When will pinball be considered "BIG" again?


Are there Bingos by you? I have seen them in NC and VA (well obv VA with Nick but in truck stops) or do they really think Game of Thrones is a gambling device?


Nope. No Bingo machines I’m aware of in Austin on location – or anywhere in Texas that I’m aware of.

I used GOT, specifically, to explain how math and strategic decision-making (choosing your house, etc) come into play when you play pinball. I think I changed her opinion of them. :slight_smile:


Austin is a good town. I used to live on the east side near 12th and Chicon. So I could see how there might be some bingos hidden there :smile: Well I lived there like 7 years ago when it was 12th and Chicon. Now there are condos, so prob not anymore.


When people hear pinball and don’t think ping pong


We (IFPA) were approached by Draft Kings about potential sponsorship a while back.

When asked the size of our player base, it was back when we were just passing the 30,000 range. The call quickly went to them not being interested in a competitive community of that size.

When I asked what size would make it something they would consider, they said MINIMUM 100,000 players, but something in the 250,000+ range would be more interesting to them.


Here is my proposal: When I tell people my rank, they respond wow, I didn’t know that many people played pinball, instead of being impressed.


What if you word it so instead of rank you say nth percentile?


Or “Oh I love pinball! I played so much Space Cadet back in 2002.”


When someone makes a sequel to Hercules.


If it gets REALLY big, you’ll start hearing of the same people again and again. Everyone in the fighting game community knows who Combofiend and Filipino Champ are, and that’s because they make it far into many, many fighting game competitions.

Groan-worthy but ultimately not surprising, considering the popular perception is that you blindly whack at the ball hoping not to lose. The one thing that astonishes people more when they find out pinball is a thing is that competitive pinball is a thing. “You mean there are people who can always get high scores!?”

Interesting also in some insight into how big something has to be for particular sponsors to be interested. Personally, I wouldn’t call something with 30,000 fans to be that big either. I’ve been (and still am) fans of things in that 100,000 to 250,000+ range, and even they go mostly unnoticed by the mainsteam.


Well we must be big. Cuz I can with a pretty good degree of certainty name 5 people who will win all the major tournaments in 2017…Hahah.

Well more or less. A few people surprise us but that expands the list to 15 people out of 40,000 registered players.

I mean that proves talent is necessary at least


Well, it’s kind of a horseshoe thing: When something’s small, the same people will win again and again because the pool of participants is small, and the people who can consistently do well is small. When it gets bigger, you get increased diversity as more people get in, and then when it gets REALLY big, it goes back to being the same few again and again because now you have the dedicated, professionals who may be paid to do it, and if not, then eat, sleep, and breathe it.

Competitive rock-paper-scissors is an example of the same few people winning again and again due to the people with world-class skill being pretty small. The Pokémon Trading Card Game is an example of the middle stage, which is big enough to have competitions with thousands of peolpe in them but you rarely have the same people winning more than one World Championship. And then you get up to something like the NBA, where players are paid six-figure sums just because they’re extremely good at the game and you get people like Kevin Durant and LeBron James always doing several noteworthy things every year.

Though where one moves form one to the other, if it does at all, is on a case-by-case thing. I’d say there are about as many people right now in competitive pinball as there is in competitive Pokémon TCG, but pinball is something that’s less known, or at least less played at a non-competitive level.

The big thing right now, I feel, is a pretty high barrier of entry. Pinball machines are very expensive compared to most other forms of gaming. For the price of a new-in-box modern machine, you could get ten PS4 Pros, a video game system criticized for its price. It’s also not beginner-friendly (as has been seen with the topics here and there about beginner behavior and how to teach them–the fact that they need to be taught at all shows how beginner-unfriendly they are).


There’s an EBD about two miles from me set to 50 cents a play. That’s a pretty low barrier of entry.

If we only consider it a collector hobby, it will never get big again. Not enough wealth in the country. Supporting your local operators is the best possible way to help the hobby keep growing, short of operating games yourself.

