Retro Pinball Machines

At the time of the online games and the disappearance of the flippers in the cafés and restaurants, one could have believed the extinction of these mechanical games — quite the contrary.

It’s hard to dampen a pinball machine that bought nearly 7,000 francs. After sharing the proceeds with the owner of the room or restaurant, the manager has to earn about 135 francs a week. In 1996, the famous manufacturer Gottlieb (renamed Premier Technology) closed its doors. In 1999, it was Bally’s turn to be “game over”. Both are victims of the surging video consoles (PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox). Only Stern can survive. According to its president, the company sold more than 5,000 machines in 2012.

We are far from the ultimate success, dating back to 1992, with the model “the Adams Family”, sold more than 20’000 copies. However, the tide has been shifting in recent years. Not only did more and more privates get a dream of youth, but, also, new manufacturers launched themselves, starting with Jersey Jack Pinball who released in 2013 “Wizard of Oz”.

A generation phenomenon

Ludobistrophiles, as we call the collectors of flippers, are always more numerous. “It is a phenomenon of generation. Those who played with it when they were teenagers now have the means to afford one to fulfill an old dream. It will be necessary to see, however, what will happen to this renewed interest in twenty years,” observes Christian Gaillard, 46, head of Electrojeux which owns a park of 300 flippers. The latter rented most of the machines made available in Coop centers between 2015 and 2017 from Molotov Events, the organizer of the Swiss Flipper Tour.

At the head of Molotov Events, Pierre Dupertuis does not hide his passion for this game. It has about 20 aircraft. This is why he created the Swiss pinball Championship in 2015, integrated into the International Pinball Association (IFPA), and whose champion is then invited to the World Championship. A 40-year-old Swiss, Robert Sutter, was once the world’s third-best player.

“Almost all of the 25 people qualified for the Swiss finals have at least one pinball machine. They train on them, take part in tournaments all over Europe and know each other, ” said Pierre Dupertuis. Who specifies that he always uses the latest models of flippers put on the market for qualifications “so that everyone has his chances”. However, some enthusiasts would not hesitate to buy a copy to better prepare themselves.

Recent models include “Aerosmith” (2017) with an LCD display instead of traditional displays (Stern, from 6900 euros), “Star Wars” (2017), “Pirates of the Caribbean” (2017), “Game of Thrones” (2015), “The Hobbit Black Arrow” or the one released on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the automobile brand Mustang.

A machine that costs on average between 2500 and 7500 dollars

Since about 2005, more and more private individuals have taken the plunge, from the moment the games rooms closed and the flippers left the cafés, bars, and restaurants. He even created a website in Switzerland that offers a list (roughly up-to-date) of places where you can go to play pinball. It even gives the names of the 250 or so registered aircraft, divided into

a dozen cantons. There are about a hundred in French-speaking Switzerland, half of which are in Vaud (Le FunPlanet de Villeneuve offers 8). Thus, to discover Stern’s latest born, “Aerosmith”, you have to go either to the bowling du Flon in Lausanne, or to the XL Bowling De La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Private individuals who opt for an acquisition will have to pay between 2500 and 7500 francs in general. Then there is the question of maintenance and repairs. There are not many people capable of carrying out these tasks. In the Geneva region, Kurt Schober is the only one left to take care of it, but this represents a certain cost. He recently recovered an old pinball machine “Kiss” which the customer did not want to pay 2000 Fr.for a complete restoration, with the change of rubber parts, among others.

The person in question preferred to choose another device. It must be said that this former engineer specializing in security installations is a perfectionist. He is reluctant to take

flippers that have been in service in coffee shops: “they have often been poorly maintained. I prefer buying things out or trading with private individuals. This often goes hand in hand with a jukebox.”It is important to know that his company Juke-Box Center is specialized in these. In its den, there are also tens of thousands of 45 turns, the raw material to power these devices, mainly Wurlitzers.

Scroll to Top