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Old 10-18-2018, 06:22 PM
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10-18-2018 12:04 PM
Thursday at Pinball Expo began as it always does with the Stern Pinball factory tour.

At 9am the bright yellow school buses arrived and show guests who had purchased the tour as part of their package or as a standalone purchase boarded the buses for the ride to the Stern factory around 25 minutes away.

The school buses arriveStern Pinball factory tour guests board the bus for the trip to Elk Grove VillageWhen they arrived, guests entered the Stern building to congregate in the area usually reserved for staff dining.  Here they were welcomed to the factory by Jody Dankberg, Stern’s Senior Director of Licensing and New Business.

Jody greets tour guests in the lobby areaJody then passed the microphone to George Gomez who introduced several members of the Stern Pinball team.

George also welcomes guests alongside a cardboard Gary SternGeorge and ‘Gary’Then the tour began, with guests being shown around the factory in groups of ten.

The tour beginsWhile we returned to the hotel to prepare for the seminars, M.G. Brown. took these pictures of the tour.

The first guests on the tourLead programmer Dwight Sullivan leads this tour groupDwight explains how the wiring looms are madeThe bare black cabinets come in and have their game-specific decals appliedMachine assemblies are built ready for addition to the playfieldCompleted machines are testedFinished games are boxed, ready to shipBoxed games awaiting shippingAt 1:30pm, the seminar schedule began.

The first seminar featured Romain Fontaine from Team Pinball talking about the making of the company’s first title, The Mafia.

Romain FontaineHe explained how the conceived the idea of building their own machine and how they went about it, designing their own hardware, getting the playfield design from a designer in Hungary, Balint, the control system they created using a Raspberry Pi, the wiring under the playfield and the testing procedure they use once the playfield is complete.  He stressed how they tried to keep things simple and clean inside the game.

Romain explained how they got the sound and music and then built ten sample machines before going public, inviting Pinball News to help launch the project.

Next up was Jim Schelberg from the Pingame Journal who played assorted pinball-related clips from popular media, which he collects and publishes in a DVD set.

Jim SchelbergClips included Drunk History, CSI, Jeopardy, Back to the Future, NFL promotional clips and assorted TV commercials.

Nick Parks from The Pinball Company then took to the stage with his wife Brooke to talk about how the business began and has grown.

Nick and Brooke ParksHe said the business was very dependent on the website which he launched in 2006.  He told stories of how he bought and sold various machines, often without even touching them, and knew at that point that the business would work.  Then he bought a large inventory of pinball machines so he could open a showroom.

Nick described how the company has grown since then, the people the company has employed and the impact they have had on the business.  He also listed their top selling machines, with The Wizard of Oz in first place, The Addams Family in second, followed by Star Wars (DE), AC/DC, Pirates of the Caribbean (Stern) and Star Trek (Stern).

Nick concluded by detailing his plans for a Chicago Pinball Hall of Fame in Schaumberg, Illinois with 150+ modern-era pinballs, a selection of EM pinballs, new arcade games, a full bar and a corporate/party area.  He said if all goes to plan the business should be open by this time next year.

Next, at 4pm, Todd Tuckey and Frank Lindenmuth passed on their tips for selling pinball and video games, and starting a business.

Todd TuckeyTodd is the owner of TNT Amusements which buys and sells many coin-op games, and he is a popular internet video maker, describing particular games or covering more general coin-op topics.

Todd and FrankThey covered how to choose a company name, get a website, how to advertise and promote your business on social media, but also not to forget about traditional advertising channels such as newspapers and classified ads.  Todd advised not putting the prices of games on brochures as game prices change rapidly and soon become outdated.

We’ll have more pictures from the Stern Pinball factory tour a little later, as well as full coverage of the first day of seminars and the opening of the Games and Vendor halls.  So check back here at Pinball News for all the latest news from Pinball Expo 2018.

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