The Pinball VS Arcade Industry Battle of the 80s and 90s

During the boom times of the 80s and 90s, it would have been quite hard to imagine that one day the coin-operated (coin-op) pinball and arcade video games business would (almost) disappear.

With the current worldwide resurgence in pinball and old school arcade machines making a comeback in barcades, we thought we’d take a look at how prevalent pinball and arcade games were in the 80s and 90s in the biggest coin-op amusement market in the world, the good ole USA!

We delved deep into the available ‘Census of Service Industry‘ data from the US Department of Commerce, which kept record of “sources of receipts” for pinball and arcade machines in establishments across the US. What we found was quite eye-opening!

source: 1982 Census of Service Industries: Industry Series. Miscellaneous Subjects(SC82-I-5) – US Dept of Commerce

From the 1982 census data, there were 5,434 sites across the US where the general public could attend to get their fix of playing pinball and arcade games. The total US takings at these establishments was a whopping  USD$1.175 billion (for that year), with arcade machines earning the lion’s share with USD$890.4 million and pinball with $284.3 million. Remember, this was just before the video games crash of 1983. Interestingly, Pennsylvania had the highest number of establishments (268), with the split of takings between pinball (USD$34.2M) and arcade (USD$36.0M) being almost 50/50. Everywhere else, it was arcade video game machines that took more coins out of pockets.

source: 1992 Census Of Service Industries: Subject Series. Sources of Receipts or Revenue (SC92-S-4) – US Dept of Commerce

By 1992 the coin-op amusement landscape changed quite a bit. As evident by the numbers, pinball declined substantially while arcade machines broke through the magical USD$1 billion earnings barrier for that year – that is some serious amount of coins! Pinball had unfortunately slid back, earning their operators a poultry (when compared to arcade video games) USD$165M in 1992. With hindsight, pinball was going to be saved by some big name licensed machines – hello The Addams Family!

source: The Arcade Flyer Archive

As already hinted, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for pinball. According to Vending Times (which tracks the use of coin-operated games), in the mid-1990s the silver ball game had rebounded with takings of USD$912M in 1994 (that was 38% of the total coin-op market at the time) and then almost doubling to a dizzying USD$1.7 billion by 1997/8. Pinball had gone from junk to the golden goose in three short years! Before pinball operators could make it rain more coins, it was the 32-bit gaming era that sounded the death knell for not only pinball, but arcade video games too. By the end of the 1990s, the number of venues where one could play pinball and/or arcade machines dwindled dramatically. Things got acutely dire for pinball when the once mighty Williams closed up its pinball division near the end of 1999.

The beauty of hindsight is that we can assess and track the ups and downs of the pinball and arcade coin-op industry. With the current global video games industry sporting 2.6 billion gamers and takings in excess of USD$116 billion per annum, the time of amusement centres on every street corner are long gone. If pinball could tap even 0.5% of this (that’s USD$580M), then the great silver ball game will be here to stay and be enjoyed for many generations to come!

Enjoying some arcade and pinball action at Melbourne’s Invaders Amusement Centre
– circa early 80s


Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen Visits Melbourne

While in Melbourne-town for the Melbourne eSports Open, author, presenter and broadcaster extraordinaire, Stephanie ‘Hex’ Benidxsen had a bit of down time to check out the many awesome pop culture sites, gaming establishments and other extremely rad geeky stuff that our great city has to offer!

As Hex says, “Luckily Melbourne is a hub of gaming and pop-culture-related activity” – it sure is! if you haven’t checked out all of these places, then you are missing out!

source: Visit Melbourne via Facebook


Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Welcome to the world of Nitro Ball!

Engage in the deadliest game show with Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Nitro Ball! 

Flying Tiger Entertainment’s Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Nitro Ball (aka: Gun Ball), is the exciting arena-style shooter by Data East™ that was originally released in 1992.

