Date: 3rd January, 2021

At the end of last year’s review when looking ahead to 2020 we predicted, “This is going to be quite a ride“, and by just about any measure 2020 has been an extraordinary twelve months.

What started out as a seemingly ordinary year soon turned into anything but. By mid-January the first tell-tale signs surfaced of what was soon to radically change many aspects of our lives and dominate media reports throughout 2020 and far into 2021.

Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 impacted on the pinball world in many ways too. With Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball, Chicago Gaming and American Pinball all located in the greater Chicagoland area, the state-wide stay-at-home order on 21st March brought the vast majority of pinball manufacturing to a sudden halt.

Despite that interruption and the lack of collector or trade shows, the industry restarted, new pinball titles have been successfully launched and sales of games into the home have boomed.

We’ll have more on that later, along with your chance to vote for the Pinball News Game of the Year, but let’s begin our look back at the events of 2020 with the new titles unveiled during the year from a seemingly ever-increasing number of manufacturers.

Our Review of the Year for 2020
The Pinball News Review of the Year 2020

NEW GAMES

Stern Pinball had revealed their much-awaited new game from designer Brian Eddy just before Christmas in 2019, but despite Pro models of Stranger Things being available in small numbers from selected distributors at the time of launch, it didn’t get out into the wild in larger quantities until the start of 2020.

The Limited Edition model
The Limited Edition model of Stranger Things

That was also when we got to see the game’s innovative new feature – the projector screen. Only included with the Premium and Limited Edition models, a projector mounted under the bottom apron beamed animated images and clips onto a white screen, a spinner, two ramps and some standup targets further up the playfield. The screen could also fold down to become a ramp, allowing shots into the mouth of the games main model, the Demogorgon.

The ramps and vertical standup targets are also lit by the projector
The screen, ramps and standup and drop targets are all lit by the projector

We had a preview of the projector and screen combo in a private showing in January, and while it certainly did look impressive, it also required some degree of control over the ambient light level to prevent the image becoming too washed-out.

Another game announced in December 2019 was Spooky Pinball’s Rick and Morty which kept the Benton, Wisconsin manufacturer busy throughout 2020 and into 2021, obviating the need to announce any new titles this year.

The Rick and Morty playfield
The Rick and Morty playfield

In January 2020 though, Spooky Pinball did announce that all Rick and Morty games would come with a free interactive animated topper. The entire run of 750 machines had already sold out so this was an unexpected bonus for those buyers, especially given how some manufacturers have been charging up to $1,000 for their after-market DIY topper kits.

The next major reveal came in mid-March when American Pinball showed their third title, Hot Wheels, at the Amusement Expo trade show in New Orleans.

The exterior view of Hot Wheels
The new Hot Wheels game from American Pinball

Although the new game appeared on the American Pinball stand at the show, there was no official announcement made until two weeks later when a press release stressed how the intended market for the Joe Balcer-designed game is skewed more towards operators, with no major interactive toys which could break and render the game unplayable.

There’s still plenty for home buyers though, with 140 RGB LEDs located under the inserts, used for the general playfield illumination, and for the lighting of playfield features such as the spinning car. There’s also interior cabinet art and several Hot Wheels cars mounted under the glass.

The Hot Wheels playfield
The Hot Wheels playfield

The timing of the release was unfortunate as the intended public premiere of Hot Wheels at the Texas Pinball Festival couldn’t take place once the show was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another Texas-based event which had to be cancelled was Deeproot Pinball’s launch of their first title, Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland (RAZA).

Deeproot had big plans for the unveiling of their production-ready RAZA game, having shown a prototype at the Houston Arcade Expo the previous November. Guests were flying in from around the world to assemble at Deeproot’s San Antonio headquarters on 25th March where the game and the design facilities would be shown.

With the virus spreading fast and restrictions on both travel and the size of gatherings being imposed, Deeproot bowed to the inevitable and pulled the plug nine days before the event was due to be held.

The notification about the cancellation of the Deeproot Pinball launch event
The notification about the cancellation of the Deeproot Pinball launch event

Another manufacturer denied the ability to show their latest release to excited fans in person was Multimorphic, who are also based in Texas.

