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January 2015 Retro Gaming Article


January 16, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Pindemption is Jersey Jack Pinball's trademarked term for a hybrid pinball redemption game

When I first heard the term "pindemption", I shuddered. I knew what it was, but I din't want to acknowledge it. If I turned and ran... perhaps it wouldn't really be what I thought it was.

Jersey Jack Pinball Convinced that Jersey Jack Pinball (JJP) was on an endeavor to integrate redemption tickets into a pinball machine, I read on with great trepidation. Hanging out in arcades of the 1980s was an amazing experience that began to decline shortly thereafter. Finding a Donkey Kong cabinet in an arcade today is nearly unheard of. Golden age arcade games are out there, but they are few and far between and viewed as a novelty alongside the massive attractions being produced today.

What passes for an arcade today is a much different experience than in the 80s. Technology has risen to epic heights and enabled a lot of very creative games, but the simple classic-style game play is all but lost on today's generation of players.

Wizard of Oz Pinball Pindemption I miss the simpler days, but also appreciate many of the new games that bring forth the same type of challenges. The monitors are now 42" flatscreens and most are configured as sit-in or ride-on attractions that take up 6 times the floor space as a Golden Age cabinet.

What irritates me is the large number of cranes, pushers and miscellaneous redemption machines that seem to dominate the majority of any arcade's floor space. I know these machines are popular and enable arcades to remain open and offer real video games and pinball, but I hate to see the joy of playing an amazing video game replaced by ticket spitters and cheap plush-toys.

Pindemption at EAG International

London's EAG International is the main coin-op and amusements trade show in the UK. This year Jersey Jack Pinball debuted their Pindempton concept in a Wizard Of Oz pinball table. Pindemption gives the player a limited amount of time (configurable by the operator) to play the game and earn tickets. With a heavily cut-down ruleset, it changes the duration of play, forcing players into shorter sessions.

To the untrained eye, Pinball machines may seem as electromechanical today as they were decades ago, but beneath the playfield is all the sophistication of a small computer. With that in mind, the code to convert from Pinball to Pindemption is built into the table and simply needs to be activated from the manu system. Naturally, a ticket dispenser is required, but all the technology to shift to redemption is part of the table.

I'm glad that's the case, because I would hate to see dedicated pindemption tables that wouldn't allow the possibility of skill-based duration of play. It sounds as though it's fairly simple to convert between the two once you have the ticket dispenser unit. I'm wondering how a table is sold in this manner, because the operator wants to run the machine in the most profitable mode possible. The ease of conversion makes me wonder if maximum financial return is achieved by running tables in both modes over the course of time.

JJP stated that Wizard of Oz generates $300 per week, but the pindemption mode bumped it up to $1,000 per week. This is partly due to shorter games in which you don't get stuck with one player monopolizing the table for 15 minutes. The operator can chop that time down to 1 minute in pindemption mode.

Wizard of Oz by Jersey Jack Pinball

Pinball, Redemption, and Arcades

I'll be the first to admit I'm not a pinball fanatic. I enjoy a game now and then, but I'm all about video games. However, in the 80s, the sign of a good arcade was one that also had a good selection of pinball tables. That rings true for me today as well. When I go to an arcade that has no pinball tables, its often a sign that other problems exist. I'm always delighted to find a bowling alley with a few video games and a couple of pinball machines.

Redemption machines are just awful - an atrocity! As these games of chance (bordering on gambling) invade arcades, my desire to frequent such arcades wanes. Little kids love to trade in tickets for trinkets, but that's because trinkets are fun and they're too young to understand the economics of redemption. The real crime is these kids don't get to enjoy games that deliver an amazing experience. Their enthusiasm is focused on the tickets and trading them for trinkets - a terrible association.

The joy of surviving another wave of Defender, reaching another checkpoint in Pole Position, or watching a bullet pass through your Humanoid's neck as you kill the robot (fight like a chicken) is priceless. Protecting that last city - wave after wave - waiting for the next bonus city to appear is elating. Surviving hyperspace and blasting more asteroids is awesome. Striking the DDT container at just the right moment is almost as exciting as a Rampage SpeedBoost! And having a Robotron joystick in each hand is euphoric!

Redemption offers none of this. It's so close to gambling, it's hard to believe that pinball was outlawed as gambling due to folks who felt it was a "game of chance". I let my son try a few of the redemption games, but he also loves to drive F1 race cars, take cover while reloading, and climb girders to reach Pauline!

Let your kids be kids, but don't rob them of the true joy of video games and pinball - PLAYING THE GAMES! The fun comes in the game.

So, you can see why I'm a little skeptical of Pindemption. I consider pinball tables great fun and a useful measure in judging an arcade. Redemption machines require no skill and offer no worthy experience. Combining pinball and redemption to arrive at Pindemption seems like a dreadful idea, but I'm not in the amusement business.

JJP may be onto something and speed up the renaissance of pinball with a more lucrative option to standard redemption cranes and coin pushers! You never know. Between Stern and JJP, someone needs to ensure that pinball has a glorious future and might once again be an essential component of any successful arcade environment!

Pindemption- will combining redemption with pinball boost interest and engagement with “real” games?


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