LAS VEGAS -- Few manufacturers will consciously set out to create a new kind of collectible, but one of coin-op's best-known companies has done so this year. Stern Pinball Inc. made a memorable inaugural appearance at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it unveiled a new home amusement game. Transformers is the first title in a novel flipper line dubbed "Pin," which the manufacturer describes as an entry-level pinball machine that's half the weight and half the price of a conventional coin-op model.
The new consumer game attracted widespread interest on the part of electronics industry and consumer publications covering the show, including such prestigious journals as CNet, Engadget, PC World and Macworld. The first Pin game builds on the success of Stern's Transformers Pro and Transformers Limited Edition, coin-operated flipper games introduced in 2011. The Transformers Pin will be followed by another coin-op extension, Avengers, in the spring.
Designed and engineered exclusively for the home entertainment market, Pin games retain the elements of traditional pinball, including commercial-quality flippers, pop bumpers, slingshots and targets, along with genuine play features like multi-ball, enabled after a ramp locks three balls. They have a tilt mechanism, too. A Pin game also has tempered glass covering the playfield and a traditional pinball plunger. And its playfield is wood, and almost the same size as those used in professional games; Pin playfields will don some of the same molded artwork found on pro playfields, like the Hulk figure in Avengers.
Development of all Transformers games was directed by Stern's lead designer, George Gomez. His Pin rendition features art, music, speech and sound effects similar to the professional coin models, which were inspired by the blockbuster movie franchise and the Hasbro toy line. In the pinball game, players participate in the classic battle between the heroic Optimus Prime and his archenemy, Megatron, and interact with other well-known characters like Autobots and Decepticons.
Besides the lighter weight (120 lbs. is easier to move around) and lower cost ($2,499 compared with $5,000 for the cheapest coin-op model), a Pin game has other differences from its coin-op cousins. For starters, it doesn't have a payment system. It also has a smaller backbox, which is fitted with LEDs to illuminate the pinball translite and a display for scoring only. And it's designed to be low maintenance -- plug-and-play out of the box; the only assembly required is attaching the legs and backbox. The Pin has a completely new electronics system and modular design, which simplifies assembly.
The company's chief executive and chairman Gary Stern explained that the mammoth CES 2013 proved to be the perfect place to introduce the Pin concept, and noted that it delivered engaging fun to players of all ages and skill levels.
In a dozen interviews at the show, Stern explained to the electronics world -- whose hands gave the four games on display a thorough workout -- that pinball's mechanical action still has appeal in the digital age. The pinball boss reiterated the point that the classic coin-op category has many casual players, but it needs to attract more interest and people. He believes his company's new consumer-oriented Pin concept can bring more players into the fold, and is perfectly suited for the home rec room budget.
"We know from talking with retailers and customers that there is a large demand for brand new pinball machines for under $3,000," Stern told Vending Times. "And the Pin is not a toy; it's a real pinball machine." The new Transformers is now for sale at Amazon.com, and will be available at B&M stores and from amusement machine distributors in the spring.
Headquartered in Melrose Park, IL, near Chicago -- the historic center of pinball development -- Stern Pinball has manufactured such well-known titles as X-Men, AC/DC, Avatar, The Rolling Stones, Iron Man and Tron, to name a few. Stern Pinball, which says it’s still the only manufacturer of full-size arcade-quality flipper games on earth, is the heir to a legacy that dates back to the 1930s when industry pioneer Sam Stern began operating pinball machines in Philadelphia. He went on to become a highly regarded manufacturer in Illinois after purchasing half of Williams Electronics in the early 1950s. Gary Stern founded the eponymous pinball company in 1999.