Are you a Skee Ball fanatic? Is there nothing more entertaining or relaxing then rolling that ball down the playfield in search of the perfect score? If this sounds like you, you have probably thought to buy a Skee Ball machine for your home at least once (we know it's true).
But if you're used to only playing Skee Ball at your local bar or arcade, it may seem a little overwhelming (or exciting) to consider the realities of that first Skee Ball for your home game room. There are a lot of options on the market with both new and used machines, so how do you know which one is right for you?
In this guide, we will walk you through the process of buying a coin operated Skee Ball machine and help you find the perfect one to take home with you. So whether you're a beginner or an experienced roller, read on for tips and advice on how to buy a Skee Ball arcade machine for your game room!
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Skee Ball Machines
What is a Skee Ball Machine?
A Skee Ball machine is a popular classic arcade game where the player rolls a small ball across a slightly inclined surface (or alley) before launching it off a ramp in an attempt to land the ball in one of several scoring areas. Players typically get 9 balls per game, and the objective is to score as many points as possible. The harder the target is to hit, the more points it is worth.
While many people may remember Skee Ball machines from visits to arcades like Chuck E. Cheese or beach boardwalks from their youth, Skee Ball has maintained steady popularity for years as a social game and recreational sports at bars, breweries, arcades, and even as a home arcade game.
One little known fact - Skee Ball is actually a brand name for this kind of arcade game that dates back to the original invention of Skee Ball in the early 1900s. The Skee Ball brand is currently owned by Bay Tek Entertainment, so any machine you find with the Skee Ball brand name in use is likely produced or licensed by them.
Competing machines under the Ice Ball brand (like those sold by Innovative Concepts in Entertainment or ICE for short) are known as Alley Rollers.
Is Skee Ball an arcade game?
Yes, Skee Ball is an arcade game as it rose to popularity in arcades, and they are typically found in arcade style locations.
However, as Skee Ball has increased in popularity over the years, and as people started building out custom game rooms at home, more Skee Ball machines are finding their way to home game rooms as well.
Why are Skee Ball machines popular?
Skee Ball machines and Alley Rollers have a lot in common with other games that offer a combination of luck, skill, and social components. Think along the lines of bowling, pinball, lawn games, darts, and more. It's easy to get started and just about anyone of any skill level or physical capability can do it.
It's fun to roll the ball and try for a new high score, plus it's easy to play with a group of people or with a beer in hand. Add the lights, sounds, and redemption capabilities and you have the perfect recipe for a popular arcade game.
How do you play Skee Ball machines?
Skee Ball is a relatively straight-forward game to play. Players compete for a high score by rolling small balls up a ten or thirteen foot alley that ends in a short ramp, which launches the ball into a series of target holes. Balls that successfully land within the targets score a set number of points. The harder and smaller the target is to hit, the more points it scores. There are usually 9 balls per frame, or round, of Skee Ball.
While anyone can step up to a game at any time and play a round, if you're playing competitively, your league may have their own rules. For example, mandating that:
- Teams have a specified number of players (rollers)
- Teams are allowed a maximum number of rollers per match
- Balls rolled from the front of the machine with both feet on the ground
- A match consists of 12 rounds of play plus one mystery round where players may complete activities like competing to exhaust their allotment of balls first.
Skee Ball Machine History
The history of Skee Ball dates back to the year in 1908 in New Jersey when Joseph Fourestier Simpson, noticing the popularity of other arcade games like pinball, filed the first patent for the machine that would ultimately becomes today's Skee Ball machines.
His original invention featured a 32' alley with a ramp in the middle of the alley that would launch the ball into the air where it would land in one of several available target holes, scoring points for the player.
Skee Ball would wax and wane in popularity over the years, with the trademark passing hands between several companies, until it ultimately landed with its current caretaker, Bay Tek Entertainment. Along this journey, the design of the game would also be tweaked to feature a shorter alley and launch ramp at the end of the alley rather then in the middle.
Buy a Skee Ball Machine
Can You Buy a Skee Ball Machine for home use?
Of course! While most people think of an arcade, bar or boardwalk when thinking of skee ball machines, plenty of people with game rooms at home own their own skee ball or ice ball machine. Owners I've talked to and observed have praised their skee ball machines for being the game that gets the most play in their collections, plus it's fairly easy to maintain, which is a huge plus.
However, for the best possible experience, you probably want to avoid buying your skee ball machine from a retailer like amazon and instead find a reputable local dealer or used skee ball machine for sale locally.
How big is a Skee Ball machine?
A typical arcade quality Skee Ball machine for your home game room will be about 9' or 10' long, 24-30 inches wide, and 66-92 inches high.
This is all dependent on the model you choose and if that model is meant more for arcade use or home use. If you look on the used market, you may find old arcade machines that are even longer in length, the traditional 13'. But this length will be rare to see when buying new from a game room store.
