July 14, 2021

Pinball’s Resurgence Means Business Opportunities

Why is pinball regaining popularity?

3 Minute Read

Over the past several decades, pinball and other arcade games have had to reckon with the booming popularity of computer and home video games. But now, the pinball business is gaining popularity as young and old generations fall back in love with the skill-based game. For some ages, pinball has been about nostalgia and remembering one’s childhood with countless hours spent in front of a pinball machine. Vintage pinball is a growing market fueled by pinballers hoping to reconnect with their favorite past times. Pinball museums are proliferating as old pinball fanatics look to play and admire pinball machines from childhood.

The pinball comeback also brings in a younger crowd, perhaps unfamiliar with the nostalgia and history behind the pinball machine. Video games have captured the latest generation’s hearts, but pinball offers a unique entertainment outlet as they come of age. Pinball is somewhat of a novelty to younger people but combines novelty with a familiar gaming platform.

Elvira's House of Horrors Playfield LE Stern Pinball
Elvira’s House of Horrors Playfield LE Stern Pinball

Effect on the Industry

The increase in pinball play has had a knock-on effect on the industry, and now more pinball machine companies are designing and selling modern takes on the pinball machine. Increased competition has led to somewhat of a revolution in pinball design. Stern Pinball has expanded its production due to increased demand launching some great new titles. Stern Pinball is always on the cutting edge of providing players with the biggest titles on the planet (or, in this case, the galaxy!), constantly offering players a wide range of hit properties such as Stranger Things, Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Led Zeppelin, and The Mandalorian!

A piece in Newsweek featured this excerpt from Stern, What draws folks to play these seemingly antiquated games, especially when free ones are just a button-push away in our pockets? Zach Sharpe, director of marketing at pinball manufacturer Stern, credits phones and video games with driving people to seek a more tangible, mechanical pastime. “It’s an entertainment device that can’t be replicated,” Zach tells Newsweek. “While video games are fun, you don’t get that same tactile action you experience with a pinball machine.”

Where is it happening?

The latest pinball trend began in the Pacific Northwest with younger hipsters combining the arcade game with a craft brewery, but it is starting to catch on across the nation. A newfound fixation with vintage and retro gaming has, in part, spiked the comeback of pinball in the States.

One way to track the success of pinball is to look at the spread of pinball museums. Museums dedicated to pinball and its history thrive from Seattle, Las Vegas, and New York City to Asheville, North Carolina.

And the revitalized interest in the game has spread from pinball-specific foundations to general food and entertainment establishments. Savvy business owners realize pinball’s potential and incorporate it into their entertainment offerings. 

Young woman playing pinball in game room


How can restaurants, bars, and other establishments take advantage of pinball’s growth?

Pinball can connect a new audience to your business, whether you want to reinvent your bar’s theme or add new entertainment options. The more active, young crowd is looking to engage their gaming prowess on a night out, and older pinballers will enjoy the nostalgia pinball machines offer.

More than just a recreational activity for some, competitive pinball and pinball tournaments are growing throughout the States. The International Flipper Pinball Association holds events in nearly every state, and its presence is growing nationally and internationally. Tournaments are held in bars, restaurants, and cafes, offering a unique opportunity to connect with the local community.

In a more recreational setting, arcade bars are also spreading as a way for patrons to connect around their love of gaming. Themed arcade bars attract an audience looking for more in a bar than the familiar trappings. Simply having a machine offers customers a fun, engaging game to spend a few minutes between buying food and drinks.

Use the Stern Pinball Locator to find the location nearest you to play all of your favorite Stern titles!

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James Liess

James Liess leads marketing and communications for Betson Enterprises, focused on working with manufacturing partners to grow awareness of products and services. He has more than 15 years of experience working with global brands in the sports and entertainment industry.