Date: 19th-22nd October 2022 Location: Schaumburg Convention Center, 1551 Thoreau Dr N, Schaumburg, IL 60173 After two years of forced absence, we are back at Pinball Expo at its new home at the Schaumburg Convention Center. The Schaumburg Convention Center The Convention Centre is attached to the more prominent Renaissance hotel, which has a discounted room rate for Expo attendees and is therefore where most guests will be staying. The Renaissance Schaumburg hotel This is our first time attending Pinball Expo in Schaumburg. The show moved there in 2021 after the virtual Pinball Expo of 2020, but regrettably many visitors from outside North America weren’t permitted to enter the US in time for the 2021 show. So, it’s all new to us, and probably to you too. The Renaissance is a high-grade business hotel, with several small lakes and fountains in the grounds. The grounds of the Renaissance There is plenty of free car parking but, unlike the previous home of the Westin in Wheeling (another Marriott property), there are no restaurants, bars or shops just a short walk away. In fact the nearest eatery is 0.8 miles from the front of the Renaissance, although they do offer a free shuttle bus to any location within a three-mile radius. WEDNESDAY Pinball Expo is held in two of the three main Convention Centre halls, with seminars and tournaments located in adjoining rooms. These halls, like all the rooms at the Convention Center, have rather silly names, such as ‘Utopia’, ‘Nirvana’, ‘Prosperity’ and ‘Perfection’. We arrived at midday on Wednesday to check on progress setting up the show in ‘Adventure’ and ‘Discovery’ ahead of the public opening at midday on Thursday. Some of the pinballs already set up in the main hall The show’s new home allows vehicles to drive onto the floor of the Convention Center so that they can unload more easily (and load up again after the show closes on Sunday). Some of the vehicles on the show floor Stern Pinball had many of their pinballs set up, including multiple examples of the new 007 James Bond Pro and Premium models. Some of the Stern Pinball machines on their display We had the opportunity to play the Premium model on the floor. Compared to the version of software we experienced in London, so obvious extra graphics, sounds and music had been added, but there didn’t seem to be any new modes or features yet. The display still warns players that these are development machines where some of the assets may be incomplete or unlicensed. More of the Stern Pinball machines on their display Elsewhere at Pinball Expo, Pinball Brothers were unboxing their new Queen pinball, but wanted to set it up in private before showing it to a wider audience. They plan to have two machines when the show opens on Thursday, with another being added soon after. The Pinball Brothers stand where Queen was being set up Jersey Jack Pinball were in the process of building their stand, with the emphasis on their current Toy Story 4 model. The Jersey Jack Pinball stand Rumours suggest Chicago Gaming might be revealing their first non-remake title at Pinball Expo, although they were vehemently denying it during set-up. In a change from last year, the free play pinballs will sit alongside the vendor stands in the main hall. Around 400 free play games are expected, with some being set up during our visit. Some of the free play machines in the main hall As usual, Pinball Expo Organiser, Rob Berk, brought many of his own games. Some of Rob Berk’s personal machines Three of the many homebrew games expected at Expo this year More free play games, while Great American Pinball will be showcasing their custom reworked titles As usual, we’ll be bringing you full details of all the vendors and free play machines at this year’s Pinball Expo as we update this report over the course of the weekend and beyond. Of course, no major pinball show would be complete without a bunch of tournaments. Trent Augenstein’s Tilt Amusements had supplied a hugely impressive line-up of the newest Stern Pinball titles for the show’s competitive events. Inside the Tournaments Room during set-up Not all of Pinball Expo takes place at the Schaumburg Convention Center however. In fact, events kick-off on Wednesday night with the familiar Bumper Blast welcome part which is being held at the nearby Enterrium barcade. Several additional pinballs have been brought in to supplement the already-impressive collection. The Bumper Blast runs from 7pm until 10pm, and Pinball News will be there to bring you all the details. Free shuttle buses take Pinball Expo guests to Enterrium for the Bumper blast party Thursday’s Pinball Expo action also begins off-site, as the brand-new Jersey Jack Pinball factory tour takes guests on a coach ride to Elk Grove Village to see for themselves how the company builds their popular titles. Flippy helps guide Pinball Expo guests When guests return, the popular seminars schedule begins. Pinball News plans to record every one of them across Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We hope to bring you videos of them on our YouTube channel, with each day’s seminars published overnight. Summaries of every seminar will also be added to this report, with the corresponding video added as soon as possible. We also plan to bring you audio recordings of the seminars. Wednesday night’s Bumper Blast event was held at the nearby Enterrium amusements entertainment centre. School buses took Expo guests the two miles to Enterrium’s entrance as part of the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Enterrium in Schaumburg Guests were welcomed by the new Pinball Expo mascot, Flippy. Flippy says, “Welcome” On arrival, most guests joined a queue to get some free food from heated trays set up in an adjoining room. The queue for the food As they were waiting in line, Expo guests were given special Enterrium play cards which allowed unlimited play for three hours, although there were some limits on how many times you could play the same game to prevent hogging. The dining room There were five pinballs set up in a dedicated area next to the dinner line. The five pinballs – four Legends of Valhalla and a 007 James Bond There were many more pinballs, but they were reserved for the tournaments being held on the opposite side of the room. Some of the tournament pinballs More pinballs in the tournament area The arcade and redemption machines in Enterrium could be played until the