Heighway Pinball Hails Response To Full Throttle Flipper Game

Posted On: 3/20/2015

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TAGS: Heighway Pinball launch party, pinball machine, Full Throttle pinball machine, European Amusement and Gaming International Expo, Aliens themed pinball game, Pipeline Bar, Andrew Heighway, coin-op news

LONDON -- Heighway Pinball reported an enthusiastic response to its first flipper game, Full Throttle, at the recent European Amusement and Gaming International Expo in London. The company also previewed its latest project, a licensed Aliens-themed pinball game based on the celebrated sci-fi film franchise at the January show. Heighway's EAG product premiere was celebrated with a festive VIP press event at London's Pipeline Bar on Jan. 16.

"We've taken orders for Full Throttle [at EAG], and received amazing feedback on the new licensed Aliens pinball," company founder Andrew Heighway reported.

Heighway Pinball launch party, pinball machine
LAUNCH PARTY! Heighway Pinball chief executive and founder Andrew Heighway (kneeling) is pictured with his staff and VIP guests at Full Throttle launch party held at London's Pipeline Bar on Jan. 16. The party featured Heighway's racing-themed pinball machine and a performance by Redline, which played music from the metal band's latest album, "Vice." Music from the album is part of the Full Throttle sound track.

Heighway, who has undertaken to manufacture the first-ever pinball machine produced in the United Kingdom, plans to market its games to both operators and hobbyists. He believes that the traditional flipper-game manufacturing segment became extinct because it had waited too long to take advantage of the new switching, lighting and circuit layout, along with control technologies made possible by solid-state electronics and digital logic.

New Millennium, New Design

"We have improved aspects of the pinball machine to make it more reliable and easy-to-service, even by nonskilled people," Heighway said. For example, he recalled, traditional pinball machines had hefty cable harnesses, sometimes containing as much as half a mile of wire. Snagged or broken conductors and "dry" solder joints are common problems that can cause intermittent or outright failure and require lengthy troubleshooting. Heighway uses modern connectivity components that "daisy-chain" power and data.

All of the machine's major components are modular, so they can be swapped out easily to restore a game to service. Heighway plans to apply this modular design philosophy to reviving and modernizing the convertible-game approach pioneered by WMS Industries two decades ago: the cabinet and electrical system will support a succession of new games, each easily installed without the need for investment in new furniture.

Full Throttle is designed on top of this new Heighway Pinball Game-change System. Future games will fit easily into the HPGS platform. Every playfield mechanism for every new game will be designed to connect as an HPGS component. Thus, a complete new pinball game can be installed into the existing cabinet simply by swapping out the playfield. The British manufacturer hopes to introduce three games a year.

A central feature of the HPGS is the manufacturer's proprietary I/O board, replaceable in seconds, that controls solenoids, motors, magnets and LEDs with input from playfield sensors. While pinball has become a favorite of hobbyists and collectors, Heighway's platform is engineered to optimize reliability and improve field service for commercial game operators.

Heighway is offering two screen sizes on the new games. Standard models will have a 10.4" LCD embedded in the playfield; deluxe models will feature a 46" transparent screen mounted between the top glass and the playfield surface. The transparent screen enables still and video images to appear and disappear as appropriate during play, expanding creative possibilities for game designers. But the fundamental gameplay remains true to the pinball tradition, with plenty of ramps and drop targets.

"Although the core pinball experience is the same -- humans have a fascination with challenging the laws of physics by attempting to control a heavy steel ball at breakneck speeds -- it can be enhanced by using new technologies," Heighway said. "Display technology like transparent screens creates an immersive experience for players by putting amazing graphics right in front of them in a new, cutting-edge way."

Full Throttle pinball machine, coin-op Heighway also plans to integrate social media connectivity into his games. "Pinball needs to enter the 21st century," he said. "To attract new players, it is necessary to give them a product with which they can identify -- one that uses technology they recognize and own. A successful pinball product must fit into the player's lifestyle."

High Tech, High Touch

"In the near future, players will be able to create profiles online, and a game will be able to recognize them by identifying their smartphones, PIN codes or text messaging," Heighway said. He also is studying mobile payment options for players without coins in their pockets.

He believes there is still growth potential for the right pinball product. "Fresh ideas, technology and a new approach to operating pinball can spark a revival," he said. "Operators want equipment that is reliable, easy to service and profitable. Players want a product that they can relate to: that excites them, embraces new technology and fits into their social lifestyle -- and it has to be fun. Our products have been designed with these factors in mind."

Heighway Pinball maintains a factory at Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, and a website at heighwaypinball.com.