I was a huge fan of pinball machines back in the mid-nineties when I was a university student. I even had a rivalry with a guy I never ever met as we would hold the top spots on the high score tables of the various tables in the university bar and try to best the other’s scores.
But it was not to last. The machines were played less and less often and eventually started to disappear from the bars and pubs that I used to frequent until they were no more.
The documentary The Future of Pinball explores the demise of the pinball machine and how the management of manufacturer Williams Electronic Games instructed their pinball designers to come up with something new in order to save the company.
Management said, “we need to make pinball profitable. The world has changed; nobody wants what you guys are doing. Invent something new. We’ve put layer upon layer of ramps, we have convoluted rule sets, we have video modes, we have all this stuff, and guess what? It’s not making a difference!” And management says we’ve got to come up with something or pinball is done.
— George Gomez, Pinball Designer, Williams Electronic Games
This resulted in a startling innovation that was controversial amongst pinball purists but was a hit until the plug was pulled on production of the machines. A trailer for the documentary is available here.