end of the Bumper Blast at 10pm. Enterrium was supposed to close then, but the tournament ran longer and many guests remained behind, with the last ones leaving around 1am. Standings in the tournament For those who left on time, the school buses returned and set off for the Expo hotel around 10:10pm. On arrival, we began setting up our equipment in preparation for the next morning’s seminars which began at 10am. THURSDAY The first full day of Pinball Expo began on Thursday morning. In past times this would have meant the return of the school buses for a guided tour of the Stern Pinball factory. Thing were changed this year with the first ever Expo tour of the Jersey Jack Pinball factory. Rather than everyone arriving leaving at once, tours were arranged in time slots throughout the morning, with those who registered in-person for the tour on Thursday morning being allocated the next available slot. Because we were busy setting up the recording equipment for the seminars we were not able to go on the JJP factory tour. However, Pinball Magazine Editor, Jonathan Joosten, did manage to take the tour and took the pictures you see below. In addition, Pinball News visited the Jersey Jack Pinball factory two days earlier, and we will be adding pictures from that tour to this report too. The line to take the next Jersey Jack Pinball factory tour Along with the change of tour, the transportation had received an upgrade. A luxury coach replaced the previous school buses Although the destination was also new, some visitors would have found the journey somewhat familiar since the JJP factory is on the next street over from the Stern Pinball factory. The destination: the Jersey Jack Pinball factory in Elk Grove Village Tour guests entered the building at the side of the building Inside the building, guests were welcomed by the company’s Marketing & Communications Specialist, Ken Cromwell There were several tour guides, one of whom took each group around the factory One of the two production lines was shut down for the tour to allow the groups to move through the factory safely Partially completed playfields were displayed on the line so guests could see the construction process The view down the production line Guests also got to meet Steve Ritchie, Mark Seiden and Jack Guarnieri Signed flyers of the recent Replay magazine front cover featuring JJP were also available There was also a competition to guess the number of lines of code in one of the company’s recent titles. Guests could submit their guess on a Post-It note, with the closest to the real number winning a prize. Guess the number of lines of code Although the tours were still taking place, the extensive schedule of seminar talks began at 10am on Thursday. The seminars were held upstairs in Nirvana Ballrooms A & B Pinball News was frantically working away back at the Convention Center so we could record all 25.7 hours of them for you to enjoy. You can play them all below or visit our YouTube channel for the Pinball Expo playlist of 35 videos, including tours of the main show hall and also the autograph session held on Saturday. 10:00amWhat to Expect When Buying a Pinball Machine – Troy Smith Troy Smith Troy is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Tilt Amusements, one of the most popular distributors for Stern Pinball’s titles. In his seminar he talked about the pros and cons of buying new or used games, as well as comparing the service, backup and prices when you buy a game from a distributor or from a private sale. 10:30amElectromechanical Mods & The EM Scorekeeper – Tanner Walters Tanner Walters Tanner has created a number of mods to help owners of electromechanical and early solid-state pinball enjoy their machines. He showed how the add-on board he designed allows games to have attract-mode playfield lighting effects, and another which lets players set and record the current high score on games which don’t support that feature. 11:15amThe Future of Reproduction Backglasses – Shay Assad & Bruce Westfall Shay Assad Bruce Westfall Shay runs the Shay Arcade Group which sells reproduction backglasses and plastics, while Bruce is a supplier of reproductions to the company. Shay said the backglass reproduction market is dying as the number of customers for any new glasses is so few it can even be in the single digits.Bruce described the scanning, re-artworking and screen printing process used to recreate the backglasses, explaining why certain vivid or fluorescent colours can’t be reproduced by digital printing. 1:00pmRunning a Successful Pinball Program in a Family Entertainment Center (FEC) – Mike Benjamin Mike Benjamin Mike is the General Manager of Enterrium, the large family entertainment centre which was the venue for Wednesday’s Bumper Blast party. Mike said the key to a successful business is the food and beverage sales, as you won’t get rich on coin drop alone. He said his responsibility to players is to make sure he can provide great games which are well maintained, and to partner with local leagues to host regular events which build a community. He continued, you need to invest in a pinball-specific tech, since modern games are too complicated to be serviced and maintained by a general tech. 1:30pmMeet Wayne Tedder: The Pinball Marathon Guinness Record Holder – Wayne Tedder Wayne Tedder Wayne described how he came up with the idea of attempting to break the existing Guinness World Record for marathon pinball playing and how he approached his distributor, Player One, to get them involved. He showed pictures from the event which was live streamed with comments from viewers worldwide, which Wayne said helped keep him alert. Wayne said he’d have been happy to continue for longer than the 48 hours he achieved, but had to stop for a scheduled live interview for Canadian TV. 2:00pmWorld Premier of PGJ’s ‘Say Pinball!’ (Over 10 Years in the Making) + Pinball in the Media – Jim Schelberg Jim Schelberg Jim is Editor of the Pingame Journal and has spent the past eight years recording people saying the word ‘Pinball’ and turning it into a compilation video, which he premiered here. Because it is still a work in progress he requested it is not part of our video recording. After this showing, he continued with selected clips from his extensive archive of clips of pinball references in popular media. Unfortunately, some of the content he showed is apparently copyrighted so you may not be able to view this part of his seminar either in some regions. 