GamesBeat: Let’s talk a little bit about what Jersey Jack Pinball has brought to the table, as far as innovation. I’ve been saying for at least a decade, that pinball needs a LCD screen in the backglass. You guys finally made that happen with Wizard of Oz. What made you finally say, “Yes. We absolutely have to be the ones to do this!” Was the LCD screen difficult to implement?
Guarnieri: The LCD is a piece of hardware. That’s the small cost. The big cost is what content it displays and how the content is integreated into game play, and how it entertains onlookers, and informs players.
We have spent a lot of time and effort to get this right. The screen interface on Wizard of Oz works very well, and for The Hobbit it is different, and works for that theme game. They are both beautiful, and attract players, and keep them in the game.
GamesBeat: I know pinball people can be a bit … cantankerous … when moving from one style of display to another. Have you received much backlash from people who still have a thing for dot matrix displays?
Guarnieri: Not really. The game was designed to welcome veteran players as well as introduce pinball to new players, especially women and young people.
It does very well as we have seen by the huge collections on the games in commercial locations. The young people who never played pinball naturally absorb the whole game, video and ball play. They just don’t stare at a rolling silver ball. With all of the technology they are exposed to at a young age, they adapt pretty fast to our games.
For the veteran pinball players who look at the ball, the screen has become something to entertain … amuse and attract onlookers, and get people into what’s happening on the playfield.
GamesBeat: You guys also did some amazing work with colored LED lighting, which the rest of the industry followed up with their own solutions. Wizard of Oz in partiular is an insane game to look at just for the light show. How was the process of seeing that come about?
Guarnieri: Like other innovations, it was costly and difficult ,,, but obviously worth it.
We have improved in The Hobbit as technology changed, so did we in our design and implementations. Wizard of Oz broke so many barriers in what it did. People walk up to it and stare at it amazed.
It’s the first game to have all clear inserts in the playfield. There is a long list of firsts.
[Stephen’s pinball fun fact: The inserts that Jack is talking about here, are clear plastic windows on the playfield. These are often colored. So a regular white bulb sitting under the playfield will shine through, say, a green insert, producing a green light. With LED bulbs that can change color, there is no need for the inserts to be anything but clear. Since the color of the light is now determined by the bulb itself.]
GamesBeat: One thing everyone kept asking during Wizard of Oz’s development was … why that license for a pinball theme?
Guarnieri: Why not? It’s good vs. evil. And it has a rich, well-known story with amazing characters and visuals. It lends itself to be a pinball machine. It already had several best-selling top slot machine titles too.
GamesBeat: The Hobbit makes a lot more sense, to me, as a modern pinball theme. If I remember correctly, this game was being developed in conjunction with the movie. Was it difficult working with The Hobbit license holders while the movie was in production?
Guarnieri: The difficulty was getting assets that were secret to the world. We did not have images of Smaug until close to the release of the third movie. We have implemented so much art into this game that it is another classic in the making. We are very proud of this game as it breaks other barriers in design and innovation, as well as being stunning playable artwork.
GamesBeat: I also remember that The Hobbit was supposed to be released before the third movie, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, hit theaters on December 2014. What were some of the issues that held up The Hobbit pinball from reaching that deadline?
Guarnieri: Ideally, we wanted to release it with the third movie. The game we showed at Pinball Expo in 2014 was redesigned, and that took a lot more time and effort. I suppose we could have built that game, but then, we want to give our players, and loyal customers, the very best game we can give them and not whatever we settle for.
GamesBeat: Did missing the deadline hurt some of your sales? I imagine operators would’ve really liked to put that machine into theaters while one of The Hobbit movies was playing.
Guarnieri: There is some belief that putting a The Hobbit game in a theater when The Hobbit movie is playing, will make the game operator a fortune. That would be great, but so many pinball machines have come out that are movie theme, and they did not time release to a movie, they missed.
The Hobbit is like Wizard of Oz, it’s a new timeless trilogy of movies, and millions of The Hobbit fans all over the world will enjoy our game for many years to come.
Wizard of Oz was 73 years old when we started to build the game, that did not hurt sales.
GamesBeat: Any word on what the next Jersey Jack Pinball project is going to be?
Guarnieri: This is in the works and it is an original theme design from Pat Lawlor [who lead creation of two of the greatest pinball machines in the 1990s — The Addam’s Family and Twilight Zone]. The release will be spring 2016, and we expect to have a second game release for the end of 2016.
GamesBeat: Finally, where do you see pinball heading in the next two to three years?
Guarnieri: More pinball, especially on commercial locations. We have been working on “Pindemption,” which is part of our patented, “Pinball machine and redemption system.”
We just released software that is activated by changing a dongle in Wizard of Oz games that enables the game to be set for time play, rather than ball play, as well as a different rule set. There are easily achievable objectives and collapsed rules. And in testing this software for more than either months on location, Wizard of Oz games saw a 192 percent increase in earning and game play!
We will be at the IAAPA show in Orlando next month, teaching commercial game operators about these developments, and how our games make money on location.
Jersey Jack Pinball will bring experience to pinball players that could never be done before, and all of it is protected by our recently granted patent. We want to continue to innovate and not imitate. We want to do more things that have not been done in pinball.