The Who sang of a Pinball Wizard while Sesame Street once taught numbers using pinball visuals, but those glory days were long ago. At least one pinball maker reckons that the time is right for pinball to make a comeback in a big way. I hope he's right.
There's only one large-scale pinball manufacturer left in the form of Stern Pinball, but Slate reports on the efforts of a smaller, New Jersey-based manufacturer, Jersey Jack Pinball and its proprietor, Jack Guarnieri.
He's been working rather tirelessly on a next-generation table based around, of all things, The Wizard Of Oz. Guarnieri has assembled something of a Who's Who of pinball designers for a table designed not only for dedicated pinball collectors, but also in an attempt to get pinball back into amusement arcades and bars, on the basis that there isn't a large enough market purely in providing tables for collectors. Guarnieri is throwing pretty much everything into the game, right down to a crystal ball, telling Slate:
"When you look into the crystal ball and see a moving image" he explains, "you say, Holy shit, how much more could you put into this game?"
So far it seems to be going well, with the article noting that the theme of the table also means it's attracting a higher-than-usual proportion of female players. If Dorothy's travails through Oz don't compel you, it's worth noting that the next table that Jersey Jack will be working on is based on The Hobbit, although that's not due to ship until next year at the earliest.
Pinball is a bit of a passion of mine (although sadly I've never had the right combination of space and/or funds to own a physical machine), so I'd love to see him succeed in making pinball generally more popular. Also, if any of my relatives are reading this, The Wizard Of Oz machine ships this year well before my birthday...
That aside, the Slate article is an excellent potted history of pinball, and good reading for anyone keen on silver balls and economics behind them. [Slate]