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Is digital/virtual pinball the future of pinball?  

2,155 members have voted

  1. 1. Is digital/virtual pinball the future of pinball?

    • Yes
    • No

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Recently the video below started making its rounds on various Digital Pinball and Real Pinball groups.  It raises the question; are Virtual/Digital Pinball formats the "future" of pinball.  There has been much discussion about this topic. Several Mechanical/Real Pinball groups, such as Pinball Enthusiast group on Facebook, taken to just ban/delete any content pertaining to Digital Pinball.

Of course I fully expect this poll to be totally biased; as that's what you all are here for.  However, healty conversation about the topic is much welcome.


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*facepalm….a main note here is he actually hopes that AtGames comes supported with VPX, which, tells me (as usual) he’s clueless about the topic. Nathan is known to be shall we say “lacking evidence and knowledge”. I’m holding back here people. 


I’ll be boring guy. I think the future is pretty much exactly as we think it will be. VPE, software for Oculus and the like, crappy cab sellers, cheap cabs from Wal Mart and Sam’s Club. There will be nothing “surprising”. Vpinball is essentially old…it’s just catching on….becoming less of a video game, and better at emulating real life situations…and people are saying “I want that” more and more. It’s an interesting topic, but I think based on evidence the future is basically what it is now….just a bit more evolution and more interest. 


I don’t blame pinball forums banning virtual talk. It’s a bit like the Ferrari Enthusiasts group constantly getting bombarded with questions about what the best color and set up is for a Spider 488 on the Xbox game Forza Horizon. 


PS the poll is kind of a trick question. 

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5 hours ago, Darkstar said:

I don’t blame pinball forums banning virtual talk. It’s a bit like the Ferrari Enthusiasts group constantly getting bombarded with questions about what the best color and set up is for a Spider 488 on the Xbox game Forza Horizon.


The combination of "not quite on topic" and the inevitable calls of "virtual pinball is a waste of space best given to the real thing" from a very vocal minority of the community, who either tried it 10-15 years ago and didn't like it then and won't revisit it, or who just poo poo it without trying it because you don't have to drop a handful of real balls into a trough before the game will fire up...

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  • 3 weeks later...

yep, just like all the modern arcades now, most  are multi-game cart in one physical machine, room space is gettin ultra expensive and the fact that you can have tons of different games running on one machine is a game changer.


Of course there will always be people that preffer the real thing but mantaining 30 years old machines is not for everybody and new generations dont want to spend time learning how to fix said physical tables

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  • 5 weeks later...
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Are they the future? I kinda think they are the present.


I guess it depends on how you count it, but if you based it on games played, or number of players for some version of digital pinball vs. a conventional real pinball cabinet, or number of new games released in a given year, I'd guess it isn't remotely close.


Steam Charts estimates as many as 2.9 million users have downloaded Pinball FX3 (https://steamdb.info/app/442120/graphs/). And Zen (as slow as their release schedule has been lately) has still released around 25 new tables since launching FX3 in 2017 (I'm just spit balling here, but Fx2 had about 78 tables FX3 has about 100 and not all FX2 tables made it to FX3). That's an average of about 5 per year and doesn't count any of the new FX stuff or their Apple Arcade pinball games. I'd be curious to know how Stern and Jersey Jack's annual revenue stacks up against a company like Zen. And I haven't even started factoring in crowd sourced platforms like VPX and FP.


So I'd say the present of pinball is predominantly virtual. That's not to say real pinball is going to vanish. I certainly hope not. It's declined drastically compared to its peak. But I suspect it's settled into a relatively stable niche.

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  • 1 month later...
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I voted No, because without the physical aspect of the real pinballs then it might as well just be another video game. I can't afford the real or have the space for the real, so for me it is the virtual. It has its pros for sure and it's getting more realistic as it goes. Not having to repair the table due to the beating the ball(s) cause is a plus too. Even with all that, I think the future for pinball still needs the ball and the physical, but I like how they are adding more virtual to the game too.