Nitro Ball features Gary, an Ex-Navy Sergeant and Harry, an Ex-Police Officer who battle their way through a futuristic game show that takes place on vertical pinball worlds. In fact, each arena includes bumpers, buffers, rails and even pinball holes.

There are five different stages with unique enemies and bosses including: Strange Football, Combat Field, Ghost Town, Aliens World and Space Station. Each stage also features a short challenge to destroy a certain number of enemies in a given amount of time.

While the main goal is to annihilate as many goons as possible, players also rack up points to win various items. Nitro Ball is a fast and furious action-packed game filled with dangerous weapons, power-ups and bosses that make gameplay fun and exciting, especially with friends.

Nitro Ball is zooming to the Nintendo Switch™ eShop in North America on August 16, 2018. Pre-orders (in North America) are available right now. Oh yeah, it is coming soon to selected European territories too – so stay tuned!


  • Play single player or simultaneously with one or two friends
  • Shoot enemies into holes for extra points and prizes
  • Collect various power-ups; one even turns players into a pinball!
  • Complete secret objectives on each stage for added bonuses
  • Vertical play mode is supported for the Real Arcade Feel

image source: Flying Tiger Entertainment


Boom! Stern Pinball Unleashes Deadpool

Yesterday Stern Pinball Inc. announced their latest pinball machine, Deadpool. Based on the Marvel comics (not the movies), Stern seems to have captured the real essence of the Marvel character, thanks to the artwork by famed artist, Jeremy Packer, also known as Zombie Yeti.

True to the Deadpool character, Stern have thrown in some really clever, funny and backhanded insults, taunts and other comments all over their three Deadpool pinball machine models (Pro, Premium and Limited Edition (LE)) – check them out below. We particularly love the “OOOH, YOU’RE FANCY!” one on the LE plaque.

Oh yeah, the backboard LCD screen graphics will definitely take you back to your 80s and 90s video game days with their pixelated imagery – the nostalgia is overwhelming!

Designed by George Gomez with coding lead by Tanio Klyce, the Deadpool Pro model will hit Australian shores in October, followed by the Premium and LE models in late November (subject to change).

We can’t wait to get to Zax Amusements to fight some ninjas and get insulted! BOOM!

Price (in AUD with GST):

Image source: Stern Pinball Inc.


Nintendork Gets Nostalgic At Hersheypark

By: Nintendork

It’s one of those things you never thought about when growing up – that these huge and heavy arcade machines would one day disappear and the amusement centres housing them would become extinct.

I always thought that arcade machines would be here to stay and that they would remain popular as ever with everyone. How wrong was I? Luckily for me, Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania is the big exception. Hersheypark could have gotten rid of their old arcade cabinets long ago but they decided to keep them and maintain them in working order. I love having my physical console games from when I was little and in this instance it is great to see these big arcade games remaining exactly the same as when I was a child, making them that extra bit special. To know that I put quarters in their Double Dragon machine when I was 12 and am playing the exact same game right now and doing the same thing beating up baddies means the world to me.

Hersheypark is the perfect destination for a hit of gaming nostalgia. Enjoy the pics!


First Impressions: Stern’s Iron Maiden Pro Pinball Machine

When we got the word that Stern’s new Iron Maiden: Legacy of The Beast pinball machine had officially landed in Australia, we knew we had to run to the hills (Ed: terrible pun!) and hit up our friends at Zax Amusements to get hands on with this highly anticipated pinball machine.

Our first impression when walking up to the Iron Maiden Pro pinball machine was wow, this thing stands out! The physical presence and visual impact is striking and quite visceral. Jeremy Packer’s (aka: Zombie Yeti) art sets the tone and scene for what is to be a pretty darn awesome and frenetic pinball experience.

