been around for a while, until now virtual reality gaming has always been a niche attraction, requiring attendants to fit and operate the equipment, and a large space in which to operate. Those restrictions might remain, but there were still plenty of VR games systems vying for arcade and FEC buyers’ orders.

One of the many VR games systems on show
One of the many VR games systems on show
Another VR games arena
Another VR games arena

Until recently, any game requiring a large screen tended to use LCD monitors in preference to projection systems, due to the distance needed for a projector to produce a sizeable image.

Now though, ‘short-throw’ projectors have dramatically cut that distance and give large projection screens a new lease of life.

Tomb Raider uses a short-throw projector to produce its large display
Tomb Raider uses a short-throw projector to produce its large display

The other trend we picked up on was the revival of classic carnival or fun fair games in a more-modern form. Ring Toss and the Coconut Shy were just two of these being shown to visitors.

Two Ring Toss games - the floor rises to release the rings from the bottles at the end of the game
Two Ring Toss games – the floor rises to release the rings from the bottles at the end of the game
These illuminated 'coconuts' fall backwards when hit by a ball and reset when the game ends
These illuminated ‘coconuts’ fall backwards when hit by a ball and reset when the game ends

The amount of space taken up has long been a problem for ball bowlers, but now digital bowlers combine a restricted amount of physical action with a digital extension of the lane.

Physical/digital combo ball and puck bowlers
Physical/digital combo ball and puck bowlers

Another way to inject new life into an existing format is to re-brand it with another timeless theme – even if it has no direct relevance to the game in question.

Take the tried-and-tested coin pusher, combine it with, say, something everyone enjoys such as Pac-Man, and behold – the Pac-Man pusher.

Pac-Man seems to have escaped his maze and is everywhere these days
Pac-Man seems to have escaped his maze and is everywhere these days

It’s not all physical games though, with the final feature of EAG this year being the increased amount of space given over to gaming machines, and in particular touchscreen digital terminals.

Most of the back right corner of the show was occupied by digital and physical slots of various kinds, and they were to be found in numerous groups right across the floor.

A back-to-back row of Prismatic touch screen gaming terminals from Astra Games
A back-to-back row of Prismatic touch screen gaming terminals from Astra Games

All of which brings us to the end of this report from EAG International 2019.

An overview of EAG International 2019
An overview of EAG International 2019
Next year's show dates are already in the Pinball News Diary
Next year’s show dates are already in the Pinball News Diary

We will leave you with our customary video look around the show floor, otherwise known as the Pinball News Twenty-Three Minute Tour. We hope you enjoy it all, but if you are only interested in the pinball, jump to 5:13 and 12:42 for Pinball Heaven and Electrocoin respectively.

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One Comment

  1. M.G. Brown

    January 17, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you for this report- I appreciate that you covered other aspects of coin-op other than pinball. At least in North America, I feel that vending machines are due for a comeback in much the same manner as they have been used in Japan.

    Reply

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