3:00pmA Tour of the Omaha Pinball Museum and Hollywood Candy – Aaron Wojtkiewicz Aaron Wojtkiewicz Aaron began by telling the audience how he became involved in the repair and restoration of a run-down collection of electro-mechanical pinball machines which had been operated at the store Hollywood Candy in Omaha, Nebraska. He showed examples of his work and explained some of his techniques and the products he uses. 4:00pmPinball Restoration ‘The Italian Way’ – Ivan Cicognani Ivan Cicognani Ivan showed some examples of the restoration work he had undertaken, first on an Indiana Jones (with all metal parts and some plastics coated in pure 24ct gold. He continued with a The Addams Family which had a black chrome treatment on all metalwork, including individual screws on both the top and the underside of the playfield too. He said every part was retained but refurbished, adding new coil wrappers to the cleaned solenoids. 5:00pmFrom Star Wars to Turtles, the Sorting Hat to Bob the Builder, Meet Marc Silk: Voice Actor – Marc Silk & Josh Roop Marc Silk & Josh Roop Josh Roop interviewed Marc about his extensive career adding voices to inanimate objects and cartoon characters. Marc described his earliest influences, his techniques when developing a new voice for a character, and taught the audience how to do their own Scooby-Doo impersonation. 6:30pmHappy 40th Birthday ‘Q*Bert!’ – Warren Davis, Jeff Lee & David Thiel Warren Davis Jeff Lee David Thiel Q*Bert hits the big 4-0, so game designer Warren Davis, programmer Jeff Lee and sound designer David Thiel look back on the creation of the unique platform game, as well as looking at the follow-up titles and the problems caused by the mis-interpretation of Q*Bert’s speech. 7:15pmAmerican Pinball Update – David Fix David Fix Palatine-based pinball manufacturer, American Pinball, are busy building more of their Legends of Valhalla games, as well as re-runs of their earlier titles. Director of Operations & Marketing, David Fix, presented a video tour of their factory before announcing that American Pinball will be integrating the Scorbit system into their future titles as well as previous titles, with the Hot Wheels games on the show floor already using it to run a high score leaderboard. He concluded by induction the company’s Senior Mechanical Engineer, Zofia Ryan, into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame. Zofia Ryan 8:15pmFireside Chat: The Best of the Goat Shed – Kim Oswald Kim Oswald The Goat Shed is a repair and restoration business specialising in pinballs and bingo machines, based near Newcastle, the pinball capital of Australia. Kim started with a video showing his personal collection of electro-mechanical pinballs, before continuing around the Goat Shed operation. He described how he became involved in pinball and how he and his friend Graham founded the Goat Shed together. FRIDAY Friday’s seminar schedule usually begins bright and early, and this year was no different. We were back in the seminars room at 7am to get everything set up in preparation for a full day of talks. 8:15amPinball Troubleshooting Made Easy Pt. 2 – Ron Coon, Jr Ron Coon, Jr. After many years working at ‘Dr. Scott’s’ pinball store, Ron has recently moved on following owner Scott Sheridan’s retirement. In this continuation of his regular repair seminar, Ron looked at some of the more curious pinball game repairs he’s had to undertake at the store and on location, showing pictures and seeing if the audience can spot the issue. He also took questions from the audience to try to solve their game repair problems. 9:00amScorbit: Inside Connected Pinball – Jay Adelson, Brian O’Neill & Ron Richards Jay Adelson Brian O’Neill Ron Richards Jay, Brian and Ron are the co-founders of the Scorbit platform which began as an idea in July 2015, with a company founded a year later. Along with logging a user’s scores and achievements, their latest software update allows direct challenges where one player can challenge another player to beat their score on a particular title within seven days. They also spoke about the openness of their platform and how both Matchplay and Drains Tournament Manager interface directly to collect scores, while Jersey Jack Pinball have built Scorbit into their software, with American Pinball doing the same soon. 10:30amStern Pinball, Inc. Virtual Factory Tour – Gary Stern, Seth Davis, Jack Danger Gary Stern Seth Davis This year, in lieu of a physical Stern Pinball factory tour, Jack Danger made a live virtual tour for the Pinball Expo audience to watch. The tour was followed by a question-and-answer session with company Chairman, Gary Stern, and President, Seth Davis, taking questions. The seminar also included a ceremony to mark the induction of Ray Tanzer into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame. Ray Tanzer is inducted by Gary Stern 1:00pmFrom Flip Out to Pinball Republic – 10 Peoples’ Mission to Bring Pinball Back to London – Neil McRae Neil McRae Neil described his personal journey, which involved him first getting into pinball in his late teens before returning to the game in the mid-2010s. He then became involved with a group of nine others who wanted to set up the first ever pinball club in the UK’s capital of London. This collection of around 60 machines turned into Flip Out London, becoming well-established and very popular, although it subsequently had to change its name and is now Pinball Republic. Neil also spoke about the recent UK Open tournament he ran at the Hilton hotel near to Pinball Republic. 2:00pmThe Rebirth of Magic Girl – Max Rogmans, Eric Bartels & Jim Askey Max Rogmans Eric Bartels Jim Askey Max, Eric and Jim were, along with Rogier Voorderhaak, members of the Netherlands-based team who worked together to complete the hardware and software in the Magic Girl game, as detailed in our Pinball News article. They spoke about how they became aware of the game, fell in love with it, and many of the dozens of changes they had to make in order to even make the game playable. Jim, meanwhile, had been the original programmer during development, but worked with the Dutch team to help them understand and ultimately complete the software. 