Their new Heist! game comes with its own playfield module featuring an extending ball-grabbing crane which can protrude beyond the module and onto the main playfield, as well as being able to move left, right, up and down, and having an illuminated bash target at the end.

The P3 with the Heist! game kit
The P3 with the Heist! game kit
The crane can extend over the playfield's LCD monitor
The crane can extend over the playfield’s LCD monitor

Stephen Silver designed Heist! and included an upper flipper in the module kit to shoot across the playfield and create a new array of shots within the P3.

Public beta testing of Multimorphic’s latest update to their Cosmic Cart Racing began in March too. This introduced internet gameplay, allowing players across the world to directly battle against each other for the first time.

The feature became mainstream with a WAN party two month later.

The WAN party to launch the new internet connectivity feature
The WAN party to launch the new internet connectivity feature

Stern Pinball traditionally announce their first ‘cornerstone’ title of the year straight after the Texas Pinball Festival, revealing to the public it a few days later at the Midwest Gaming Classic in Milwaukee.

With both shows called-off and pinball manufacturing on hiatus, it took until the end of May for their new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game to be revealed.

The right side of the Limited Edition model
The Limited Edition model of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Designed, like the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game from Data East, by John Borg, the Stern version features artwork by Jeremy Packer a.k.a. Zombie Yeti with the Premium and Limited Edition models offering a Party Wagon ball locking mechanism and a ramp-mounted glider ball stopper/diverter.

The Party Wagon and Glider on the TMNT LE model
The Party Wagon and Glider on the TMNT LE model

Another game impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown was the Heavy Metal collaboration with magazine publisher, Incendium.

Originally planned for a March announcement, the pandemic’s temporary cessation of manufacturing and the disruption to supply chains pushed the reveal back to June.

The right side of the Heavy Metal cabinet
The Heavy Metal game from Stern Pinball and Incendium

Based on the Star Wars Pin model, the Heavy Metal game celebrates the 300th edition of Heavy Metal magazine by inviting players to experience the four genres associated with the Heavy Metal publication – Fantasy, Horror, Metal and Sci-Fi.

The Heavy Metal playfield
The Heavy Metal playfield

The heavily stylised cabinet, backbox and playfield artwork together with models of Nelson and Taarna above the two ramps and inner cabinet artwork made this a unique game aimed squarely at the collector market. The $7,999 price tag included a ‘white glove’ delivery and set-up service, with the game being built-to-order at the end of 2020.

With pinball design and manufacturing, machine shipments and component supply chains all being hit by the coronavirus, the summer was a quiet time for new game launches.

With many street locations – arcades, barcades and bars – being either closed or having capacity, social-distancing or sanitisation regulations to enforce, pinball operators were having a torrid time. While this impacted heavily on new machine sales to the trade, the reduction in demand was countered by a steep rise in purchases by domestic buyers forced to stay at home.

Anyone with a P3 machine from Multimorphic and the Cosmic Cart Racing playfield module had the opportunity to add a new game to their library when Nicholas Baldridge released his Ranger In The Ruins title.

The new Ranger in the Ruins game for the P3
The new Ranger in the Ruins game for the P3

The game had an 8-bit vibe and was unusual in using an internet connection to place the ghosts of other deceased players in your game.

Anyone anxiously awaiting the release of the next superhero-themed game only had to hang on until September when Stern announced their second cornerstone title of the year, The Avengers: Infinity Quest.

The Limited Edition model
The Limited Edition model of The Avengers: Infinity Quest

The Keith Elwin-designed three-flippered game features a vertical magnetic ball lock and, on the Premium and Limited Edition models, a spinning disc which can rise to reveal an under-playfield ball lock.

The Doctor Strange disc rises to reveal a ball lock in the Premium/LE
The Doctor Strange disc rises to reveal a ball lock in the Premium/LE

A month later it was time for Jersey Jack Pinball to formally announce their sixth release.

It was an open secret that the next game from the recently-relocated company would be Guns N’ Roses and that it would be a collaboration between game designer Eric Meunier and GnR guitarist Slash, and that is indeed what was announced.

The Collectors Edition model of Guns N' Roses
The Collectors Edition model of Guns N’ Roses

The game was more than just another rock-themed pinball though, as the band’s involvement gave Jersey Jack Pinball access to far more assets than usual, including actual video from the group’s Not In This Lifetime tour stage show, which combined with extensive additional lighting effects to create what is probably the most immersive licenced theme yet seen in pinball.