From the very first plunge we had our mouth and eyes wide open with our heart palpitating at the excitement – funnily enough, the short plunge was quite easy to do to hit the skill shot target (we’ll leave the more difficult skill shot to the Jordan Tredaways of the world). The induced adrenaline rush wasn’t based on us just playing ‘another Stern pinball machine’, we immediately noticed that Iron Maiden was a fresh take on the Stern formula with a new layout, thanks to Stern’s rookie design team; Keith Elwin – Game Designer, Tim Sexton – Software Engineer and Harrison Drake – Lead Engineer. Originally an Archer whitewood (which was shown at Arcade Expo 2.0), the game was morphed into Iron Maiden and we have to say, the re-theme suits the game like a glove – it is fast and furious, just like the metal band. Stern’s lineup of music themed pins just keeps on getting better.

We can sit here and tell you all about the technical aspects and the myriad of modes and shots to play on this machine, but we will spare you, as we’ll leave that to wizards out there than can explain it way better than we can. Let’s just say that this machine gives the beginner and expert players equal amount of ‘fun play time’. We loved the additional two flippers which ensured that the ball is kept around the targets and loop near the top of the playfield, giving the game a ‘super flow’ feeling of satisfaction when a shot is nailed. Speaking of the upper loop, it definitely has that supercharger feel when you keep hitting the shot over and over with the upper right flipper – the gratification is immense.

The left ramp through the pops is a bit more of a challenge, but again, with a bit of game time, the shot can be nailed over and over again. The sarcophagus gives the game that extra dimension, giving the perception of depth to the playfield which we have not seen on a Stern pinball machine in quite a long time (if not ever!). The one really great thing we noticed was that this game had no cheap drains, meaning that it is perfect for the casual gamer wanting to extract the maximum time of play on Iron Maiden.

This pinball machine is the complete package, no matter if you are an Iron Maiden fan or not. The art, the playfield, the four flippers and game play has that distinct freshness about it that provides fun for everyone, from the novice to those gifted pinball wizards among us, Stern has definitely hit it out of the park with Iron Maiden: Legacy Of The Beast! Go and play it now.

Stern Iron Maiden: Legacy Of The Beast pinball machine comes in three models:

  • Iron Maiden Pro $8,450
  • Iron Maiden Premium $10,650
  • Iron Maiden LE $12,500 (SOLD OUT)

Get in touch with Zax Amusements if you want a Pro or Premium machine. Up The Irons!

Look familiar? Before Iron Maiden became Iron Maiden, it was Archer!

A huge thanks to Phil and Scott from Zax Amusements for allowing us to go nuts on Stern’s Iron Maiden: Legacy Of The Beast!


Pinball For All!

Pinball should be enjoyed by all. For those of us that love pinball we take it for granted that we can stand at a machine and flip using our arms and hands/fingers. For people with disabilities, like someone with one arm or losing the use of their hands or being in a wheelchair, playing the game they love can be somewhat challenging – but it doesn’t have to be!

Necessity is the mother of invention, especially when there are brilliant people out there that come up with awesome ideas to ensure that pinball can be played by all – without exclusion. From Dutch pinsider Sascha’s simple and yet genius Zaza Ability Device + 1 (ZAD+1) contraption for people with one arm, to the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Iowa’s Wheelchair Accessible Pinball, it seems that there are ingenious inventions out there for pinball to be loved and enjoyed by everyone, no matter their ability and/or mobility.

Pinball is an inclusive game, and now it is even more so by clever people creating ingenious inventions to ensure people with disabilities can enjoy playing the silverball game! Here are a few absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant pinball playing inventions for wizards with disabilities:

The Zaza Ability Device (ZAD+1) – simple but brilliant!

icanswim70’s – Big Ol Sunction Cup Band

Yonkiman’s Doohickey design

Ben Heck’s – Single Handed Pinball Mod  

U Can Do It’s Adaptive Pinball that can be played with feet, fists, one handed, wrists and elbows

Wheelchair Accessible Pinball

image source: Links within story / title image source: Cary Carmichael via Pinside


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