8 Reasons to be Super Stoked for All the New Pinball Game Releases
It's truly a special time to be in the pinball world right now. Going back to the end of last year, we've now had a whopping six new titles announced (seven if you are inclined to include Stern's James Bond 60th Anniversary Edition).
To recap all the hot pinball action:
- Scooby-Doo - Spooky Pinball
- Foo Fighters - Stern Pinball
- Galactic Tank Force - American Pinball
- Final Resistance - Multimorphic
- The Godfather - Jersey Jack Pinball
- Pulp Fiction - Chicago Gaming Company / Play Mechanix
To put this in context, you'd have to go all the way back to 2017 to find a year where more than 15 titles were released (including limited edition variants and things like Multimorphic modules). Since the pandemic in 2020, it's been closer to around ten total releases a year (give or take), so to have this many new releases announced within the span of a business quarter is a bit unprecedented.
The pinball community will no doubt debate endlessly the merits of each theme, but we wanted to take a moment to just reflect on this time and why as pinball fans, we should just be excited about what's going on right now.
In no particular order, here are eight reasons to be super stoked for all the new pinball game releases in 2023.
We're getting back to pre-covid release pacing.
We'll see where we wind up by the end of the year. Given that Stern probably only has one more release on their calendar, and most of the other manufacturers rarely release more than a single title in a calendar year, it could just be that we're front-loaded as the manufacturers emerge from Covid-related business changes and supply chain snafus.
It would not surprise us to see another title from Jersey Jack or Spooky. Multimorphic has confirmed they are releasing another module this year. And our international friends - Pedretti/Pinball Brothers, Haggis, and Dutch Pinball are all due for something new.
The manufacturers are doing a lot of experimentation.
In this run of games, we have a band that rose to prominence in the 90s (Foo Fighters), a classic cartoon franchise (Scooby), two non-blockbuster, non-franchise, film nerd-centric movie themes (Pulp Fiction, The Godfather), and two wholly original themes (Galactic Tank Force, Final Resistance).
The manufacturers are also testing a lot of new game design ideas or pushing forward concepts that have been tried in games over the last few years.
- Foo Fighters has no pop bumpers.
- The Godfather has only one pop bumper.
- Final Resistance has a ball lock mech that hasn't really been used since Star Trek The Next Generation, and even then, not quite like this (it fires balls back at the player at high speeds).
- Pulp Fiction is likely a single-level throwback game - think Stern’s The Beatles or really any game from the 1970s or older, before ramps became commonplace.
- Foo Fighters has multiple features that encourage different playstyles and that encourage pinball skills development (i.e. Alley Passes / Shatzing)
We're starting to transition to a younger generation of pinball designers.
This transition has been slowly occurring over the last few years, but it seems to be gaining momentum. Game designers Jack Danger (Foo Fighters), Eric Meunier (The Godfather), Scott Danesi (Final Resistance), and Bug Emery / Spooky Luke (Scooby Doo) are all well under 50 years old. Some are much younger. The future of pinball is in the kids (relatively speaking), so it's great to see some fresh perspectives and ideas released into the market. (Up next should be tackling pinball's diversity problem - but that's a topic for another day).
With so many new titles coming into the market at once, the typical new-in-box pinball buyer is absolutely spoiled with the number of choices they have available to them. Truly the best game (or the game with the best marketing, let's be real) will win.
'90s nostalgia enters the chat.
Not every theme has ties to the 90s, but between Foo Fighters and Pulp Fiction, at least we're heading in that direction. One of the operating theses of Kineticist is that the typical pinball consumer is probably a lot younger than what is generally reflected in most manufacturers' theme choices to date (particularly with the music pins). Millennials are entering their 40s, and contrary to the popular narrative, many have plenty of disposable income to spend on expensive toys like pinball machines. That we're finally getting some themes that speak more to these younger demos is encouraging to say the least.
Jack Danger's first Stern cornerstone game.
To the extent that Foo Fighters succeeds in the pinball market (and we think it will; the buzz is off the charts for this game), it'll be a bit of a case study of what happens when you spend time building goodwill in the community.
Jack spent years building an audience on Twitch and playing the role of head ambassador for the pinball community. The amount of goodwill he brings with him to this project is remarkable. Even if the game were a total stinker, it'd probably still do well simply because the community wants to support Jack and see him succeed. We think there's room for far more of this positive, community-centric approach to growing the pinball market, so we're excited for this development.
Original themes aren't dead yet.
Yes, it's sort of their schtick, but we're very, very excited to see what American Pinball's Galactic Tank Force looks like when it's fully revealed. It's known to be much harder to sell an original game than a licensed game, which is why it's pretty rare to see an original theme from a major manufacturer these days.
But some of our favorite all-time games from the 80s and 90s are original themes, so if Galactic Tank Force can carve out its own level of success, it would probably help other manufacturers gain some confidence in their own original theme ideas.
Interest in pinball remains strong.
We'll see how it shakes out when all the money is spent, but hypothetically let's say that every new game sells well. That would indicate that the pinball market is not only growing (even in the face of rising prices) but that it's probably far larger than most pinheads probably think.
If nothing else, pinball fans are incredibly excited about this moment in time, and there's been a ton of crossover promotion going on in the media, with plenty of mainstream film and music blogs covering many of these new releases. Anytime we can reach casuals and get them excited about pinball, it's a win, and that's undoubtedly occurring at scale these days.
So, fellow pinhead (or person interested in pinball for the first time), be thankful you're witnessing this moment in pinball history, and get out to your local location and play some games!