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Pinball: 25 Fun and Fascinating Facts (Trivia, History, Evolution,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Pinball is a fun game with a fascinating history that dates back to the 1930s. The Pinball machine has seen many changes in the way it looks and how it is played. So, put your trivia hat on, and let’s discover 25 fun and interesting pinball facts!

Since its invention in the 1930s, Pinball has had influential people contribute to its design and improve the way it is played. Popular additions to the Pinball machine were bumpers, screens, and themed games. The trivia in this article should make your fingers twitch for a game of Pinball. 

Read on to learn more about the pinball machine and test your Pinball knowledge!

1. Pinball is Based on the French Game Bagatelle

The aim of Bagatelle is to roll a solid ball on a slanted surface, past tactically placed pins or hurdles, and into a hole. The popular game was small enough to fit on a countertop or table.

2. Pinball Machines Became Coin Operated in 1931

In 1931, Raymond Malone developed a coin-operated mechanical pinball machine called Bally Hoo. The game was very popular, leading to Malone opening the Bally Company.

3. Tom Hanks Does Not Appear on the Apollo 13 Pinball Game

Tom Hanks did not want his picture on the display board on the Apollo 13 Pinball machine. The display was already designed with the actor’s face on it, but the company put Tom Hanks in a space suit and helmet to cover his identity.

4. Gorgar was the First Talking Pinball Machine

In 1979, Williams launched the first talking Pinball machine called Gorgar. The machine had a vocabulary of only seven words. These were “Gorgar,” “Speaks,” “Beat,” “You,” “Me,” “Hurt,” and “Got”.

5. The Humpty Dumpty Title was the First to Feature Flippers

The Humpty Dumpty Pinball machine was the first to feature flippers. It had six upward-facing flippers and was launched in 1947 by D.Gottlieb and Company.

6. Duette Pinball Featured a 2-Player Playing Field

The Duette Pinball machine was launched in 1955 by D.Gottlieb and Company and was the first to feature a two-player option. The game was very successful, prompting the company to launch a larger deluxe version.

7. Baffle Ball Offered 10 Balls for a Penny in 1932

Baffle Ball was the most popular Pinball machine in 1932 and offered 10 balls for a penny. Baffle ball sold 50,000 machines, ultimately jump-starting the Pinball industry.

8. The Chicago Cubs Appear on a Pinball Machine

The Chicago Cubs Triple Play Pinball machine featured a spinning target, 3 pop bumpers, and a stand-up target. A total of 1365 Pinball machines were manufactured.

9. 5 Famed Passengers Appeared in Taxi Pinball

The Goal in the game was to pick up the five passengers (Santa Claus, Pinbot, Marilyn Monroe, Dracula, and Mikail Gorbachev (Gorbie)). Each passenger was represented by a light in the center of the playing field. If all five people were collected, the jackpot icon would light up, giving the player ten seconds to hit the icon with the ball. 

10. 3D Pinball Space Cadet was Featured as a PC Video Game

Microsoft included 3D Pinball Space Cadet in their Windows XP and ME operating systems in 1995.

11. Harry William Invented the First Pinball Tilt Mechanism

In 1934, Harry Williams invented the tilt mechanism. A common problem in the earlier machines was that the ball would get stuck in the corner of the playing field. Players would bump, lift, and hit the machine to release the ball, often causing damage to the machine. The tilt function would freeze the game, letting the ball roll out of play and ending the game.

12. Monopoly was Featured as a Themed Pinball Title in 2001

Stern Pinball launched their monopoly Themed Pinball machine in 2001. The Pinball machine features a unique rotating flipper that would knock the ball away.

13. Haunted House Pinball Featured a Triple Playing Field

In 1985, D.Gottlieb and Company launched Haunted House, the first Pinball machine to have the ball move between three separate playing fields. The game featured a trap door that would drop the ball into the lower playing field.

14. Joust and Defender are Video Games and Pinball Titles

Williams released their breakthrough Pinball Machines, Defender, Joust, and Stargate, in 1981. The games were based on the Company’s video games that were launched the same year.

15. The U.S. Banned Pinball in 1942

Pinball was banned in 1942 due to its close relation to gambling, as some Pinball machines would offer payouts for high scores. Many spectators would place bets on the outcome of the games, further involving Pinball in gambling acts.

16. In 1932, the BallyHoo Came to Market

The BallyHoo Pinball machine, which was a massive hit, was manufactured by the Bally Company. Many Drug stores and taverns purchased the machine as a way to make a second income. The Pinball machine received enough gameplay to pay for itself within a few months.

17. The 1935 Big Whiffle was the First Pinball Tournament

The Big Whiffle Pinball Tournament was held on 24 -26 May 1935 at a Milwaukee, Wisconsin Ballroom. The tournament was conducted as a charity event for the Badger State Advancement Association for the Blind.

18. Bazaar Featured the First Zipper Flippers

The Zipper Flipper could be closed by hitting the L.U.C.K. bumpers on the playing fields. When closed, the ball would return to the launch instead of going out of play.

19. The First Spinning Targets were on Swing Along Pinball

D. Gottlieb and company launched Swing Along in 1963. The game featured spinning targets that would knock the ball away in an unexpected direction.

20. Steve Kordek Invented the Pinball Machine Pop Bumper

The Drop target was invented in 1962 by Steve Kordeck. The Drop Target would tally a score when it was hit. The first drop target debut on the Vagabond Pinball machine.

21. The First 3-Inch Flipper Appeared on Hayburners 2 

Williams introduced a larger 3-inch flipper on the Heyburners 2 Pinball machine. These were the largest flippers installed on a Williams Pinball machine. The flippers were more agile and responsive than in previous games and were a huge success.

22. The Highspeed Pinball Title was Based on True Events

The High-Speed pinball title was based on the true story of Pinball layout designer Steve Richie. Richie was chased by police when he was caught speeding at 146 mph in his Porsche. The glass display of the machine has a picture with a speedometer that reads 146 mph.

23. 115 Kills Starts the Walking Dead Title’s Special Feature 

The Walking Dead Pinball Machine was launched by Stern in 2014. After killing 115 walkers, the game will enter its wizard mode, the Last Man Standing.

24. There are 5 Flippers on The Simpsons Party Pinball

The Simpsons Party Pinball Machine was released in 2003 and featured 5 flippers on the playing field. The game had one of the most complex rules sheets at the time. It allowed players to stack up various modes and multi-balls to a final showdown.

25. Ice Fever is an Ice Hockey Themed Pinball Game

Ice Fever was launched in 1985 by D. Gottlieb and Company, and a total of 1,585 units were built. The game featured a roll-under spinner, a captive ball, and back glass animations. 

Last Word

Pinball is fun, and spending a few hours on a machine allows you to learn the tricks and unlock its hidden secrets. Did you pick up anything new, or did you enter into Wizard mode and get a perfect score?

JC Franco

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.