Over the past couple of years, several new pinball companies entered the market and developed many different pinball formats. New titles include traditional pinball machines, multi-game units, virtual pinball, and customizable units. Advances in technology, including programmable electronics and 3D printing, simplify the development of new platforms and reduce the cost of the prototyping process.

This was clearly evident at this year’s Pinball Expo in Wheeling, IL (outside Chicago). Jersey Jack Pinball brought the newest version of The Hobbit (the Black Arrow Special Edition) named after the arrow that defeats Smaug in the fantasy film trilogy. Special features include Black Arrow attract mode animation, Black Ink body armor, black pinballs, and black flipper bats.

Jersey Jack Pinball also brought Dialed In, a new game designed by Pat Lawler (designer of Addams Family, Twilight Zone, and Whirlwind). Dialed In integrates smartphone connectivity and a camera. By laying your smartphone down on the glass, it can activate a special mode during multi-ball. The game also features 5 magnets, “3 flying drones”, a “3-D interactive projected image”, and an animated robot.

VPCabs brought several virtual pinball cabinets capable of playing both classic arcade games and pinball tables. The Vertigo features a very large main display and color dot matrix display at the top of the cabinet. The control panel has the buttons, track ball, and joystick needed to play video games and buttons mounted on the sides of the cabinet for use as flipper buttons when playing pinball.

Multimorphic showcased its P3 Pinball Platform a dynamic modular pinball machine. The company develops new games for its platform that combine traditional pinball and new technologies. Lexy Lightspeed – Escape from Earth is Multimorphic’s first game and Cosmic Cart Racing will be the second.

During Pinball Expo, Stern Pinball held its own event to celebrate Stern’s thirty years in the pinball industry. At the event, Stern had a number of Ghostbuster pinball machines. Ghostbusters, Stern’s latest release, features the characters and elements from the original 1984 movie and 1989 sequel. The playfield artwork explodes with color and is packed with features. The Limited Edition (LE) version uses Ecto Glasses to project holographic ghosts onto the playfield that react to ball hits.

We expect pinball to continue to evolve and incorporate new technology that enhances the player’s experience. Pinball is back and with a great future.