LAS VEGAS—In a world where dozens of games can fit on a device tucked neatly into your pocket, why would you want a pinball machine to call your very own? Because pinball machines are undeniably awesome. And the machines made by Stern Pinball fit very nicely into your home.
The machines that Stern was showing off at CES 2013 this week aren’t the same models you’d find down at your local arcade. Those commercial machines have a larger footprint, and a price tag to match. But Stern also makes models for the home that weigh about half as much as its 250-pound commercial machines and cost around $2499. That’s not pocket change, certainly, but it’s not outside the price change of someone with a rec room and the desire to equip it with some high-quality gear.
And make no mistake: The pinball machines Stern makes for home users may not take up as much space as a commercial model, but it matches the machines down in the arcade in one important area—the playfield is the same size. That means the pinball in your home machine is ricocheting across the same-sized surface as a larger offering.
“We’re seeing a resurgence in pinball,” company president Gary Stern told me, as CES attendees happily put their flipper fingers to work behind us. Stern Pinball saw sales climb 32 percent in 2012 over the previous year. “People are just rediscovering what we are.”
Stern thinks the action and interactivity of pinball still has an appeal in this digital age, and I have to agree with him. I enjoy iOS pinball games like Pinball HD and Pinball Arcade (which happens to feature digital recreations of classic Stern Pinball tables), and tablets in particular are particularly well-suited for pinball action. But there’s something about the physical feel of an actual pinball machine that puts even the best mobile recreation to shame. I could have easily spent the rest of CES trying my hand at Stern Pinball’s Avengers-themed table and left Las Vegas a very happy man.