The playfield from the Limited Edition
The playfield from the Limited Edition
Slash's trademark top hat over the spinning disc
Slash’s trademark top hat over the spinning disc

The limited run of five hundred $12,500 Collectors Edition machines sold out almost instantly, giving Jersey Jack Pinball plenty of pre-holiday season orders and lots to work on over the following months.

Stern Pinball didn’t want to miss out on the holiday season’s sales either, but also didn’t want to cut short their The Avengers: Infinity Quest run or put their next band-themed pinball head-to-head with Guns N’ Roses.

With lockdowns resulting in increased home sales, Stern announced the next in their ‘Pin’ series of games aimed at domestic buyers.

With three Star Wars models already produced – the full-size movie art and comic art variants, plus the movie art Pin – the only combination remaining was a comic art Pin version, so that’s what Stern duly announced.

The left side art
The Comic Art Star Wars Pin

The playfield design was essentially the same as the previous Star Wars Pin, but with the same comic art style seen on the full-size Pro and Premium machines.

The Comic Art Pin's playfield
The Comic Art Pin’s playfield

Six days later, Deeproot Pinball set up two of their forthcoming Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland machines in a coffee shop in their home city of San Antonio to showcase the production version of the game they would shortly be making available.

The RAZA Extra model
The RAZA Extra model

They had two of the three announced variants for visitors to play – the base Arcade model and the top-of-the-range Xtra.

Just over two weeks later, Deeproot Pinball relaunched their website and finally put Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland (RAZA) on sale.

The Xtra model of RAZA
The Xtra model of RAZA

Two variants are available for purchase – the Arcade and Xtra models shown at the coffee shop. The intermediate model had been dropped, although there are numerous add-ons available to buy through the Deeproot website which can upgrade the Arcade version.

The RAZA playfield
The RAZA playfield

Deeproot Pinball’s head, Robert Mueller, told the Pinball News & Pinball Magazine PINcast how the game would only be available to purchase until 30th December and that it would be built at the company’s San Antonio headquarters where they have been building up their manufacturing capability. Visitors to the Deeproot Pinball website will now find the RAZA game is no longer available to purchase although distributors may still be able to fulfil orders.

After a long period of development and several showings of intermediate versions at pinball shows and in videos, Australian start-up Haggis Pinball finally put their Celts game on sale.

Haggis Pinball's Celts game goes on sale
Haggis Pinball’s Celts game goes on sale

The production run would be limited to 200 machines with a starting price of AU$7,500. Several customisation options are available including a range of metal trim finishes, enhanced playfield toy sets and the option to have your own clan name and tartan pattern incorporated into the software.

Celts from Haggis Pinball
Celts from Haggis Pinball

Planned additional options for Celts include internal cabinet side art, mirror blades and software-driven LED speaker rings.

Although we were getting close to the end of the year, Stern Pinball weren’t finished with their new game announcements. This time last year it was the game with which we started this section, Stranger Things. This year it was the long awaited – and for some the Holy Grail of rock band licences – Led Zeppelin.

The right cabinet side of the Limited Edition model
The Limited Edition model of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin is a three-flippered Steve Ritchie design with the main playfield mechanism – on the Premium and Limited Edition variants, at least – being the Electric Magic rising spinner and magnet assembly which can grab the ball, throw it or lock it for multiball.

The Limited Edition playfield
The Limited Edition playfield
Looking through the interactive Electric Magic device in the raised position
Looking through the interactive Electric Magic device in the raised position

Multimorphic also had another new title announcement to squeeze in before the end of 2020, as they revealed their Shoot ‘n Scoot vertical scrolling game.

Shoot ‘n Scoot from Multimorphic

The downloadable Shoot ‘n Scoot game is especially unusual as it is designed to work with with any of the four P3 playfield modules (Heist!, Cosmic Cart Racing, Cannon Lagoon or Lexy Lightspeed) installed.

The final new game announcement of 2020 isn’t actually for a new game at all, but it is from a relatively new name in pinball manufacturing.

