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15 Reasons Why Pinball Is Still Popular (the Resurgence of Arcade Games)

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

Pinball has been around for many decades. Despite facing severe obstacles, such as being outlawed in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles until 1977, pinball and the arcade gaming culture are experiencing a comeback and resurgence in popularity.

Pinball is experiencing a huge resurgence not only in North America but globally. Yearly, there are hundreds of tournaments being played all over the world, mainly due to the involving nature of the game, the nostalgia it provides, and the fact that it is so addictive.

While pinball looks like a simple game and only involves launching a ball and pressing two buttons from the outside, the reality is that there is an enormous skill differential between pinball wizards and everyone else. Quite simply, pinball is an addictive, tactile game that involves most of the body’s senses. 

Let’s have a look at several reasons why this game is resurging in popularity:

1. Pinball Is Nostalgic

There is a movement within the gaming industry, primarily driven by the older generations, that wants the return of classic games such as Pac-Man, Asteroids, King Kong, and Pinball.

Back in the good old days, people would spend hours at their favorite pinball machine, trying to beat their score and the machine’s high score.

There was something incredibly overwhelming about entering a gaming center to the sounds of clanging bells, flashing lights, and friendship amongst the players.

Pockets full of quarters were quickly emptied, and weekly allowances were used rapidly up as game after game was played.

2. Pinball Created Heroes

There was a big difference between the pinball wizards and the rest of the clan. 

Players would stand in line waiting for their turn while the “wizards” would survive on a run of incredible luck and skill, giving them more free game time and extra balls.

These players assumed the status of legend with their incredible reaction times and ability to know just how far to push the machine before it shouted “tilt,” and the game ended.

The wizards of the game were generally not the star quarterback at school; however, in this dark den-like environment, they were king or queen.

3. Pinball Brings Out The Competitive Spirit

Most star athletes will humbly proclaim that they compete against themselves and aren’t concerned with how they fair against other similarly talented players.

We know that is not true, and they quietly compare their abilities to others. Pinball, however, does offer a genuine opportunity to compete against yourself.

While it would be nice to exceed the top scores on the machine, it is just as satisfying to beat your scores to get into the high ranking in the game.

4. Pinball Can’t Be Replicated

There is almost nothing quite like the sensory overload that a pinball arcade provides. The sounds, smells, and atmosphere are not easily replicated.

At the time, playing pinball in dark dens with characters who broke the rules and – get ready for it – smoked while they played was somehow illicit and exciting at the same time.

It was a place that you would imagine a rough biker gang would hang out in, where modern decorum and sensibilities were left at the door.

5. It’s Easy To Access Pinball Machines

There are now smartphone applications that identify the location of different pinball machines.

It makes finding a particular game very easy.

6. Pinball Is Available At New Facilities

New developments are being launched throughout the country that offers old-school type entertainment popular amongst older generations.

An example is the Punch Bowl Social in Arlington, three-level, covering over 25,000-square-foot entertainment.

The facilities include bowling alleys, arcade games, pinball machines, restaurants, and pubs. These venues are very attractive as they provide a nostalgic experience while also catering to the fact that the guests are now of legal drinking age and probably can now afford the full range of activities.

7. More Pinball Machines Are In Bars

As pinball becomes more popular, it makes sense for bar owners to reinstall machines in their facilities. 

The resurgence in pinball has grown the revenue from these machines to a level where it accounts for 30 percent of arcade revenues. It means that it is now financially beneficial to install them in bars.

8. Pinball Machines Draw The Player In

One of the unique features of pinball was the way it told a story; whether this was in a war as a fighter pilot, a poker game, or a fantasy, each was unique and drew the player in.

Once playing, the experience became addictive and, in the quest to improve on a score, to one day become a wizard, many a pocket of quarters was emptied.

9. Pinball Is More Involving Than Computer Games

While computer gamers may disagree, there are not many experiences quite like the flashing lights, the noise made as the flippers hit the ball, and then the sound of it hitting the bumper and being propelled away around the table.

Trying to exert the perfect flipper pressure to launch the ball up the ramp was intoxicating and frustrating.

10. Pinball Places You In Full Control

Unlike a computer game where a software developer has determined exactly what will happen after a specific sequence of events, in a pinball machine, a good player has almost complete control of the time and space under the pinball table glass.

A good player had almost full control of this 3D interactive experience.

11. Pinball Is A More Tactile Experience Than Computer Games 

Despite video game controllers, which give feedback to the player, a computer game can never provide a similar level of tactile involvement as a pinball machine.

With pinball, the player is directly controlling a real ball, and as it moves around the table and bounces off the bumpers, there is sound, light, smell, and touch that invades the player.

12. Pinball Meets A Need

Classical entertainment aimed at old generations is sadly lacking.

While they could do “adult stuff” previously, there was very little opportunity to be entertained in a way that reminded them of their younger days.

They also want access to a restaurant geared to their need and serves real meals and craft beverages in a family-friendly environment.

13. Pinball Is Trending

Pinball is beginning to take on a life of its own. As revenues from the game increase, so do the number of available machines.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the trend in popularity will continue to increase.

14. Pinball Is Therapeutic

The total focus needed to play a game and achieve good scores is all involving and helps the players put their problems aside for a while. 

The serotonin and adrenaline produced by playing pinball create feelings of excitement and happiness.

Many people report that they play pinball when feeling very sad and can’t cope. 

15. It Takes Time To Get To Know Different Pinball Machines

While a player may be a wizard on one machine, they may have a completely different experience on another.

Players develop a passion for mastering specific games, which rarely happens without repeated playing sessions.

In Closing

As pinball continues to resurge in North America, the impressive growth in popularity is driven by multiple factors, not the least being a sense of nostalgia, the all-involving nature of the game, and the fact that it is so compelling.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

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.