3:00pmThe History of Taito Pinball in Brazil – Paulo Studart Paulo Studart Taito Brazil was a major manufacturer of pinball machines, producing over thirty different titles. Paulo has produced a video in Portuguese explaining their history, the different models and which are considered the best. Most Taito Brazil pinballs are either modified copies or rethemes of existing game designs. Imports of electronic products were banned in Brazil from 1964-1985, forcing companies to make locally-produced versions. 4:00pmHow to Market Pinball to People Under 35 – Doc Monday, Cale Hernandez, Rachel Bess & Tanner Petch Doc Monday Cale Hernandez Rachel Bess Tanner Petch Nudge is a pinball-themed lifestyle magazine skewed towards a younger audience, many of whom aren’t in a position to buy their own machine but are still curious about the pinball community and lifestyle. Doc Monday said it’s a gritty, authentic publication, not afraid to speak in grown-up language and address adult issues. The team discussed their successes marketing pinball using a variety of media, what works, what doesn’t and why. 5:00pmPinball: The Man Who Saved The Game – Roger Sharpe Roger Sharpe Pinball author and marketing guru, Roger Sharpe, returned to Expo to talk about a new movie about a particular period of his life which is currently doing the circuit of film festivals. Pinball: The Man Who Saved The Game is a full-length feel-good movie covering the 1970s when pinball was still illegal in his New York and Roger was asked to testify in the council hearing where the amusement industry was attempting to overturn the ban. Roger talked about the film-making process, his role in it as Executive Producer and technical advisor, the machines used in filming and showed a short clip from the movie, which for copyright reasons we are not able to show in our recording of the seminar. 6:00pmYour Pinball Making Journey Starts Now! – Aaron Davis & Brian Madden Aaron Davis Brian Madden Aaron and Brian are from FAST Pinball who make pinball controller boards which allow homebrew or professional game makers to write their own rules, drive lights and solenoids, play sounds and react to switch inputs. The theme of their talk was to show how easy it can be to start building your own game using their FAST Pinball platform, be it entirely from scratch or by retheming an existing Bally/Williams game using their Retro Controller board. 7:00pmRestoring Pinball as a Collectible Antique – Marcelo Blanco Marcelo Blanco Marcelo grew up in Argentina in a neighbourhood specialising in antiques, which is where he learned how to restore them. He said the most important thing when restoring antiques is to keep them as original as possible – something equally true when restoring pinball machines. When he began restoring pinballs in the early ’90, he found most restorers concentrated on the mechanical and electrical aspects, but nobody was offering an artwork restoration service. He showed some of the challenging pinballs sent to him – games which initially appeared to be beyond saving. 8:00pmPinball Spain – Milestones & Top Collections – Oscar Terol Oscar Terol Oscar is a pinball collector in Barcelona and he began his seminar with a video explaining the history of pinball manufacturing in Spain once the era of General Franco ended. Importing pinballs from the US was very expensive, so machines were built locally using whatever materials were available. Many companies sprang up in Barcelona and Madrid. This led to a large variety of designs, some of which were copies of successful US machines but others were targeted more at the local market, using themes familiar to Spanish players. Oscar then showed some of the large collections found in the country. 9:00pmArt and Animation with Jersey Jack Pinball – JP de Win, John Youssi, Mark Molitor & Olaf Gremie The four panel members were introduced by Jack Guarnieri. Jack Guarnieri Jean-Paul de Win John Youssi Mark Molitor Olaf Gremie Jean-Paul spoke about the different disciplines needed in creating pinball artwork, including 2D animation, 3D animation, user-interface design, typography, video manipulation, traditional drawing skills and printing knowledge. He showed the development process for The Wizard of Oz, including early user interface ideas and wireframe 3D animations, before continuing through all Jersey Jack Pinball’s following titles. John Youssi showed how the treatment he created for Dialed In! evolved, including topper options, while Pat Lawlor stood up and praised the work of the art design team. Olaf spoke about the character animations he created for Willy Wonka, including the Oompa Loompas in the factory and in the match animation. Along with motion design, Mark also created the cabinet artwork for the standard edition of JJP’s Guns ‘N Roses machine and he showed some of the early design ideas, some of which were dropped but others persisted to the final version. SATURDAY 10:30amHow to Reduce Shipping Costs in These Times – Dino Gaspari Dino Gaspari Dino runs the ShipMyPinball.com comparison website which provides the best quotes for shipping pinball machines across the US and into Canada. He had a stand in the main hall and was able to arrange shipping for any machines bought at the show. He explained the options available and the relative costs of collection and delivery, including whether it is palleted, whether it is collected or delivered to a home or dropped-off/collected from a shipping terminal, and insurance options. 11:00amMaking the Pinball Movie You Always Wanted: Skill Shot, Baby! – Emily Brooks, James Moriarty, Imoto Harney, Jen Ruper, Deborah Tahlman, Todd Tuckey & Lisa Barcy The Skill Shot, Baby! panel:Emily Brooks, Lisa Barcy, Imoto Harney, James Moriaty, Todd Tuckey, Jen Ruper & Deborah Tahlman The crew behind the upcoming pinball movie Skill Shot, Baby! talk about the original concept and the shooting of their short promotional movie, Pinball Epiphany, with which they intend to generate interest in the full-length version. Filming for Pinball Epiphany was completed towards the end of September and it will premiere on November 5th at the Carmel Film Forum in Indiana. 12:00pmWalter’s Trading Card Award Ceremony – Walter Day Walter Day Walter Day produces trading cards celebrating achievements in the world of pinball and video games. In this seminar, Walter presented trading cards and commemorative posters to a number of new entrants into the Hall of Fame. 2:30pmRush Design Team Seminar – Tim Sexton, John Borg & Raymond Davidson Tim Sexton John Borg Raymond Davidson Three of the design team from Stern Pinball’s Rush game talked about the initial ideas and development of the title. Game Designer, John Borg, showed some of his original sketches for for playfield and the mechanisms going into the game, explaining how they functioned and how their design and placement changed as the overall design evolved. Tim and Raymond detailed the assets contained in the game, including sixteen full-length Rush songs, and how they were all incorporated into the gameplay. 