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I voted yes, it's the future. Of course, without real machines, virtual wouldn't exist. Virtual is first and foremost a tribute to and celebration of real pinball. But, here's the thing: real pinball also isn't the past, just because virtual is the future.


Real pinball is on a roll right now.... more manufacturers than there have been since the 80s, and some of the best games in history (see Godzilla, Iron Maiden, etc) are being released. But, it's a rich man's game. If you don't live in a big city, more than likely, you'll never play these games unless you can buy one. The inaccessibility of real pinball is weird, and is totally out of balance with it's renewed popularity, but I think that's because a *lot* of that renewed popularity is driven by virtual pinball. Zen and VPX did a lot to make that happen, and VPX is poised to take it very, very far into the future as it continues to outpace all other competitors (yes, including Zen... who are stumbling right now and probably about to become irrelevant).


That's the reason it's the future: the dream of owning a decent virtual pin is not unobtainable. But a basement full of real pinball machines is solely a millionaire's dream. And the idea of pinball arcades becoming commonplace also feels out of reach now.


I'm personally glad there's an option for those of us who love the history and variety of pinball through the years, but are simply too late to play in the real pinball game. And it bums me out the privileged who can play the real pinball game would ever look down on the virtual community. We all just love pinball, dammit, and we wanna play. Simple as that! So I'm grateful for the VP creators through the years who have made that a possibility. It's a cool community and I hope the current time frame is seen in the future as the beginning of it's best days. I'm a newbie to the scene but it sure feels that way to me!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I do believe that Virtual Pinball CAN be the future for pinball players, since you don't have just one table i.e. Addams Family, Ghostbusters, Twilight Zone, AC/DC etc, you have ALL OF THEM including those from the 1960s and 1970s if you really wanted to.

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  • 3 months later...

I don’t think it’s the future of pinball, but I guarantee there are more people playing digital than physical.  True pinball has been and always will be a physical game that exists in the physical world.  That’s what’s so great about it.  It’s like a little world under glass that you control to a degree.  It will never go away as long as there are people with money to burn on a $10k amusement machine.


Having said that, digital pinball has become absolutely amazing in the past 10 years and has in many ways brought pinball back.  The level of quality and realism in these games was unheard of when pinball was super popular.  It will never replace pinball, but the amount of people playing digitally is going to grow faster than those playing physical.  And I don’t know about you, but after I play digital I have a massive craving to play a physical game.

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If you look at the numbers, physical pinball is dead. Compared to the sales figures of "back  days", pinball has become a rare hobby of a few rich, old people who can afford it. I would have to drive over an hour to reach the nearest real public table. I also don't know anyone under 30 who is really interested in pinball. I also haven't seen a female person play at a table in many years. (Are there any here on the forum at all?) So I think the future of pinball will be largely on home computers. The companies that still build real, genuine pinballs will have a hard time sustaining their existence. Good thing: I believe, that with pushing vpx to the next game engine, the future of virtual pinball is very bright. Many things devs can do are dreams of the ppl who tried to invent Pinball 2000 many years ago. So virtual pinball will be better and better...

 Build Units - best selling machines:

  • Addams Family (production: 20,270 units, plus an additional 1,000 “Gold Editions” later in 1992 to celebrate the sales record)
  • Eight Ball (20,230, in 1977)
  • Flash (19,505, in 1979)
  • Playboy (18,250, in 1978)
  • Firepower (17 410, in 1980)
  • High Speed (17 080, in 1986)
  • KISS (17 000, in 1979)
  • Star Trek (16 842, in 1979)
  • Mata Hari (16 260, in 1978)
  • Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy (16 155, in 1976)
  • Twilight Zone (15 235, in 1993)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (15 202, in 1991)



Source: https://pinballmag.fr/en/the-best-selling-pinball-machines-of-all-time/

Pinball FX 3 only has on Steam 500.000 - 1 Mio active Users
source: https://steamspy.com/app/442120


Edited by Retsamikit
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