Pinball renaissance

The U.S. has had a long love affair with pinball starting as a cheap Depression-era form of entertainment and experiencing many waves of popularity to present times. Pinball's peak was back in the 1990's, when over 1/3 of all pubic machines were built. 1992 was the peak year when 992 games were manufactured. Over one-quarter, 277, were The Addams Family, its first year of release. That pinball machine proved to be the best-selling table of all time with more than 20,000 sold.

With the turn of the century, pinball's popularity began to fade. Arcades across the country moved pinball machines into storage to make room for their modern digital counterparts - video and redemption games. Pinball came close to extinction and for 12 years, only one company, Stern Pinball, kept the game alive.

Pinballs at Wonderland Arcade in Kansas City in 1968 before the days of video games. Notice
the signs on the wall - “You must be 16 years of age to play pinball machines” and “No prizes of
any kind or nature offered for high scores.”

Just like the resurgence of vinyl records, pinball is back. It has been making a revival as a nostalgic activity and as an alternative to peoples' screen-based lives, especially for adults in adult-oriented bar arcades. Pinball companies such as Jersey Jack Pinball, Spooky and Dutch Pinball are now competing with Stern Pinball.

In fact, 2017 proved to be the year when the second most pinball machines ever were manufactured, 938, just 5% less than in 1992. One-quarter (243) was the Star Wars (Pro) pinball. Stern is now manufacturing nearly 500 tables a week. Pinball is back and going strong from a near death.

Source:, Pinball Across the US

Ghostbuster's continues to be the most popular pinball machine in the U.S., followed by The Addams Family, Star Wars (Pro), The Simpsons Pinball and The Walking Dead in that order.

As of March 29, 2018, the U.S. had 14,516 pinball machines with 835 unique titles at 4,765 public locations.

Pinball culture is strongest in Portland, OR where there is the highest number of machines in any city and the most place places to play. Here's the scope on the top four cities.

  # of machines # of locations
Portland 671 287
Pittsburg 620 98
Seattle-Tacoma 611  
San Francisco 539 164

However, if we measure pinball culture by machines per capita, Boulder Colorado wins out with 44 machines per 100,000 population. Portland is 2nd at 30, Reno 3rd at 28 and Pittsburg comes in 4th with 26 machines per 100,000.

In terms of accessibility to public places with pinball machines, Reno is the winner with 14 places to play per 100,000 population, followed by Portland with 13, Spokane with 12 and Boulder with 9 per 100,000.

Our client's Doc Brundy's community leisure venue is under construction in Spanish Fork, Utah, just south of Provo. The greater Provo area currently has 36 public pinball machines in 5 different locations. When Doc Brundy's opens with its pinball room, it will triple the number of pinball machines in that area and greater expand the number of unique titles offered.

The Pinball Map is an amazing resource if you want to find where you can play pinballs.