3:30pmStern Insider Connected – Taylor Bancroft, Mark Penacho, George Gomez, Tanyo Klyce & Mark Guidarelli Taylor Bancroft George Gomez The Stern Insider Connected panel:Taylor Bancroft, Mark Penacho, George Gomez, Tanyo Klyce & Mark Guidarelli The team from Stern Pinball talked about the early concept discussions they had when creating the Insider Connected system, which tracks scores, achievements and multiple data points for players when they register for an account and scan their individual QR code on a game’s barcode reader. They also discussed the leaderboard options for custom events, the multiple achievements they have created for every Spike-2 title and the addition features available to operators which now include diagnostics and fault reporting. 4:30pmPinball Art Then and Now – Greg Freres & Zombie Yeti Greg Freres Zombie Yeti Greg Freres is the Art Director at Stern Pinball with a long history working for Bally, Williams, JJP and Stern, while Zombie Yeti (Jeremy Packer) has created art packages for several Stern Pinball titles, including Deadpool, Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Godzilla. Between them, they explored how the techniques and technology used to create pinball artwork has changed over the decades, how the increased use of licenced themes has impacted creativity, and the importance of the cabinet, backbox and playfield artwork in the attractiveness and enjoyment of the game. 5:30pmNext Level Competitive Pinball – Kristopher Medina & Filip Wolak Kristopher Medina Filip Wolak Kristopher talked about his introduction to pinball in LA in the mid-2000s and soon became obsessed, an obsession which continued when he moved to New York City and created the Pinball NYC website. The site contained league and location information, listing places to play and rating their machines. He also launched the NYC league and ran several pinball events in the city, while Filip created an app to manage and run the league. After creating similar websites for other cities, he announced the new Silverball Cities association of connected team-based leagues, sharing resources, technology and marketing knowhow. Other cities are now being invited to become part of Silverball Cities. 6:15pmGame Design for Homebrew Pinball Designers – Ed Owens, Tanner Petch, Rolando Martin & Jake Danzig Ed Owens Tanner Petch Rolando Martin Jake Danzig This seminar heard from a group of homebrew pinball designers who are often considered one of the best sources of talent when pinball companies are looking for new design staff. Ed Owens created the Ghost in the Shell and Greyhounds: The Race Home, both of which were on the Pinball Expo show floor. Jake Danzig built the The Dukes of Hazzard game which won the prize for best homebrew at Expo. Tanner Petch has created several custom games, while Rolando Martin built a Black Knight game from scratch. Ryan McQuaid built the Sonic The Hedgehog: Spinball game and was recently hired by American Pinball. Each panel member talked about their experiences building their games, the skillset needed, the inspiration for their designs, the technology available and how the homebrew community moves ahead from here. 7:15pmFun and Simple Mods You Can Do on a Budget: Todd Tuckey & Frank Lindenmuth Todd Tuckey Frank Lindenmuth Todd and Frank from TNT Amusements were back at Pinball Expo to suggest a number of simple and cost-effective modifications or add-ons game owners can use to improve their pinballs, along with quick and cheap ways to maintain and fix games. On Saturday, running alongside the seminars – both physically and temporally – two autograph sessions took place in the room next door. The first was a general one for all pinball personalities, while the second was exclusively for Stern Pinball people. The general autograph session Show guests brought translites, backglasses, flyers and other pinball memorabilia for those at the tables to sign. Let’s take a look around the room. Inside the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session Those signing items in the general autograph session An overview of the autograph session You can watch a video of our walk around the tables here: Later in the day, the smaller Stern-exclusive autograph session took place in the same room Inside the Stern Pinball autograph session Those signing items in the Stern Pinball autograph session Those signing items in the Stern Pinball autograph session Those signing items in the Stern Pinball autograph session MAIN HALL As we saw during set-up, Pinball Expo’s vendors and free play machines, which used to be in separate room when the show was held at the previous venue, have been combined into the one main hall. The entrance to the main Pinball Expo hall While that makes it easier to experience everything Expo has to offer, it does mean an end to the all-night play which was a feature of the show for many years. The main hall is open for 42 hours over the three days The flyer table outside the main entrance Just inside the entrance is the registration desk where pre-registered attendees could collect their show pack with their name badge and wristband(s), as well as any T-shirt, sweatshirt, Flippy toy or tote bag purchases. The show registration desk Opposite the registration desk were computers where visitors could make their entry registrations and purchases. Show registration computers In contrast to the low-ceiling and plush carpet of the Ravinia Ballroom at the Westin North Shore where Expo was held until 2019, the Discovery Hall and Adventure Hall at the Convention Center have high ceilings and a concrete floor. The Convention Center hall is much large too, of course. The two halls used for Pinball Expo provide 65,000 sq. ft. of floor space compared to the 15,000 sq. ft. of the Ravinia Ballroom plus the 5,000 sq. ft. of the Lake Michigan Ballroom which was used for the free play area. The show hall So, the new accommodation is much roomier with everything together in one hall, but is more