The Alien game is a well-regarded design from the ill-feted Heighway Pinball company which was based in Wales. The financially-troubled business was bailed out by a group of European investors who called their company Pinball Brothers. When Heighway Pinball finally ran into the buffers, Pinball Brothers recovered the existing stock of Alien and Full Throttle game parts and have been making them available for purchase ever since.

While Heighway Pinball hadn’t been able to produce them, there was still plenty of pent-up demand for the Alien game. So, Pinball Brothers have been working on remaking the title, with a few design and cosmetic changes to make it more reliable and enhance the gameplay. In mid-December they revealed their plans.

The flyer for the Alien remake
The flyer for the Alien remake

The in-playfield monitor has gone in the new design, along with the illuminated cabinet sides and the modular assemblies for the flipper buttons, slingshots and pop bumpers. A new sentry guns indicator has been added together with a physical ball lock for the Hypersleep Chamber and a magnet above one of the upper flippers which was in the original design but had to be removed for production.

The new Weapons Status Display
The new Weapons Status Display

PINBALL COMPANIES

Not everyone spent their time launching new titles in 2020. Some companies carried on doing what they were doing, others moved premises and yet other prepared to start building games.

Dutch Pinball have spent the year doing exactly what they promised when owner Barry Driessen spoke to Pinball News and Pinball Magazine in a special podcast interview in September 2019, namely producing more The Big Lebowski machines to fulfil new and outstanding ‘Early Achiever’ orders.

To help facilitate this, Barry moved the Dutch Pinball operation to new, larger premises at the end of 2020, taking on more employees in order to speed up production and continue development of the game’s software.

Dutch Pinball weren’t the only company on the move.

Jersey Jack Pinball packed up their manufacturing operation in Lakewood, New Jersey and shifted 825 miles west to Elk Grove Village near Chicago.

There they were able to consolidate their manufacturing operations with their game development functions which had been located in nearby Bensonville. Some eyebrows were raised when we reported how they were now sited just one street away from another well-known pinball maker, namely Stern Pinball.

By March Jersey Jack Pinball were up-and-running, producing more Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory machines before moving on Guns N’ Roses later in the year.

Homepin, the maker of the Thunderbirds and China Zombies games also upped sticks, although for them it was to move to a different country (or a different part of the same country, depending on your point of view).

Owner Mike Kalinowski put the move from Shenzhen, China to Taiwan at the start of the year down to a mix of personal reasons and the increasingly authoritarian restrictions being imposed on businesses by the Chinese government.

Re-establishing the operation in Taiwan took several months, and we understand Homepin’s manufacturing in 2020 has largely concentrated on making replacement boards and parts for pinball and other arcade games.

Spooky Pinball also relocated their operations, although in their case it was from one part of Benton, Wisconsin to another.

The impact of COVID-19 also delayed things slightly, but once they were back in production at their new, larger premises they could resume manufacturing the Rick & Morty games which would take them the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

Although they didn’t need to announce any new games, Spooky Pinball were able to reveal a collaboration with Chicago Gaming Company and designer Ben Heck.

The untitled game will be designed by Ben with game development from Spooky. Manufacturing and sales is expected to be handled by Chicago Gaming Company.

Other than the collaboration with Spooky Pinball and Ben Heck, Chicago Gaming Company didn’t reveal any new titles in 2020.

It was expected they would announce Cactus Canyon as their fourth ‘remake’ game after Attack From Mars, Medieval Madness and Monster Bash, but they have continued fulfilling orders for those titles in 2020 as well as working on a new licenced game designed by Dennis Nordman for an expected release in 2021.

Deeproot Pinball had mixed fortunes in 2020. After their cancelled launch at their base in San Antonio in March, they attempted again in September by inviting a small group of guests to visit the factory to see the production version of Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland (RAZA) and their design and manufacturing facilities ahead of a public launch two days later.

When reaction to the game proved less than positive, the announcement was cancelled again, followed by some leaked pictures which prompted them to make a partial reveal.

They finally got to reveal the new production-ready RAZA and make it available to pre-order at the start of December. Despite much scepticism over the years, the reaction to the Arcade and Xtra versions of RAZA has been largely positive, and the $5,899 starting price for the Arcade version came in at the low end of most people’s expectations.

Pinball Adventures, who we featured back in December 2019, haven’t yet been able to produce any units of their first title, The Punny Factory.