There are a wide range of smaller and cheaper home models on the market that are much smaller, like the Barrington 84" Roll And Score Skee-Ball Table Set that is only 7 feet long, 20 inches wide, and 52 inches high. But, you'd really be getting what you paid for with this miniaturized experience.
How heavy is a Skee Ball machine?
It depends on the model you're purchasing. More expensive models with more features or longer alleys will weigh more. That said, for most of the home use Skee Ball machines, you're looking at anywhere between 470 and nearly 800 pounds.
One of the small cheap machines (like the Barrington) will likely weigh closer to 250 pounds.
What is a regulation size Skee Ball machine?
While there's not necessarily a defined rule for what constitutes a regulation sized Skee Ball machine, most would consider the 10' or 13' alley versions to be authentically sized and appropriate for competition.
How much do Skee Ball machines cost?
There are a lot of options for Skee Ball and alley roller machines on the market. As such, there's a wide range of machines at various price points.
At the high end, there are machines like the Skee Ball 1908 Home Arcade Roll and Score, which goes for nearly $9,000.
Mid-tier options like the Ice Ball Pro Home would cost you between $5,500-$6,000.
A more entry level model like the Skee Ball Home Arcade Premium is priced at about $4,500.
Smaller more home oriented models like the Barrington Roll and Score would only cost you less than $200.
So there's a wide range of options. Going for something good will put you in that $4,500-$9,000 range.
Note that this does not cover the secondary used market, where you can likely score a high quality machine for less than retail.
Where can you find Skee Ball machines for sale?
Finding a Skee Ball machine for sale is relatively easy if you're looking to buy new. There are plenty of home game room and arcade vendors that you can visit with a simple Google search. Some sites like Wayfair offer these as well, though their products will lean towards cheaper home models.
The best thing you could do is find your local arcade and game machine retailer, and see if they can help match you with the Skee Ball table that fits you best. Plus since they would be local, they could help with the inevitable maintenance and repairs that will need to be done with your machine.
You can also occasionally find used machines for sale on sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, though you should either be comfortable with the process of buying a used arcade machine, or ready to tackle hidden mechanical issues that may not surface during the inspection phase of the transaction.
One other place to look is on various arcade forums and Facebook groups. Often times these places have dedicated areas for buy/sell transactions.
Should I buy a used or new Skee Ball machine?
Buying a new vs a used Skee Ball machine is a big, important decision! Buying a new Skee Ball machine typically means you get something that's in great condition from day one, and you don't have to worry about any hidden or existing maintenance issues.
There will likely be a warranty on the machine should anything break. Unless you're playing a ton of games on your machine, it's likely the low play count will also mean spending less time on maintenance early on in the machines lifespan.
Buying used will save you money on the initial investment, but it's likely the game will not be in as good condition as a new one, and it's highly likely that the machine will have seen time on route on a bar, arcade, or some other public location. This can result in extra wear and tear, and the need for more frequent maintenance and repairs.
You may even be purchasing a unit with existing problems that the current owner wasn't aware of or is not inclined to fix before selling. So, you should be comfortable with some level of electronics and game repair. That may involve looking up repair guides online, looking at schematics, replacing or fixing circuit boards, soldering, etc.
Factors to consider when buying a Skee Ball machine
The biggest factor to consider when buying a Skee Ball machine is if you're going to have fun owning one! If the answer is yes, then you can typically figure out the rest of it.
Other factors to consider are the amount of space you have in your game room - this will dictate if you get a 10' model, 13' model, or maybe one of the smaller home machines.
Cost is of course another factor to consider. While a $4,000-$9,000 is nothing to sneeze at, arcade machines like these tend to hold value fairly well, so as long as you take care of it, don't expect it to depreciate like a car might.
Finally, if you are the entrepreneurial type, you could take your newly purchased Skee Ball machine and work with a local restaurant or brewery to put it on location and start earning money when other people play it.
Where to find replacement parts for your Skee Ball machine
Ebay can be your best friend when it comes to finding and buying replacement parts for your Skee Ball machine.
If you purchased from a specific vendor, they may be able to find the parts you need.
Also check game and arcade vendors, like Betson.
How to troubleshoot and repair your Skee Ball machine?
This is where it can get a little tricky. First, if you bought your machine new and are still under warranty, then reach out to your vendor or manufacturer for assistance. If you're no longer under warranty or if you bought used, then your best friend is likely to be Google and YouTube searches. It's very likely that someone else has encountered the same problem as you and has shared their solution either on a specialty forum or as a YouTube video.
If all else fails, search for arcade repair technicians in your area and schedule time for a service visit.
So, whether you're looking to buy a new or used Skee Ball machine, there are many things to consider. By weighing the pros and cons of each option, you can make a more informed decision that will best suit your needs. Be sure to factor in space requirements, cost, and the amount of fun you think you'll have before making your final decision. And, if you do encounter any problems down the road, there are plenty of resources available to help you troubleshoot and repair your machine. With a little bit of research and planning, you can be sure to find the perfect Skee Ball machine for your home game room.