wearing on the feet. There is actually the potential for the show to expand further if required into the adjacent Adventure Hall which is another 32,000 sq. ft., although a home & garden show occupied this on Saturday and Sunday this year. With refreshment options in the surrounding area rather limited, there was a concessions booth at the back of the hall for some rapid refreshment during the set-up of the show without having to leave the building. The concessions stand in the main hall Prices at the concessions stand Having the larger single room meant the free play machines were mixed in with the many vendor stands. Some of the free play machines were set up in back-to-back rows, while others were arranged in islands of three or four. The good news was that there were so many machines it was always possible to find plenty to play. FREE PLAY GAMES Let’s take a look at some of the free play machines available and you can see how available many of them were. These pictures were taken across the weekend. Some rarer titles from Rob Berk’s collection This America 1492 is a Spanish game by Juegos Populares in Madrid The first four of Gottlieb’s ‘Flipper’ series start this row Some classic Bally titles There were plenty of electro-mechanical machines in the mix See… told you And more… The E-M games weren’t all pinballs though While many of the very latest tiles were on the vendors’ stands, there were still lots of modern games in the free play area Electronic pinballs in the free play area More electronic free play games More electronic free play games mixed with electro-mechanicals A bank of ’80s titles A bank of sci-fi themed games Some games were for sale, but most weren’t One of the ‘islands’ of games Some more recent titles Of course, no Expo would be complete without Hercules VENDOR STANDS As we said above, most of the very newest titles were on the stands of the manufacturers or distributors. But there is far more than just machines to buy, with hundreds and hundreds of ways to enhance games and tons of collectables to pick up. We start with some sad news though, with the death straight after Expo of Chance Tees who ran Pinball Wizard Sales & Board Repair business. He always had an impressive stand packed full of reconditioned boards and all the tools you’d need to perform your own repairs, together with standard game spare parts. This year was no different, and he will be sadly missed. The Pinball Wizard stand with Chance on the right Mark Gibson brought an extraordinary array of electromechanical marvels from his Fun With Pinball collection of educational exhibits. Mark Gibson’s Fun With Pinball stand Some of Mark’s interactive exhibits More Fun With Pinball electro-mechanical marvels Nicolas Manaud with his PinSound stand Jersey Jack Pinball had a large stand featuring all their current and past titles with the focus on Toy Story 4 All the JJP titles were represented Although it had been officially announced some weeks earlier, Pinball Expo was the first public appearance for Pinball Brothers’ new Queen game. They had two machines on their stand for visitors to play. The two Queen pinballs from Pinball Brothers The Queen playfield The keyboard targets The song choice display at the start of the game Some of the concert recordings used during gameplay Under the playfield Pinball Brothers also had four of the Alien games set up. Four Alien pinballs on the Pinball Brothers stand American Pinball had brought a dozen of their titles, with a mix of Houdini, Oktoberfest, Hot Wheels and Legends of Valhalla. The American Pinball stand The left bank of American Pinball titles More American Pinball machines America Pinball were showing off their new integration with Scorbit with this Hot Wheels leaderboard Chicago Gaming Company had their current Cactus Canyon model on display in all its variants. Cactus Canyon on the Chicago Gaming stand It wasn’t all Cactus Canyon though, with Medieval Madness and Monster Bash also present Spooky Pinball were also at Expo, bringing their Halloween, UltraMan and Total Nuclear Annihilation 2.0 machines. The Spooky Pinball stand Two UltraMan machines The largest stand belonged to Stern Pinball, who were promoting all their recent titles with an accent of their newest – 007 James Bond. Although we had played and reported on 007 quite a lot in recent weeks, Pinball Expo – starting with Wednesday’s Bumper Blast – was the first time the game had been publicly playable in the US. Machines on the Stern Pinball stand Many more machines on the Stern Pinball stad Eve more machines on the Stern Pinball stand There were plenty of branded merchandise and Insider Connected kits available at the Stern Store Premium/LE and Pro kits for Insider Connected More Stern merchandise for sale Stern also had a stage set up where various interviews with Stern staff members took place. Unfortunately, we were too busy working in the seminars room to get to see any of them but check Stern’s website to see if they are posted there. The Stern Pinball stage There was also a costume competition on Saturday evening Although not attending themselves, Multimorphic were represented by their distributor Wise Trailer who had a couple of P3 machines together with several of their game modules including the latest, Weird Al’s Museum of Natural Hilarity. Two P3 machines on the Wise Trailer stand Some of the P3 modules The Weird Al amd Lexy Lightspeed playfield modules The game with the longest line to play it wasn’t a new title, nor was it from a game manufacturer. Instead, it was the Magic Girl machine from the Dutch team who completed the hardware and software to make it a playable game. We got our hands on it back in May and reported on the history of Magic Girl together with all the work put in by the team turn it into something which could actually be played, but this was the first time it had been at a show. Magic Girl – playable at last The queue to play Magic Girl Continuing with our look at the vendors at Pinball Expo… PinGrafix had some nicely illuminated art blades as well as more conventional ones More art blades on the PinGrafix stand Pinball Pro also had art blades, back panel artwork, shaker motors and much more alongside their line of speaker upgrades Mayfair Amusement Had an impressive range of parts and backglasses More from Mayfair – manuals and schematics The Belles and Chimes stand was promoting women’s competitive pinball Hemispheres Amusements