Could a modern pin sell without any video screens

Is there any interest (or even a chance) someone could make a “modern” version of an EM game - original or remake of an old EM without video modes and have it sell?

What would be a good price point for something like that? $5000?

Is this even moot with newer generations not even interested in EMs?

Look at Whoa Nellie, Pabst BR, and Primus. All were special project type games, modern EM. I don’t think anyone was super eager to own those games.

It would be a tough sell for sure, but you put a popular license on anything and it’s got a shot.

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A bigger problem with those was a boring playfield. I doubt any EMs would rework well, but several solid states would. Look at the Beatles, which is Seawitch with upgraded software. I think others like Meteor, Skateball, Warlok, Ali, Barracora, Centaur and Flash Gordon could be interesting if redone a similar way.

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Those games have a combination of mediocre themes and “EM style” gameplay… and while “EM style” gameplay isn’t inherently a bad thing, especially for us hardcore pinball fans, it can feel like a big step backwards for players who discovered pinball in the SS or later eras.

@pinball2020, I think you’re sorta asking two questions that don’t necessarily have the same answer: one question is whether a “modern EM” game would sell… seems like the answer is “not very well”. The other question (the title of the thread) is potentially more interesting: could a “modern pin”, with modern layout and rules, but no video screen, sell? That’s a tough one in my mind. It’s easy to argue that players mostly don’t see the stuff on the screen so they wouldn’t miss it… but it’s also really difficult to make consumers take a clear step backwards once they’ve become accustomed to the new shiny. Black and white TV went on a sharp decline once color was available, just as SDTV CRTs did once HDTV flat-screens debuted. Good luck trying to buy a new car without power windows, power locks, and A/C… etc etc.

So IMHO, while you may see occasional dabbles into producing games without a screen – be they “EM style”, “SS style”, or “modern style” playfield and rules – my guess is that those games will command a similar percentage of the market as cars with manual-roll windows.

BTW – speaking for myself, not any company – game manufacturers probably wish this was not true. Those video screens are really expensive… not because of the BOM (gotta at least show the player basic info like scores, and these days a basic 15" LCD screen is probably cheaper than segmented displays) but because it takes a lot of time from a lot of animators, artists, UI specialists, programmers, etc to produce well choreographed, attractive video imagery for each of the bazillion features in modern game software.


Makes sense. If anything the direction is going to more screens and connectivity to play by Internet head-to-head or against others remotely. I see things like fitness bicycle machines now with linked Internet screens and I get the social connectivity.

Lots of habit trails, good licensed title, synchronized lights and sound/music and things happening on the playfield might do it but again it would have to be something unique and wonderful.

Right, but IMHO, then you have to ask: once you’ve invested in a great licensed title, great lighting, great audio, great playfield, and great rules… why aren’t you taking the final step and offering a great video package? Because the competitors to your left and right are probably offering great video packages, and video attracts players and buyers from 20 feet away, in ways that the other attributes can’t (due to the placement of the screen vs. placement of playfield elements/lighting, and ambient interference with audio). And we know that in the modern era, even licensors that are inherently NON-visual – e.g. bands/musicians – frequently invest a lot of time and money in providing an amazing visual experience. Of course lighting is a big part of that, but so is video.


Total Nuclear Annihilation is essentially, imo, a modern take on an EM.

Also as a ‘newer generation’ (ie: started playing pinball in the ladt 10 years) person I will say, I often prefer EMs. It’s not that they’re not interesting, it’s just that they’re not as prominent in bar-type situations where newer players might encounter a game. I think it’s more likely one will encounter and EM in a more niche arcade or home collection. EMs don’t have attracts to make them as eye-catching (EDIT:) which leads to them being less bar-worthy.

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Agree on TNA I seem to recall Scott saying the screen was an after thought you could easily make that game minus the screen and it just be as cool.

One thing screens are really useful though is all the different high score on modes etc.


Besides Whoa Nelly and Pabst, Stern essentially did this with different versions of ‘the pin’. No video screen, less complicated playfields, lower price tag. They were targeted at non-collectors who wanted one pin to go along with all the other games they have in their game room.

Judging by how many I’ve worked on, I don’t suspect they sold well. The only one I’ve worked on was in a game room at a Cisco inc building. Told the facilities guy that called me each time that they should get a pro at minimum if employees are regularly going to hammer the game.

I cut my pinball teeth on EM’s and still love playing them occasionally, but newer is always the best. Half the fun of the new games is learning the shots and rules. That didn’t take nearly as long with EM’s. Most all the rules were spelled out on the instruction card and the single level shots didn’t take long to learn. Modern games take dozens and dozens of plays to figure out. That’s the fun for me.

Why make a modern EM when you can get original EMs for 10-30% of the price?

TNA without a screen would probably have sold just as well.


@joe, I wouldn’t add the video if all the elements were working to keep costs down which you pointed out are a decent chunk of development. This is a hypothetical thread since it seems a lot of people expect the video elements in all aspects of the their gaming.

I like both the modern games (Hot Wheels - I need a like from you, Joe, so I can move up a forum member level :), Avengers Infinity Quest, etc) as well as the old EMS. My motto from playing arcade games, consoles and pins has been - if the game is fun people will play it. You can have all sorts of gimmicks - I will give everyone the fact that you need a great license to get attention for the pin/game/etc - but eventually it comes down to - is the game fun?

And I guess the markets decide what is fun if it sells which reminds me of something a friend said to me.
As the late horror/suspense writer Gary Brandner told me when I was writing suspense and complaining that I probably should write romance novels, Gary said, “Don’t ever apologize if you can write or do something that is popular for the mainstream. If you have a gift for it and want to do it, go for it because you can make a lot of money doing that.”

I think I need to get to work on the Hallmark Pinball Christmas special :).

And to muse on my musings - as the pinball hobby gets nichier, especially if barcades close and the mainstream sales go to individuals and families - can’t there be a low end niche - without video screens to sell just as there are high end machines? I don’t have the numbers for the business model but that might be something if the cheapo Arcade1Up pins take off and people start finding they want something more “substantial” or nostalgic.

I personally dont like the video screens… Honestly I get too distracted and would rather just look at the playfield. Also, it’s annoying that you can’t just look at a machine and know 4 player’s scores without waiting for a bunch of screens to cycle through (not considering sometimes you can press flipper buttons to cycle faster)… Admittedly my favorite ever is original Black Knight, which definitely ages me, but personally I would welcome a good game without a screen…

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Scott told me the real reason the screen was added to TNA was for the menus. Without a screen it’s difficult to change options or troubleshoot the game. So keep in mind it has a use case that people are used to that extends to beyond when the game is even flipping.

TNA isn’t a modern EM though, it’s a modern solid state. Legit difference. If you’re truly trying to do an EM it won’t have much in the way of code or options to worry about. And also a lot less appeal to buyers, why not just get a real EM for a lot cheaper at that point?

New games don’t need video content to sell, not if you’re creative, but they have to offer a modern experience to garner interest. TNA isn’t an 80s game, it just borrows heavily from them as an influence, while still containing very modern features.


I’m finding in newer games that there need to be pauses in the gameplay -ball locked or saucered - to get and enjoy the videos. It doesn’t have to be that way. Pinball action can stand on its own. I enjoy the videos just saying they are videos in a pinball game. :blush:. If they are interesting and well integrated that’s awesome.