Pinball Machine Buyer's Guide

We take you through buying either and brand new or reconditioned/vintage pinball. We run you through the current manufacturers available today, the new games which are on the horizon at the time of filming, and what to look for if you opt for a secondhand pinball machine.


Hi, and welcome to the Home Leisure Direct Buyer's Guide for Pinballs. We're going to look at some real basics today, Pinball 101. Then we're going to have a look at some of the most amazing modern games available, as well as glance back over the vintage era. There's a lot to go through, so let's get started. 

Now, you may or may not know, but pinball actually started its life as a simpler game called bagatelle. Basically, bagatelle was a wooden board game that had holes in it that you'd fire a steel ball at, and the game would be to get the ball to land into a certain point zone. It was very, very simple and very basic. Nowadays, of course, pinball has changed dramatically. 

Whereas in the past it was just a game of hit and hope where you'd fire a ball up, you've now got full control with the flippers on either side. Plus there are also various different targets for you to skillfully aim for, and of course amazing ramps and various features. So each machine comes packed full of different game modes, different features, and of course a dazzling array of different lights, and that's what makes pinball now so attractive and so much fun to play. 

So now, let's have a look at some real pinball basics, the real basics that every pinball machine currently available today will have. Let's have a look at the play field. The play field is where the action really happens, and each and every game is uniquely designed with a completely different set of different targets and game features, and modes to unlock. So on the play field, you'll notice that there's an array of dazzling lights. And of course, this has become customary now that every single pinball machine lights up almost like a Christmas tree. 

Now, let's have a look at the display. Basically, your display will not only show your high score and current score, but it will also show you an array of different graphical treats as you play the game. There's also a whole wealth of important information that will flash up on that display also. The displays are mostly DMDs, which stands for Dot Matrix Display, but there's also a selection of older machines that use a slightly more basic display, and they are alphanumeric. 

Next up, let's have a look at the flippers. Now, of course, flippers are ultimately what give the player the control whilst playing the pinball machine to fire the ball around the play field. Most machines come with two, but it's not unheard of for machines to have more than two flippers. 

Finally, let's have a look at the toys. They are special play field features that make each and every game unique, and can range from interactive toys to static models. For example, let's have a look at "The Twilight Zone." Here, we've got a dispensing gumball machine that literally will fire out a ball. While similar, if we look at the "Game of Thrones" machine, we've got the dragon that, as you approach and hit the target, it fires out the ball and animates back at you. 

Now, let's have a look at some modern games that are still available brand new and fresh from the box. So here I am, stood next to our Wall of Stern, and let's take a closer look at what these machines do and what they offer, and more importantly, how do they play. Now, as I hinted, most new games come from a company called Stern Pinball, who are the U.S. giants in the pinball world today. However, there are some new companies starting to enter the game as well. But these new pinball machines cover some really exciting licenses, including Mustang, "Game of Thrones," and Kiss. 

Many of these machines have been created by the industry's finest designers. Some of the best game designers include: John Borg, Pat Lawlor, John Trudeau, and Steve Ritchie. These guys really are the Steven Spielbergs of the pinball world, creating classics from the vintage era, right the way through to the current modern machines. Many of these machines have been created with the latest technology, including LEDs, interactive toys, and of course, stunning visual artwork on each and every cabinet. Now, these machines are also updateable, which ultimately means you can update the features, the sound, and even the light shows on these machines, making them evolve throughout the years to come. 

Now, with modern games, it's common practice to have three different versions of the same game. So let's take a closer look at some of those. The pro is the core version of the game. Now, you normally find these in the arcades. So not only do they come with fantastic game play, but they're also the entry price point into this range of machine. A step up from the pro is the premium, where you'll get additional toys, game play features, and stunning artwork. This is ideal for the player who wants more from their machine. 

Finally, let's have a look at the LE, or limited edition version of the game. These are produced in limited numbers and are very, very collectible. Let's have a look at our Mustang version here, for example. Not only did it come with a special trim on the cabinet, but you also get a plaque giving you your limited number and also a signed certificate of authenticity. These really are for the real enthusiasts. 

So, next up, let's have a look at some vintage machines. Vintage machines predominantly come from the '90s era and they're considered absolute timeless classics. That's mainly down to the various different licenses or themes that were created back then in the '90s, including "Creature from the Black Lagoon," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and "Adams Family." But let's take a closer look at some of these stunning machines and talk to you about what they've really got to offer. 

Vintage machines are very collectible and generally become more valuable over time. In the last 10 years, not only has the popularity increased, but also the price has steadily and reliably increased also. So much so that some people view them as a wise investment. Let's have a quick look at the main players from the vintage era. The key players back in the '90s were Bally, Williams, and Data East. Much like a vintage car, a good example of a vintage pinball machine will also command a high price. So let's take a closer look at some of these iconic and amazing machines. 

This "Adams Family" here was created by a company called Bally in the 1990s and is revered as one of the best pinball machines of all time. Not only one of the best pinball machines, but this is in fact the best-selling pinball machine ever, selling over 20,000 units worldwide. Here's another classic. This is Williams Fun House with the animated character Rudy, who sits proudly in the center of the play field. 

They don't get much more iconic than this classic "Star Wars" produced by Data East. Now, this "Star Trek: Next Generation" is a really good example of a machine that's been highly upgraded by its previous owner. So not only does it now got LED lights on the play field, but it's got a variety of different toys and features added to the game, including this amazing colour DMD. 

So to sum up, each and every machine is entirely unique. Whether it's a brand new machine you're looking to buy or, of course, a vintage classic, it will play entirely different, and it's down to the player to decide what they truly love. So there are some amazing licenses on offer, from great movie titles to even better and amazing music titles. But ultimately, you as the player, it's your decision which one you like. So consider the license, but also really consider the way that the game plays.

Of course, the best way to do that is to join us down here in Bristol and come and try them out for yourself. Because remember, just because I'm surrounded by these unique machines right now, they are classics, they are one off, and our showroom stock does move around very, very quickly. So come down and try it out for yourself.

Please visit our pinball machines page for more info.

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