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May the Force be with your flippers. Star Wars Pinball hasn’t been available to gamers for eons. Now, several versions of Star Wars pinball tables are coming to iOS, Android, and downloadable game services.
Zen Studios has secured the license to use the Star Wars theme from LucasArts, now owned by Disney, and it hopes that the combination of Star Wars and pinball will be irresistible to nostalgic gamers as well as a new generation of players on mobile devices. Since Star Wars hasn’t been available on pinball tables for a long time, Zen Studios hopes that it will fulfill a lot of pent-up demand.
Budapest, Hungary-based Zen Studios specializes in making pinball games with realistic physics simulations. It recently launched Zen Pinball 2 on Nintendo’s eShop store for Wii U game downloads. That series has tables based on Plants vs. Zombies, Marvel characters, and Paranormal.
Star Wars Pinball will be available this month on a variety of digital platforms, including the Apple iTunes App Store, Google Play, the Mac App Store, Xbox Live Arcade (as downloadable content for Pinball FX 2), Windows 8, PlayStation Network (as Zen Pinball 2 content), and PlayStation Vita. That’s going to be a lot for fans, who haven’t had a Star Wars pinball game in three decades.
“It’s been over 30 years since Star Wars, video games, and solid-state pinball all burst onto the entertainment scene, and their popularity endures today,” said Neil Sorens, Zen Studios’ creative director. “We’re excited to be combining all three for the very first time. Our designers are huge Star Wars fans, and you can expect every detail in every table to reflect their passion for the Star Wars universe.”
Sorens told GamesBeat, “With J.J. Abrams directing the next Star Wars movie, it feels like Stars is going to have a resurgence. We liked this because we had the creative license to do what we wanted to make a fun game. We design all of our tables from scratch.”
The different tables within the Star Wars Pinball game include Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Each table features a different “iconic moment” from the Star Wars universe. It features authentic pinball physics, but the tables are enhanced with interactive 3D characters who appear above them. With the first set, you will play as characters such as Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Anakin Skywalker, and Ahoska Tano.
Players will also be able to post their scores to global leaderboards, experience in-game friend challenges, local hot seat, online multiplayer, and other features. The game will feature authentic voices from the movies and will show some snippets from the films (in a crude graphics format) as a reward for good players.
Zen Studios has very little competition in the downloadable pinball market (except for Gameprom and FarSight Studios). That’s why it has been able to secure pinball licenses for titles such as Capcom’s Street Fighter, Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden, PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies, and Marvel. Zen has other original titles — a real-time strategy dubbed CastleStorm and the music rhythm game KickBeat — coming this year.
Mel Kirk, the vice president of marketing at Zen Studios, said in an interview that pinball games are proving popular as free-to-play titles on mobile devices since they are easy to get into. The players who love them will spend money on extra tables. That’s a lot easier way to attract new players than charging them $60 for a pinball console game.
“The download titles restore the impulse buy to this market,” said Kirk.
With the mobile titles, players will get one table for free (with advertisements). They can buy three extras for $10. I played a version of Star Wars Pinball on an iPad, and it was very easy to control. You just tapped the screens to control the flippers. You could almost feel the ball rolling down the board.
Zen Studios has 55 employees and was founded in 2000 by Zsolt Kigyossy. It did work-for-hire for a time and funded its own operations with profits. During the iPhone era, it differentiated itself by specializing in pinball physics, which aren’t easy to do right. Besides Hungary, it has offices in San Francisco and Mi-Wuk Village, Calif.
FarSight focuses on re-creating classic pinball tables while Zen Studios focuses on creating pinball for the new generation of players. LucasArts decided to license the pinball game with a new emphasis on more casual titles in the Star Wars universe. That was consistent with the Angry Birds Star Wars licensed game released by Rovio last year.
“We hope this will increase the popularity of pinball,” said Kirk.
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