Which Boutiques are Moving Units?

Analyzing Boutique Numbers | AFM Tutorial | Gambling in Arcades | A Giveaway, Fried Chicken and More!

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We’re pulling on a bit of a thread these last few weeks, but y’all seem as interested as we are in data and are starting to ask questions, which we will gladly try and provide answers to!

Lots to talk about This Week in Pinball, so we’ll get on down to it.

This Week’s Pinball Agenda:

  • Song of the Week (dedicated to Homepin)

  • Pinball News of the Week

    • Emergency Broadcast: New Attack From Mars Tutorial

    • Reader Question: Which Boutiques are Moving Units?

    • Dave & Busters Launches Arcade Gambling Pilot

  • Creator Highlights of the Week (help Pinball Map with content!)

  • Mod of the Week (finger lickin’ good)

  • Poll of the Week (surprising John Wick results)

  • Giveaway of the Week

Song of the Week

Here we are, a solid week after writing last week’s TWIP and I still find myself ruminating on Homepin’s Blues Brothers announcement and racking my brain trying to figure out the logic of it all. I know it’s an impossible task.

This week’s Song of the Week is North American Scum by LCD Soundsystem. Released in 2006 off the Sound of Silver album, it’s one of many now-classic tracks released by the Brooklyn dance-punk outfit. The lyrics are intentionally playful and meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

James Murphy (lead singer) has said in interviews that the song has two sides to it. As he explains in a different interview, “All I had was the title, ‘North American Scum’. Immediately I knew exactly what it meant. I knew that it was different than just calling it ‘American Scum’, that was just too flat. ‘North American Scum’ is just funnier. And I knew that it meant something complicated, that it didn’t mean something anti-American, which I don’t feel. For all the bad things, and stupidity and silliness of this country, it really still is kind of your choice what you are.”

I tend to interpret it as a, “Yeah, we may be ‘scum,’ nobody is perfect, but this is our home, and there’s a lot to love about it, so screw you let’s dance.”

Feels appropriate for the moment.

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Pinball News of the Week

Emergency Broadcast: New Attack from Mars Tutorial

Kicking the pinball content off this week with one of my favorite things that we do at Kineticist, which is our written pinball tutorials. This time, we’ve got James McFatter returning to explain how to play one of the all-time classic games, Bally’s Attack from Mars.

It’s not a difficult game to understand, which is part of its beauty and why it can be a bit of an entry point for many newer players in pinball. So, if you’re not intimately familiar with the game from a million plays over your lifetime, this tutorial is for you!

Which Boutiques Are Moving Units?

We received a wonderful response to last week’s analysis of several sides of the pinball market (including having it translated into French thanks to Good Vibes Pinball), which involved some requests for information about manufacturers besides Stern, which we’re happy to share with you.

Should you have more questions, feel free to leave a comment or reply to this email, and I’ll try to answer them in future editions.

As with last week’s data, remember that we have to take these numbers with a grain of salt. They are meant to be directional, not a precise record, as realistically, there’s a good portion of the market that we have no insight into. I’m also intentionally making them a little fuzzy to further hammer home that point.

That said, here’s a view of games “in the wild” (on location or in home collections) from recent releases by the current crop of active smaller-than-Stern manufacturers, plus a quick analysis of each.

  • American Pinball

    • Barry O’s Barbecue Challenge: ~40

    • Galactic Tank Force: ~150

    • Legends of Valhalla: ~200

    • Hot Wheels: ~350

    • Oktoberfest: ~250

    • Houdini: ~400

    • Quick AP hits: BBQ only just hit the market, so I wouldn’t read too much into that number. I think it’s more interesting to look at a GTF, which has been on the market for over a year and had launch issues, compared to Hot Wheels or Houdini (known license and first launch, respectively) and draw comparisons there.

  • Jersey Jack Pinball

    • Elton John: ~250

    • The Godfather: ~450

    • Toy Story 4: ~700

    • Guns N’ Roses: ~1,500

    • Quick JJP hits: Combined with the momentum that comes with positive word of mouth EJ numbers would likely be considered encouraging for JJP. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see it wind up as JJPs best seller since Guns N’ Roses, which was released pre price increase. That increase seems to have eaten into JJPs volume but maybe that was intended.

  • Spooky Pinball

    • Looney Tunes: ~50

    • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: ~40

    • Scooby Doo: ~600

    • Ultraman: ~200

    • Halloween: ~600

    • Quick Spooky hits: Looney Tunes and TCM both feel like they are pacing slowly, but like AP and BBQ, it’s still pretty early in the release cycle, and the games are being received well, so it may take time to catch up. There’s an offhand comment that I think Bug (Spooky’s de-facto head/creative director) made in a stream recently that he’d be open to taking on just about any license that could move at least 300 games, so I’m guessing that is around break-even for them and therefore would be pretty happy with volume overall.

  • Chicago Gaming Company

    • Pulp Fiction: ~350

    • Quick CGC hits: This is an interesting one to watch and makes me wonder how much better it’d be performing if they were able to get games on the line and into customers’ hands closer to launch. I was surprised by how many games they have out on location so far (in a good way, now that it’s finally shipping), but overall, the numbers are likely inflated by people who have pre-ordered and are still waiting on a game.

  • Barrels of Fun

    • Labyrinth: ~150

    • Quick BoF hits: This honestly seems about right. But I do think it underscores the relatively brisk pace at which they are getting games out the door for a new company that launched their first game in the fall of 2023. That part of the rollout has been impressive IMO.

