Operators Ball Saver Yes or No?

Just curious, do you run your games with the ball saver on, reduced or just completely off?
We are leaning towards completely off, due to the higher cost of the equipment and longer ROI.


Are you sure that this will actually pan out the way you think it does? I suspect that it could backfire on you.

When I’m at a location where machines are set up unreasonably for casual play (no rubbers on the outlanes, hair-trigger tilt, no ball saver, auto-plunger that fires into the outlane, and similar), my reaction is to not put any more money into the machine until the operator gets reasonable. From my experience, many other people react the same way.

After turning the ball saver off, you may well find your ROI going down.


If you disable ball saver on newer games at a location frequented by the general public rather than mainly experienced pinball players, you’ll find that the average game time goes way down. Most people probably won’t play more than a couple times.

Depending on where you are, the games you have on location might be the first game of pinball some people have played in many years, or even the first game of pinball they have ever played. Keep that in mind as you set up your games.


For someone to put more dollars into a machine, the person needs to have had fun during the first two or three games. If that’s not the case, that’s the end of the revenue stream from that person.

This line of reasoning works for tournaments as well. Machines that are too easy are bad, machines that are too hard are bad. Strike a balance.

If a operator with pins on location you definitely need to leave ball saver on. Too many casual players not fond of losing a house ball right off the bat some don’t even know they have upper Flippers. . On top of that it is costing them more than 1 token or quarter to play now it is up to $1.00. So not having a ball saver when most players are casual players at a location who will not play long to me should not happen. Leave ball saver on and just up the points to get a replay for the hardcore player to hit.


One of the most popular operators around here extends his ball saves. I think they are maybe 10 seconds. Good players it doesn’t really matter since they’d probably last longer than that anyhow, and it really really helps the newbies. Some people even seem to think pinball is a one ball game so in that case it’s an even worse experience for them potentially. So I’d say yes to ball saver and leave it on default settings probably is fine…


Not to blow anyone’s mind here the testing we have done on this, did show a 30% increase in gross. With satisfaction remaining flat with 90% of customer base (casual) as they where happy just to play a new Pinball period. In most of our locations real-estate is at a premium. So anything to help keep a pin there is good.
I know some manufacturers are using the ball saver to fix poor design, this is unfortunate.

We ran .75 per game, or .25 per ball. No replays

1 Like

Welp, we’ll see how it goes in the long term. The features you are turning off were created explicitly to increase earnings for operators.

I don’t see anything about the casual player base now that would indicate they enjoy less game time over the player base from when these features were first implemented.


Please keep in mind the causal player bace spends more money on very short redemption games, so a Pinball with no ball saver is still an eternity to them.

1 Like

So… your mind was already made up then.

What do you mean by this, Sean?

1 Like

Just a couple of schools of thought thats all, there have been some great games without ball savers like fun house, adams family etc. Ultimately what works for us may not work for you. I guess its important to remember where the ball saver came from, it came from one manufacturer trying to get the leg up on the other, and in the end may not really help the profitability of the operator. As for the design thing im not going to point fingers but if the ball saver is turned because of faulty feeds from scoops etc it might be a design problem.

Or it might be to help mitigate machines that play like shit due to operators who can’t be bothered to keep their games in working order.


One weird trick to increase profits – TRIPLE the length of your ball save!

If you want more quarters, increase the price ($1 with no multi-game discounts) or dial down the replay percentage (since those of us who always score replays are already hooked). But keep the ball saver high. Otherwise, you’re just driving away new players.

You mention you did testing, but I’d argue that the testing you’re doing is short-sighted. It’s trying to answer the question “How much could I make this week with ball saver on or off?” But next year, are there going to be 40 players in your league or 50? Are you going to have 4 people who want to host tournaments at your location or 6 potential TDs?


I’d say ball saves can be split roughly into 3 categories

  1. Start of ball
  2. Start of Multiball (and Add a Balls)
  3. After a specific scoop kickout

(1)Will certainly be of benefit and encourage newer players to a machine if they get a 2nd chance if they lose a ball in the first few seconds. For better players it probably won’t impact on them too much as they are likely to go past the ball save period in the majority of games.

