In the mid-40s, pinball was banned in major American cities like New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles because lawmakers labeled it a form of gambling. The ban was eventually lifted, but other retro games like PAC-MAN and Space Invaders eventually made pinball obsolete once again. Then came home gaming systems like Nintendo, which certainly didn't do pinball any favors. But now, retro gaming is the kind of cool nostalgia both young and old seem to want.
How about the fact that Nintendo's Mini NES Classic Edition sold out almost instantly. And if that isn't enough, now more and more arcade-themed bars are opening and attracting crowds of all ages. While those bars have a retro feel, (without the terrible flooring, weird smells, and awkward anti-socials) the machines themselves are anything but. Many of the machines reference modern day shows like "The Walking Dead" and "Avatar."
Interest has skyrocketed over the last decade or so, with the number of players and competitions growing worldwide, according to the International Flipper Pinball Association. There were 500 players in 50 competitions worldwide in 2006, according to the IFPA. In 2017, there were nearly 4,500 competitions and more than 55,000 players.
What makes these games so popular? View one super-fan's intimate relationship with pinbal machines HERE.
Outside the endless hours of addictive entertainment a pinball machine provides, it's interactive and every game is different. A player can't duplicate a game like they can in a video game. Another reason is you can find out where to play anywhere in the world on several pinball websites and apps dedicated to enthusiasts that track where machines are located.
Today's market is friendly to the classics; both adults and high school kids are sporting Poison shirts or buying tickets to go see Aerosmith, and record collecting never really stopped being cool. It makes sense for arcade games to make a return to the limelight, fostering a new era of pinball wizardry with mass popularity. Some games can get costly as well, reaching up to $12,000 or higher for some of the more rare machines.
The pinball resurgence has no boundaries. Going beyond the bonehead stereotypes of garage-nestled nerds who are addicted to video games, today's pinball wizards consist of men, women, millennials, baby boomers, hipters, hippies, hip-hop enthusiasts and just about any other group you could imagine. With a newfound passion, these kids may not be deaf, dumb, or blind but they are sure playing a mean pinball.
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