Pinball machine

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Disambig-dark.svg Pinball redirects to this article. For the NES computer game, see Pinball (computer game) .
Pinball Collection of Retro Games eV , the second from the right is the best-selling pinball The Addams Family .
Pinball collection at Cedar Point Amusement Park
Multi-ball game on a 'whitewater' pinball machine

A pinball machine (short: pinball machine ) is a game of skill without the possibility of winning money, whose forerunners go back to the 18th century. In all pinball machines, a metal ball is first catapulted onto an inclined surface, which it rolls down towards the player: depending on which openings the ball falls into or which obstacles it touches, players collect points. Shortly after the Second World War, invented Harry Mabs the eponymous Flipper (d. H. Flipper lever, even Flipper), with which the player was given the opportunity to throw back the ball on the court.

Game flow and goal

Pinball lever of the pinball machine "Demolition Man". You fling the ball back onto the playing surface.

Since the introduction of the pinball lever, it has been the aim of pinball to score as many points as possible with a pinball (usually made of polished steel ) on a sloping playing field. Points are collected when the ball hits various game elements (see below) that are applied to the playing field. The ball is lost if it rolls between the flipper levers at the bottom of the playing surface. Players try to prevent this by hurling the ball back onto the inclined playing surface using the flipper levers that snap upwards. The pinball levers are triggered by buttons on the side of the pinball machine. The ball will also be lost if it rolls down one of the drainage channels located next to the flipper levers. The longer a ball stays in play, the greater the probability of hitting game elements and thus collecting points. Players try to avoid losing the ball (too early) using various methods (see below). The respective score is displayed in the head section of the pinball machine, which is located above the playing area. A game usually consists of three balls.

Preforming the pinball machine

Pinball machines emerged from the bagatelles game as well as from needle play machines: In these forerunners of the later pinball machines, balls are also pushed or shot onto a sloping playing field. The bagetelle game was more reminiscent of today's pit-pat (a mixture of mini golf and billiards at table height), with the difference that the balls in the bagatelle were played up a sloping surface and could fall into different holes. Later variants developed in which the ball was pushed up a separate track with a cue , which was attached to the side before the balls rolled down the actual playing field. These balls hit obstacles or are caught in special holders or openings, for which the player receives points. The term pinball describes a board studded with nails on which one or more balls find their way. These games have existed in the form of coin-operated machines since the 19th century. The first patents were registered in 1871.

In the 1920s and 1930s, these very small machines that did not have a head attachment experienced their first boom. During this time, the tilt mechanism was developed, which prevents the housing from being lifted or hit (to influence the game). Towers and impact towers (bumpers and pop bumpers; mushroom-shaped structures that score points on ball contact and strike back with force), targets and ejects were created.

Bagatelle or pinball machine without pinball machine, around 1930

Shortly after World War II , the pinball levers were invented. Now the main thing was to keep the ball on the field for as long as possible and to collect points, the shooting of the ball became less important. With these real pinball machines there are rarely several balls on the playing field at the same time. The bingo machines, especially popular in the United States, have the same origins and have more in common with the old pinball games.

There were always new game features such as spinners, drop targets and much more. After electronics were introduced at the end of the 1970s, new, complex game systems emerged from around 1980, which reached a peak in the 1990s. In these game systems you got a lot of points by hitting the targets in a certain order. However, these devices were too complicated for the average pinball player and only appealed to pinball fans. Today's pinball tables are usually not inclined more than ten degrees (usually 6.5 °) and have a head attachment.


In 1947, the Gottlieb technician Harry Mabs invented the pinball levers that gave the game its name, which players could use to actively intervene in the game. The first pinball machine was called Humpty Dumpty . The pinball machines were initially flipping from the outside in and were arranged more on the edge of the field, the much more popular solution used now only followed a few years later. Around 1950, after an initial boom, the market was saturated with the new pinball machines and most manufacturers withdrew for the time being. During the 1950s, Gottlieb and Williams almost exclusively shared the world market. Bally and CDI only introduced a few new pinball machines.

1954 saw the introduction of mechanical roller counters and devices not only for one, but also for two or four players, and even a six-player device (Six Sticks from 1965) was included. Four-man pinball machines were built 90 percent for the European area, US players still favored the one-man pinball machine. From 1956 wooden legs and wooden cash register doors were gradually replaced by metal ones.

Turf by Bergmann, 1958

In 1958, significant numbers of brand new pinball machines were imported to Germany for the first time. At around DM 4,000, the devices were  as expensive as a Volkswagen . Previously, mostly used devices came to Germany or German operators bought discarded pinball machines from the American armed forces. In 1960 the first devices appeared in a modern metal rail housing. The head section (lite box) now sat on a neck piece (pedestal), which gave the devices a more elegant shape. In Germany, the player usually got one game for 20  pfennigs and three games for 50 pfennigs. Almost from the start, the pinball machines were adjustable for three or five balls per game. In 1961 the last pinball machine appeared with the old-fashioned point display through light fields. Devices for two and four players have always had roller counters, with very few exceptions.

In 1963, Bally and CDI (Chicago Coin) entered the pinball market, which they previously only supplied sporadically. In 1964 the ball lifter was phased out and the automatic ball feed introduced. From 1965 onwards, more and more devices were produced in a modern, contemporary psychedelic graphic style. Many devices now had the option of inserting 1 DM (six games for 1 DM). A brand-new four-man pinball machine cost around 4500 to 5000 DM in Germany. In 1966 the first four-man pinball machine with multi-ball game (three balls possible at the same time) appeared.