Scheduled for production in 2020, the delay is being put on the pandemic’s impact on parts supply chains and the increased safety demands made on manufacturing operations. The game is now slated for release sometime in 2021.

PINBALL PEOPLE

Several pinball industry people were on the move during 2020.

Jim Patla was taken on by American Pinball at the end of 2019 as their interim Chief Operations Officer, but once the Hot Wheels game was across the line he was offered (and accepted) the COO role at Jersey Jack Pinball.

The job puts him in charge of operations at the company, reporting to owners Brett and Leonard Abess.

Jim followed the path taken by Barry Engler, who moved from Service Manager at American Pinball to the same position at Jersey Jack Pinball.

The position at JJP became available when long-time stalwart of pinball shows and author of encyclopaedic game manuals, Butch Peel, was let go by the company, to the shock of many who knew him.

Butch wasn’t out of the pinball business for long though, as Chicago Gaming Company quickly snapped him up as their Lead Service Engineer.

Chicago Gaming has also been availing itself of the talents of artist Christopher Franchi and game designer Dennis Nordman as they move towards making original games rather than just remakes of Williams/Bally titles.

American Pinball, meanwhile, brought Pinball Expo co-organiser David Fix on-board as their new Director of Operations and Marketing.

With many years of experience in coin-op at ICE and Dave & Busters, as well as co-running more than eighty pinballs at Pocketeer Billiards in Buffalo, NY, David will help drive American Pinball further into the operator market while continuing to push home sales in this challenging climate. Expect to see more hiring announcements from the company very soon.

2020 also saw the passing of two significant pinball figures.

Steve Epstein, owner/operator of the Broadway Arcade and co-founder of Modern Pinball NYC passed away on 13th June. Steve, together with pinball legend Roger Sharpe, set up the original PAPA. He is credited with popularising the concept of pinball leagues and tournaments which he hosted as far back as the early 1980s and was a regular speaker at Pinball Expo in Chicago.

John Kosmal, or Koz, passed away at the start of November. Koz was a passionate and influential player and show organiser in Michigan, putting on the Michigan Pinball Expo for six years starting in 2010. He was committed to making pinball a family-friendly game and ran the MI Pinball Expo accordingly, with a low entry price and ensuring there were always plenty of kids’ tournaments and fun prizes to win every year.

TRENDING

With 2020 now over we can look forward to another twelve months of exciting news in the pinball world. Although there will be plenty of surprises in store, some of the trends from the previous year are sure to continue into 2021.

Home Sweet Home

The numerous stay-at-home orders and unprecedented growth in home working have both spurred the growth in home pinball sales, with prices of pre-owned machines heading ever skywards.

Previous experience has shown how once a title starts trading at a high price it rarely become much cheaper. Despite the never-ending flow of new titles into the market, it seems only when external factors come into play – such as the availability of modern remakes – will a popular title ever drop in price, so expect current prices to become the ‘new normal’.

With an eye on the struggling operator market, pinball manufacturers have been reluctant to increase their prices to capitalise on the increased demand. However, there is one area where prices have, appropriately, hit new highs.

Over The Top

Pinball toppers are the latest must-have accessory for many new game buyers. While they used to be very much an afterthought, coming onto the market months or even years after the original game was released, manufacturers are now eager to offer them as soon as possible while new game buyers are still in the mood to ‘splash the cash’.

Prices have been quickly rising while the value offered varies from title to title together with the level of gameplay interactivity.

Stern Pinball’s Star Wars topper hit a new high for price when it was released, but now as toppers head towards a ceiling so does the cost, with $1,000 appearing to be the limit manufacturers think they can charge while maintaining a straight face. Will anyone dare to break through that ceiling? Remember though, Spooky Pinball gave buyers of their Rick and Morty title a topper for free.

Pay To Play

There was some additional concern raised when it was revealed buying the $600 Jurassic Park topper also enabled a new gameplay feature in the software. Regardless of the value of the hardware itself, buyers of the game were unhappy they wouldn’t get the complete set of features in the game unless they spent even more money.

This raised the issue of whether pinball manufacturers are trying to introduce downloadable content (DLC) as a new revenue stream.

It’s something the video game industry relies on, with a relatively low initial price for a game but the option (or even the necessity) to purchase power-ups, new worlds, in-game currency and more to aid your progression.