I certainly don’t mean to single you out as many others feel this way. The vast majority of the posters on pinside are oblivious to location play. That said, comments like yours above on this particular forum doesn’t give me much hope. Casual players are what this hobby needs more of. And casual players don’t buy NIB games.


I have to agree with @phishrace. Other sports have significantly higher barriers to entry, and are more popular than pinball. Look at auto racing or hockey. Both are immensely popular, and have a relatively large cost associated with infrastructure.

Obviously given the right climate, hockey can be relatively cheap to get into as a player, but having made the mistake of previously owning a drag strip in a rural economically depressed region, I think I can safely say that at even the lowest levels of competition, the sportsmen will often outlay several thousand dollars just to become a competitor.


Pinball IS relatively expensive for young people. $5- $10 a sesh is huge if you’re 13 years old. Half the location games in town are also in 21 and up places.

The themes are targeted towards a very narrow demographic. I play despite the themes, not because of them.

There’s also a def old boys club vibe to pinball. Not to dig up old dirt but thinking about last month’s fb drama regarding a comment about Bowen’s patreon. I felt that a lot of comments that were made gave me the feeling that pinball was very exclusive.


Unfortunately, the manufacturers themselves put in a lot of effort towards the home buyers market and not enough towards location play. But the thing is…pinball is not an easy thing to find in public. I have to rely on sources like Pinball Map to find these machines, and these sources are not exactly common knowledge. I attribute that to the near-extinction of arcades in the west–there aren’t many places where putting these machines up are viable. Even for someone who only plays machines in public like myself, I know that operators would want to take as few risks as possible, and pinball competes for operators’ cash with redemption machines and claw machines, which give out prizes (or at least suggest passers-by that they do so). Hence, there are few machines in public. That’s a barrier of entry too.

That’s the predicament pinball is in: Pinball is something everyone has heard of but few people have actually SEEN. Hence, it’s one of those things that’s mainstream in awareness but not much further than that.

I can’t say much for hockey as I don’t live in a cimate with snow and ice, though I am aware of hockey leagues and such. I didn’t know auto racing was big though. Does that include nighttime street racing?

For the youth, pinball would compete with video games (including mobile games) for their attention, and having to pay every game is a huge turn-off to them. That’s why arcades died out in the first place: They’ll pay more for their initial purchase of a game system and the games they want, but they can then play for an unlimited amount. Online play and some games DO have a subscription service, but that’s a pretty major sore point for many.

Also, I think the themes being appealing to a pretty narrow demographic is something of a necessity, unfortunately: Because these tables are so pricey, and the manufacturers concentrate on the home buyers audience, they go for the group that they believe can afford to buy these machines. Fans of AC/DC would be old enough to have jobs with the disposable income for one, but fans of Bruno Mars? Probably not. We’re getting a table themed on Adam West Batman, but I don’t think we’re ever getting one themed on Attack on Titan. That being said, if they could aim more at the public play section (I’m not sure how feasible that is), they could potentially aim at any range. Data East clearly aimed their machines at kids, with themes like TMNT, Jurassic Park, Rocky & Bullwinkle, and Back to the Future, and were pretty successful at this.

I think that if there is a kind of club mentality to it, it can be shattered if large groups of newcomers come in. That is, what TV Tropes refers to as a “Newbie Boom”. I can say firsthand that Mario Kart used to be like this, as is what’s happening to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure right now. (If you’ve never heard of JJBA, I guarantee you will in the next five years.) If some machine can become a breakout hit outside of the established audience, the exclusionists will be pushed to the fringes, and with nowhere to go, either integrate themselves into the new crowd (as with Mario Kart), seclude themselves in the fringes (as with JJBA), or just dissolve completely as the old fans move on to something else (as with fans of Homestuck before it became popular).


another vote for when you talk about pinball, it’ll officially be big when they don’t say, “oh i love ping pong” :joy:



please tell me I can buy this shirt somewhere.