Friday, December 12, 2008

Favorite Things

Pinball: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (SWE1:TPM)

Although it is not my favorite Star Wars movie, it is my favorite Star Wars themed pinball machine (There are 3, I've owned 2 and have pretty extensive time on the third). This is the only pinball machine that I have purchased new in box...for a few reasons. First, it came out at a time when I was finally able to afford a new pinball (after college with a decent paying job). Second, my brother and I now had some experience with pinball machines and were not nearly as intimidated as when we first got into the hobby. Third, it was the last pinball produced by my favorite pinball company Williams/Bally. We happened to tour the WMS factory during Pinball Expo 1999. We saw these machines being built on Oct 23rd, on Oct 25th Williams announced that it was closing its pinball division (Pinball Black Monday).

Admittedly it is not the best pinball machine out there, but it was the second of the Pinball 2000 (P2K) line, that offered many unique features and so many possibilities for the future. P2K was killed before it could come into its own (possibly the decision to kill pinball had been made years no matter how well it did, it would still have been doomed). For a great look at Pinball 2000's creation and demise check out the DVD: Tilt - The Battle to Save Pinball. An interesting watch for anyone interested in pinball, engineering, design, marketing, or business.

What is great about this pinball:
  • Projects video onto the playing surface - ball interacts with video.

  • There are other great points like the pivot-buttons around the regular flipper buttons, the neon light saber, etc... but the video is the main thing. It is impressive, it is a whole new way to play pinball. This should have been the future of pinball.

What went wrong:

  • It had too much Jar Jar Binks.

  • The pinball developers were not allowed to see the entire movie while they were working on designing the machine...I think the whole picture would have led them to better designs.

  • It was a rushed production on a new platform...this led to a quick design that doesn't have as many shots as a well planned pin.

  • Die hard Pinball Fans are resistant to change and hated the new system before it even came out (let alone have played it).

  • Due to production issues (and Lucas dictations that it could not in any way come out before the movie), the pinball came out a little over a month after the movie hit the that time all the publicity had died down and a lot of people didn't like the movie.

  • Short sightedness by the company. Williams should have given Pinball 2000 a couple years to develop and mature before cancelling (but the lure of slot machines was too strong).

It is an impressive machine. You can get a taste of what could have been...but you are left hungry for what never happened. It is an easier game than some of my others so beginners like it quite a bit. I often get the following comments - "This is so cool. I've never seen one like this" or "How come they didn't make any more?"

P2K - I mourn our loss of you. You are one of my favorite things.

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