In a way it’s something Multimorphic has been doing from the start, with downloadable games such as Barnyard, ROCs, Grand Slam Rally and now Ranger in the Ruins all available for purchase to run on existing hardware.

It’s also something which was brought up with the launch of Deeproot Pinball’s ordering system. An early version of the site used for testing included a monthly subscription option in order to get the latest updates and new features, raising the possibility owners will be expected to pay to access any new gameplay modes which might be added.

As we have seen, the game code with which a machine launches is rarely complete. Buyers have come to expect regular software updates, not only to fix bugs but to add promised or expected gameplay features such as wizard modes which weren’t written when the game was purchased. They have also, until now, expected these updates to be free and unrestricted.

Despite game owners generally hating the idea, the lure of being able to charge for software updates and extra modes might make that option just too enticing for some manufacturers. After all, you might buy the latest Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop software, and while you may get some bug fixes you don’t get to download the next version with all the new features unless you subscribe to their Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud plans.

Where’s The Code?

After years of few-and-far-between code updates, all the pinball manufacturers now see the release of the latest updated software as a badge-of-honour and something to shout about on their social media streams.

Stern Pinball, for instance, have used the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as reasons to release updates for multiple games, several of which have brought quite significant improvements and new features.

Of course, there are still some forgotten games which may never receive an official update, but there is always hope.

In November Planetary Pinball Supply licensed Soren Worre to produce updated ROMs for Williams/Bally titles from the ’80s and ’90s.

Soren had previously produced modified ROMs for certain games ‘under-the-radar’ but is now working with Planetary Pinball to make ‘legal’ updates available from authorised PPS resellers. These generally fix known bugs and gameplay annoyances, as well as addressing scoring imbalances and issues which might prevent a machine’s use in tournaments.

So far you can buy updated game ROMs for more than thirty titles including RoadShow, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Radical , Junk Yard, Xenon, Star Trek (Bally), Space Invaders, Silverball Mania, Strikes & Spares (Bally), Rolling Stones (Bally) and Playboy (Bally).

Rights and Wrongs

When you buy a game, you purchase the right to use it however you want, right? Well, yes… and no. Laws vary across different territories of course, but generally if you are buying a game which includes licensed assets such as images, video and audio, you can only use those in very limited ways.

Pinball fans who have been streaming their gameplay have been discovering how, if the audio contains licensed songs, their stream is liable to be closed down and earn them a ‘strike’ on their account. Too many ‘strikes’ and the account can be closed. This affects live streaming on Twitch or Facebook as well as stream recordings on YouTube and similar sites.

This has become far more prevalent in 2020 but has affected streamers and videographers before that. Pinball News fell foul of the auto-detection of licensed music several years ago when we recorded a walk-through of a pinball show vendor hall. Part of that video included the game The Big Lebowski which was playing a Bob Dylan song as part of the soundtrack. The video was blocked as a result.

Streams and videos are a powerful promotional tool for pinball manufacturers, and they are getting hit by this ramping-up of automated copyright infringement detection as much as the hobbyists.

One possibility is to have a ‘streaming mode’ in a game’s settings which either removes the licensed tracks or scrambles them slightly to work around the auto-detection algorithms. That could involve quite some work in the game’s operating system, but there is another alternative…

Hope is a flowing stream

Stern Pinball recently added a new End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) to their game code downloads which attempts to prohibit streaming of their games without prior consent and also warns users who might be tempted to modify their games – either with hardware add-ons or by tampering with the software/assets – that the company has the right to ‘brick’ their machines and stop them working.

The legalities of this are hugely complex and beyond the scope of this review, but the use and responsibilities of using licensed assets in games is becoming ever more complicated and burdensome, not just for the manufacturer but for the buyer, reporter and hobbyist.

EU Pays Your Money….

One news story bound to impact on all pinball manufacturers in 2021 is the recent 25% tariff applied to US-made pinball machines and parts imported into the European Union.

We covered the background to this action in our article, but the net effect is to add around 30% (25% plus circa 20% VAT) to the cost of a US-made machine and US-supplied parts across the 27 nations which make up the EU.