had some nicely restored classic titles as well as the latest releases Hemispheres also had toppers, mods and game upgrades Great American Pinball also had some lovely restorations as well as new toppers and other mods They also had some interesting artwork pieces These black-and-white Twilight Zone and The Addams Family restorations are especially striking We mentioned in the Ron Coo Jr., seminar how ‘Dr Scott’ was retiring from his pinball sales and restoration business. He was at Expo to sell-off some of the stock from the showroom. Some of the parts from ‘Dr Scott’s pinball repair business Boards from ‘Dr Scott’ Dino from ShipMyPinball.com was on hand to arrange shipping for any purchases made at the show There was this rather nice Silverball Mania conversion on his stand Poor Man’s Pinball Podcast was here too, with plenty to sell The Straight Down the Middle podcast was also here as part of the larger… …Flip N Out Pinball stand Project Pinball were running a silent auction on the numerous items on their stand to raise addition funds for the charity A small selection of the Project Pinball silent auction lots Canfield Pinball had original manuals and reproduction cabinet artwork The Pinball Wizard had assorted rubber kits on their stand Mike Benjamin was promoting his nearby Enterrium venue and selling T-shirt & game card packs Precision Pinball Products were exhibiting their range of bespoke replacement flipper bats Pre-war specialist Tap 91 Game Room brought a number of vintage games for visitors to enjoy Rocket City Pinball were selling their range of custom illuminated cabinet buttons They also had some great artwork prints Brian Allen had an impressive stand showcasing his artwork designs More of Brian’s artworks JJP and Stern distributor, The Pinball Place brought a game from each manufacturer… …as well as selling branded merchandise and a stair climbing machine One of the new products on sale at the show was the PinJack – a hand-operated device which raises a machine’s leg to allow you to adjust the leg leveller. Press On Products were selling the PinJack with special show pricing Hardtop had a nice display showing their replacement playfield surfaces Super Skill Shot displayed their wide selection of themed shooter rods Distributor and retailer, Kingpin Games, had toppers, covers, shaker motors, Insider Connected kits and much more… …Including assorted art blades Bandai Namco – the former owners of Enterrium until 2021 – also had a Pac-Man themed stand here Artist Christopher Franchi had a stand where visitors could buy some of his artwork pieces PinStadium were promoting their latest playfield lighting system In addition to providing dozens of tournament games, Tilt Amusements also had a stand in the main hall FAST Pinball had a large stand to showcase both their pinball controller boardset and some of the games built with it Some of the FAST Pinball-based titles Starship Fantasy were back too, with their big selection of reproduction ramps, playfields and displays More ramps on the Starship Fantasy stand The University of Cincinnati had a stand promoting their electronics and mechatronics courses At the back of the hall was a row of homebrew machines. Homebrews allow their designers to both demonstrate their design, programming and construction skills, and also to make a game based on their dream theme. The row of homebrew pinballs In some cases the homebrew machine was built entirely from scratch, while in others an existing playfield design was utilised with new artwork, software and multimedia assets. Here’s a look at each of them. The Dukes of Hazzard Pokémon: Indigo League League of Legends The Haunted Cruise Disney Frozen Sonic the Hedgehog: Spinball Pincraft Greyhounds: The Race Home Ghost in the Shell Deadpool: Maximum Effort Trashland Elf Daikaiju Dumpster Fire Goldeneye virtual pinball Although the name of the show is ‘Pinball’, this year there was a push to expand into other areas of gaming, including video games and retro gaming. The Galloping Ghost arcade brought a selection of arcade video games Gameroom Superstores had plenty of arcade videos to take away Retro gaming systems were also well represented Everything Games were one of many retro and console gaming companies at Pinball Expo Back in the Game were another Console gaming fans would find plenty to interest them Retro Dimension had an eye-catching mascot In addition to the games and vendors, there were some special guests in the main hall. Brian F. Colin or Rampage fame Warren Davis of Q*Bert fame Jeff Lee, also of Q*Bert fame Tim Kitzrow of NBA Jam (and many pinballs) fame You’ve seen the pictures, now here’s our exclusive Twenty-Eight Minute Tour video of the main Pinball Expo show hall. SUNDAY The show hall opened at 10am on Thursday and closed at 2am on Sunday morning. Although some vendors packed up on Saturday evening, the official load-out day was Sunday. There was no doubt that the ability to drive vehicles into the show hall made clearance of the hall a much faster process. Time to clear out the main hall That’s a serious pin-hauler While we were busy working on the seminars, there were multiple tournaments taking place in the unusually sensibly-named Schaumburg E room. Schaumburg E – home of the Pinball Expo tournaments This room was dedicated to the tournaments which is a good thing is some ways, as it gives the tournament organisers free-rein to use the space as they wish compared to the corridor they had to use in the Westin hotel. The flip-side is that unless you are especially interested in the tournaments, you probably wouldn’t even know they are taking place. Hiding them away in a room which usually has the doors closed does little to expose visitors to the main show hall to all the excitement of competitive pinball. The tournaments desk Tilt Amusements provided the new Stern machines used for most of the tournaments, and it made for an impressive line-up. One wall of new Stern tournament pinballs In addition, there were eight Classics Tournament machines on the opposite wall. The Classics machines: Star Gazer, Little Chief, Eight Ball Deluxe, Fast Draw, Abra Ca Dabra, Space Shuttle, Night Rider and Lost World Qualifying for the Women’s, Classics and Kids tournaments began at 10am on Thursday. The Women’s and Classics qualifying continued throughout Friday until 1am, while the Kids Tournament’s play-off and final took began at 10am on