(2)Again, this seems to be by default on the majority of games. This probably has the largest impact on ball times, as to get to multiball you’re unlikely to be completely useless. If you are a better player it gives you the opportunity to try and trap up with impunity while the ball save is on.
Add-A-Ball features where you hit the action button, are realistically add 2 balls, because you only ever use it as the ball the is draining that would take you back to single ball play. You go from 1 ball to 3 balls AND you get a ball saver.

(3) I think this is what @eggman meant by poor design.
Having a ball save on every time the ball kicks out of the elevator on AS, or the head on Kiss, for example along with many more similar issues. (It would be nice to see one on AS after a failed kickout from the VUK to the toybox) The easy answer in the home environment is to make sure you machine is level, power of kickouts are adjusted, slope is set correctly etc. this just isn’t possible on site to maintain that level of accuracy, as it only needs 1 person to move the machine and the setup can change drastically. Hence the need for the ball save.
What would be nice to see is a ball save coupled with an auto correct of power from the kickout. i.e. you shoot a scoop. it then fires SDTM, you get a ball save BUT the next time it goes in that scoop it lowers the power slightly, If it again goes SDTM it lowers it again, and again until it starts working properly.

If you can set all 3 ballsaves up differently that would be great.
For location play keep all 3 active
Home activate to suit your want
Tournaments just keep no.3

There’s nothing more demotivating than having a house ball to an experienced player, let alone a newbie. If I was in that situation I probably wouldn’t put any more money in that machine, or possibly any machine again.


For the arcade coin play setup. This limiting ball times to have the next player in line faster on the game, and hence more plays on it over time, always amuses me somewhat. Seems a theoretic approach for up-ing the revenue.

Depends on the venue of course. But, I believe the intake will fluorish from having players comming back. Because they enjoy the game and believe they are getting their moneys worth.

The guy running new games around here is doing 1 extra ball only now. How does that sound?

To your questions.

For the casual-ist of players, ball saver is of no importance. They do not know what they are missing. They may take notise of it, but maybe not conceptually. Just play on till game over.

However, even lightly pinball acquainted people start to take notise of ball saver. Understand it, and ask where it is on older games. And ball saver will appeal to their choice of coin drop.

For multi-player/tournaments for casuals, it is a whole different story. Ball saver and extra balls AND even putting in the correct number of players are difficult to understand. And it does not help that a lot of games - all eras - are horrible(!) at making it clear what is going on. And who is up (still up).

Still to this day. Take Guardians of the Galaxy. The number of players is indicated by these fluffy “0” score digits. Which no one recognises as a score figure. A guaranteed four player games punched in by accident at my spot.

I guess I should have provided more information, our testing was for a 6 month period, it may be also important to note most of our locations are not bars, the location in question is a restaurant with high a demographic of children, we also noticed a similar increase in a coffee lounge type place, by removing modern stern games with classic 80s stuff. It was a while ago but I think we went from a Star Terk Pro ($1standard settings) to an Bally Elektra (.75)


That is not really that much more information. How was the 6 month test conducted? How was 90% satisfaction measured? What was the impact on other audits?

This does not surprise me at all. At the 2 arcade bars near us, the EMs are the most played. They are the first machines new people go to.

It is funny how many people I have seen tilt Star Wars because the ball was “stuck” when in reality it is the mode start. Many modern machines are intimidating to walk up to.

There are other ways to shorten ball times and still give general public a good experience. Lower ball saves to 5 seconds for start of ball and multiballs. Move out lanes to advanced positions and increase slope on machines. Increase replay target. It is a fine balance of making the machine harder to play and still gives a good experience.


Satisfaction is measured in a few ways , 1 survey, 2 video surveillance. I did forget to mention the side drains are set pretty easy, as people feel thats “cheap” aka unfair.