  • Dutch Pinball

    • Big Lebowski: ~600

    • Quick Dutch Pinball hits: Considering the path it took them to get here this isn’t a bad number for release #1, although it makes me wonder what kinds of volumes are truly realistic for upcoming DPX and Dutch titles in relation to other companies on this list.

  • Multimorphic

    • Final Resistance: ~75

    • Weird Al: ~150

    • Quick Multimorphic hits: I have very low confidence in these numbers because Multimorphic doesn’t get a ton of location traction and the platform model (where one machine in a homeowners collection could realistically represent multiple titles) probably skews these numbers a lot. Weird Al being their best seller to date (which it is in my numbers) does track with expectations, though.

  • Pinball Brothers

    • Queen: ~100

    • Alien: ~450

    • Quick Pinball Brothers hits: Like Dutch’s Lebowski, Alien is another release that was plagued with production issues from the start, but PB has since caught up. Given the relative performance of Queen you can kind of see why they keep going back to the well with Alien (price promos, the Ripley edition, etc.). ABBA probably needs to at least do better than Queen for them to stay on track.

  • Homepin

    • This is Spinal Tap: ~20

    • Thunderbirds: ~50

    • Quick Hompein hits: Again, to my takeaways from last week and my note in the intro, what is the strategy here?

Dave & Buster’s Launches Arcade Gambling Pilot

Is anyone else experiencing gambling fatigue? I am. It seems like it’s everywhere these days.

Redemption games at larger arcade chains like Dave & Buster’s already borrow a lot from gambling gameplay mechanics, so the leap from where they are to this development isn’t that large.

D&B is using a third-party white-label platform called Lucra to power this pilot. I’m mostly including it here because should the program prove lucrative for D&B, how much of a stretch would it be for Stern to explore something similar as a monetization strategy for Insider Connected?

Mod of the Week

For Jaws pinball, you can now turn your chum bucket into a bucket of fried chicken! Hilarious, creative, and cheap! Only $20.

Creator Highlights of the Week

  • Pinball Map put out a new episode of their relaunched podcast, Mappin’ Around with Scott & Ryan. In this episode, they interviewed Cory Casella, the co-director of the LA Pinball League & Belles & Chimes LA, among other discussions.

    • Worth flagging: they have a segment called a Scene Report where they do a live recording from a recently visited location and describe the place, its vibe, and what they are doing there. It’s fun. Anyway, they are soliciting listener contributions for new scene reports, which could be an enjoyable way to get the word out about your local pinball hang!

  • Nudge Magazine did an interview with Dalton Ely where I finally learned the proper way to pronounce his last name.

  • Great read in France’s Pinball Mag by Syl Vain about Pinball Brothers’ ABBA release. A mix of preview and critique, Syl makes some good points about the game’s reveal, marketing, and expected gameplay. Even though American audiences will likely buy this game, I truly think it’s meant more for the European market, so I enjoy reading what players in that market think of the game.

  • The lines are a little blurry between who is a creator and who is a marketer but Turner Pinball published a short blog post about some of the inspiration behind the Grappling Hook Kickback feature in Ninja Eclipse. Keep doing this kind of stuff, Turner!

  • Branching out from pinball slightly, this analysis of generative AI use in Steam game releases was quite interesting. It’s something the pinball industry will need to grapple with sooner than later so it’s worth taking a look at how other related industries are handling the use of these tools.

Poll of the Week

If Stern took a page from Dave & Busters and added betting to the Insider Connected app, would you participate?

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Last Week’s Poll Results

There were so many comments on last week’s poll! Thanks for participating; it’s fun to read them every week.

Are you in or out on a John Wick pin?

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ In (40)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 Out (134)

“Who is John Wick??”

“Hotel idea was interesting, most of the rest of the movie was just shooting people over and over without many good quotes. Bland IP, even for someone who likes Keanu Reeves.”

“I’m in on it but don’t share the enthusiasm I had for Jaws, Godzilla, or even Foo Fighters. I’d put the popularity (knowing nothing about the game) somewhere between Venom and Rush. ”

“I do like the theme, and would place it about Venom and Foo Fighter, but with limited space it's not a anchor in my collection. The first 2 movies are awesome, the last 2 don't have much of a story line, and I can appreciate the amount of content for the game. I own a Bond and it's a dream theme for me, but what makes the game great is the 6 movies it get to pull content from! If John Wick shoots well and has decent code then I will definitely play this on location, but just doesn't make the theme cut for my collection. ”

“Yes, because it's a good movie theme for a machine with killer missions ;)”

“Prices have reached the point where it's tougher to make a decision to buy NIB. Couple that with economy or perceptions of the same and its a tougher sell. A theme and the gameplay would have to really blow me away to buy now where as prior to the big jump in prices pre pandemic it was much easier to decide to buy or not on a new machine. Definitely have cut back buying on pinball machines. To me prices have reached a tipping point all things considered. ”

“In, if I like gameplay and art. I never buy without playing first.”

Giveaway of the Week

Cheese Glorious Cheese

This one is going to be for premium subscribers only, and we’ll include anyone who signs up for a subscription before next week’s newsletter in the drawing. If you win, you’ll get to choose any one of these glorious framed pinball promotional flyers, which only a true pinball nerd could love.

To enter, be a premium subscriber and reply to this email (or if you’re viewing on the web send an email to [email protected]) with your favorite pinball machine from the 1980s. If you can include your name and mailing address, that would also be helpful!

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