Friday. The Kids Tournament machines The main Flip Out tournament used the familiar system of qualified seeding, where everyone who enters starts in the play-offs, but the better you do in the seeding round the more byes you earn through the initial play-off rounds. All the play-off matches were displayed on a long wall chart. The brackets for the main Flip Out tournament Play-off matches in the Flip Out tournament The Classics Tournament, meanwhile, was a simpler affair with players choosing six of the eight machines on which to put up a qualifying entry. The play-offs were simpler too, with a straight double-elimination chart showing progress. The Classics play-offs Play-off matches in the Classics tournament The Flip Out tournament was live-streamed by Fox Cities Pinball and you can watch the play-off rounds on their Twitch channel. There was also a small audience watching the stream in the tournaments room. Watching the live stream of the Flip Out tournament The Flip Out tournament was divided into A and B divisions. The B division wrapped up on Saturday night with a win for Bob Johnson. The A division’s play-offs continued at 9am on Sunday and came down to a final between 3rd-placed qualifier Zach McCarthy and 13th-placed Jared August. Zach had remained unbeaten in the winners’ bracket, while Jared had lost to top-qualifier Karl DeAngelo in the quarter-finals but had won through the losers’ bracket to make the final. That meant Jared would need to beat Zach twice in the best-of-three final in order to win, whereas Zach only had to win one best-of-three. With a plane to catch, the machines for the final were made harder with the disabling of all ball savers and the removal of the outlane post rubbers, plus the match was cut from the best-of-five to the best-of-three. Josh Sharpe turns off all ball savers on the first game of the final Jared begins the first game of the final, The Mandalorian That lack of an outlane rubber resulted in a quick drain for Jared on his first ball. Zach plays his first ball A 185M super jackpot wrapped the game up for Zach, to lead 1-0 going into game two on The Avengers: Infinity Quest. A great second ball set Zach up with a 325M vs 3M lead going into ball three. While Jared cashed in some of the features he had set up, he only got to 51M before his ball drained. That gave Zach a 2-0 win in the final. Zach won a new-in-box Stern machine as his first prize. Jared was second, Karl DeAngelo was third and Dalton Ely was fourth. Winner of the Flip Out 2022, Zach McCarthy Second place, Jared August Third place, Karl DeAngelo Fourth place, Dalton Ely The Flip Out 2022 top four The Classics tournament was the last to finish, with the play-offs continuing late into Sunday afternoon. Play-offs in the Classics tournament Eighth-placed qualifier, Steven Bowden, made it through to the final in the winners’ bracket. There he would face second-placed qualifier, Gregory Kennedy in the best-of-five final. Gregory starts the Classics final on Star Gazer Steven plays his first ball of the final Despite managing to win one game, Gregory couldn’t stop Steven’s unbeaten run which gave him a 3-1 final win. Winner of the Pinball Expo 2022 Classics tournament, Steven Bowden Second place, Gregory Kennedy Third place, Neil Graf Fourth place, Jeff Teolis The Classics final four with tournament organisers Deborah Tahlman and Jen Ruper And with the final of the Classics tournament we end our coverage of Pinball Expo 2022. We weren’t able to attend last year’s show, but from the many conversations we had there was no doubt this years Expo was a marked improvement on the 2021 event. The merger of the free play and vendor halls was seen as a major success, as was the Jersey Jack Pinball factory tour, although being able to choose your time slot for the tour in advance was widely suggested as a possible improvement to help attendees better plan their day. The seminar schedule was extensive and covered a wide range of topics, bringing in a small element of video games to match the expansion of the show hall to include video and retro gaming. Given the resurgence of Covid, there was still an element of reticence on the part of some previous attendees to return to a large-scale public event like Expo. As a result we missed seeing some familiar faces – either because they were absent or because they were hidden behind masks. Hopefully 2023 will bring a greater degree of confidence and willingness to attend, but in the meantime those who were there had no problems finding games to play in the show hall and the aisles were never crowded or obstructed. The hotel accommodation was of a good standard, as were most of the facilities at the hotel and Convention Center, but there’s no denying everyone missed having food and drink outlets just outside the hotel’s front door as we had in Wheeling. When we packed up our recording equipment from the seminars at the end of each day – having been in the room for sixteen hours – and went to join friends in the bar, it was disappointing to find it had already closed. Holding the Bumper Blast welcome party at Enterrium was also a success. It’s an attractive venue with plenty of games to enjoy as we found when we visited the previous night, but a few improvements are still possible, of course. Taking nearly all the pinballs away for use in a tournament in which only a minority participated seemed rather excessive, as was having the return buses sitting there full of people but waiting until everyone was accounted for until any of them departed. Once a bus was full, it should have gone. Many people gave up waiting and called an Uber instead, which further confused matters. Really, though, those are just minor issues. Pinball Expo hosts a large number of events – too many for us to cover fully – and the organisers are still trying new ideas to improve the experience for show guests. We very much enjoyed our time in Schaumburg and look forward to returning next October for 2023’s show. We hope you enjoyed our coverage. If you have any thoughts about the show we’d love to hear them. Please leave your comments below. Big thanks to Jonathan Joosten of Pinball Magazine for his help covering as much as we could from the show and the seminars. Join him and Pinball News Editor, Martin Ayub, for their regular monthly PINcast where they look back on their Pinball Expo trip as well as all the other Pinball Industry News throughout October.