Since that includes big pinball markets such as Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and Netherlands, imports of machines from Stern, Jersey Jack, Spooky, Chicago Gaming and Deeproot along with many large parts suppliers will undoubtedly take a hit until the dispute can be resolved and the tariff removed.

It’s good news for some though. Non-US game makers such as Dutch Pinball, Pinball Brothers, Quetzal Pinball, Haggis Pinball and Homepin don’t make their games in the US so are exempt from this tariff, effectively making their games cheaper compared to their US-based competitors.

30…31…32…33?

It’s become an annual tradition that we include details of the latest delays to the publication of Paperflock’s notorious Keeping The Ball Alive: 30 Years Of Stern Pinball coffee-table book.

Well, it looks like that tradition ends with this Review, as copies of the book have now started arriving at the home of backers of the original Kickstarter project.

As they are manually packing all 400+ orders and taking them to the Post Office, fulfilment of all the books and add-ons such as T-shirts, posters and prints is likely to take some time, but initial reviews suggest the book turned out pretty nicely.

Congratulations to those who hung in there and stumped up for the expensive shipping.

Strip Joint

Let’s end this Trending section with some more good news.

Work to construct the new Pinball Hall of Fame at the south end of the Strip in Las Vegas is progressing well. After spending $10 million buying the plot and constructing the new building, the plan is to open the new location this month. The PHoF management are currently asking on Facebook which food styles visitors would like to buy from the food trucks operating near the entrance.

COVID might end up delaying the opening slightly, but the plot will have a new huge Pinball Hall of Fame sign on the boundary with the strip near to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, and also to have 30-foot high letters spelling out PINBALL on the plain front of the building.

SHOWS

A regular part of this annual Review of the Year is a look back at all the numerous pinball shows we have visited over the past twelve months.

As you might imagine, that’s a rather truncated list for 2020, with EAG International the only coin-op show we got to attend before COVID closed down nearly all the conference and hospitality events worldwide.

With little or no physical meetings able to take place, hosting online or virtual shows became a popular alternative. It often takes a great deal of time and effort from organisers and presenters to produce an online schedule of seminars, so check out the website of your favourite shows to see what they put together. Go to our Diary section for links to each show and their website.

Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can all hang out together and celebrate all things pinball in person.

Sadly though it won’t be at the hugely popular ReplayFX show.

In November the Replay Foundation which inherited the PAPA brand and assets from Kevin Martin and which ran the ReplayFX show announced its permanent cancellation.

Worse, the Foundation said they were selling all the machines which were used for the event, although at least their on-line tutorials and guides will remain.

No definite reason for the Foundation’s decision was stated, but the inability to hold shows like ReplayFX while maintaining such a huge collection must have been a big blow to their finances.

That probably leaves INDISC (It Never Drains In Southern California) held at the Museum of Pinball as the biggest similar event, although that too has been cancelled for 2021.

PINBALL NEWS GAME OF THE YEAR

Another tradition of our Review of the Year is to give you the chance to vote for the Pinball News Game of the Year.

Last year’s winner was Jurassic Park and, since we couldn’t present it in person due to the cancellation of shows and flights, we sent the trophy to the design team at Stern Pinball headed by Keith Elwin.

This year we have quite a varied selection of titles from several manufacturers. With the many restrictions on location play, we appreciate many people (us included) may not have had the chance to play all or many of these, but please still vote based on what you have seen, heard or watched online.

Here are the contenders. Voting continued until midnight on 1st March 2021 at which point Jersey Jack Pinball’s Guns N’ Roses game was the clear winner with more than 50% of the popular vote.

This poll is no longer accepting votes

WHICH TITLE SHOULD WIN PINBALL NEWS GAME OF THE YEAR 2020?

Congratulations to the Jersey Jack Pinball team on their win and for producing such a successful and popular game.

With the poll for the Pinball News Game of the Year 2020 we bring this Review of the Year to a close.

Many thanks for reading from the whole team here at Pinball News. We hope to be back at the shows and seeing you in person later this year, but in the meantime, we’ll be here for our twenty-first year, working from home, bringing you all the latest Pinball News throughout 2021 and beyond.

Now, let’s go play some pinball.

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DEEPROOT DELAYS LAUNCH

Deeproot Pinball’s CEO, Robert Mueller, promised to revolutionise pinball, and it…