In 1968 pinball sales stagnated in Germany, as a new generation of slot machines with 20 Pfennig stakes and the new pool billiards appeared in that year, which is why the operators increasingly invested in such machines. From 1969 onwards, new pinball levers three inches in length were increasingly used. At that time, the pinball machine was also an integral part of youth culture in Germany . Terms like freaked out , game over and tilt became independent expressions that became anchored in everyday language. In 1970 counter inflation began with the use of stationary zeros. The outhole bonus was also invented, a number of points that is built up during the game and is counted when leaving the field of play. The idea behind this was to prevent the common bad habit of kicking and hitting the pinball machine when the ball was lost, because in the case of tilt these ratings would then be lost. The outhole bonus soon became an indispensable element of the game and an important part of all pinball machines.

In 1971 the 2-DM-throw prevailed in Germany (10 games for 2 DM), the throw-in for groschen disappeared. In 1973 the last pinball machine was made exclusively with two-inch pinball machines. In 1975 a pinball machine reached a production number of over 10,000 for the first time. German players now usually paid 50 pfennigs for a game, 1 DM for three games and 2 DM for seven games. In 1976 the trend established itself to use real people, films or other well-known things as pinball motifs. This was done before, but not in the form of official licensing . For the first time in decades there were mirrored stained glass panes again. During this time, Spanish manufacturers managed to sell considerable quantities for a short time, not least due to a large-scale market launch by the importer Löwen-Automaten . The introduction of electronics ended this interlude very soon.

In 1977 the first electronic (solid-state) pinball machine appeared in mass production. Trials and small series of such devices had been around for a number of years. Initially, most pinball machines were electronic and electromechanical. This transition period ended in mid-1978, only Gottlieb stuck to the electromechanics until the end of 1979. For the first time a pinball machine reached a production number of over 20,000. From now on, one and two-man pinball machines were rarely built. In Germany, the 5 DM throw-in was introduced (usually 14 games for 5 DM). 1977, 1978 and 1979 are considered to be the most successful years for the pinball industry. All four major manufacturers, led by Bally, were selling in higher numbers than ever. The variety of devices was enormous, some small manufacturers were added, and some so-called cocktail table pinball machines also appeared. In 1977 the nationwide trend began in Germany to set up discarded pinball machines in one's own home; in the 1980s, more pinball machines were to be found in private households than in public.

Appeared from 1978, triggered by Atari, who offered pinball machines in mass production from 1977 to 1979, from all manufacturers, including Williams, extra-wide wide-body pinball machines that disappeared again with the beginning of the crisis in the early 1980s. In 1978 the first pinball machine appeared, the stained glass pane of which was no longer produced by screen printing , but by laser printing. The new process offered more options for details, but the color and luminosity of the new panes could not keep up with the previous ones. 1979 was the year of the highest pinball density worldwide , in Germany alone almost 40,000 new pinball machines were bought that year, around 200,000 were publicly displayed. This year the first devices with complex sound systems that also generate background noise were presented with great success. Pinball machines were ubiquitous, at that time they were also found in laundromats, department store entrances and as decoration in TV shows. The depreciation of used pinball machines increased rapidly. In the 1960s, it could be assumed that a pinball machine would be used for about eight years, but now a pinball machine was considered completely out of date after just two years. At around 4,000 DM, the devices cost far less than in the 1960s, especially when one takes into account the inflationary development of the Deutsche Mark.

1979 saw the appearance of Gorgar from Williams Electronics, the first talking pinball machine. He has a seven-word vocabulary. The last electromechanical pinball machine appeared at the end of 1979. The general color scheme of the devices has changed. Up to now, the cases were 90 percent white and the colors bright and shining, but now the cases have mostly been black and the colors darker. The typical pin-up motifs gradually disappeared in favor of fantasy and science fiction motifs. The game price in Germany usually rose to 1 DM per game, for 5 DM there were usually ten games.

In 1980 the pinball industry reacted to the strong competition from video games, with double-level playing fields and lots of new features that thrilled pinball fanatics but put off the masses of gamers in the long run. In 1981 Gottlieb presented the last one-man pinball machine. The until then very conservative company introduced the loudspeaker in the headboard in 1980 and, with a few exceptions, built almost exclusively wide-body pinball machines from 1980 to 1982, of which only a few were successful. In 1982, similar to the one in Spain from 1975 to 1976, an Italian invasion took place, which, however, quickly subsided after only two very successful devices. The American companies had severe sales problems; some mutation devices appeared that tried to combine pinball and video games.

In 1983 the pinball industry was at its first complete low. There were three main reasons for this: the immense popularity of screen slot machines, the fact that there were now almost as many pinball machines in private households as there were in public, and the new generation of pinball machines, which put off the masses of casual gamers with their complicated gaming systems. Screen machines were also less prone to failure and less maintenance-intensive than pinball machines, which meant real money for the operator. The then immensely high dollar exchange rate made matters worse. Bally and Gottlieb had pinball machines manufactured in Germany from the end of 1984 to mid-1986, which would have been completely unthinkable just a few years earlier. In 1983 and 1984 only a few, more simply structured pinball machines based on the successful devices of the previous decade appeared, but without achieving their perfect look.

"Sorcerer" pinball machine from Williams from 1985

In 1985 alphanumeric displays appeared for the first time (on Gottlieb devices). In 1986 a new boom began. The devices took on the form they still have today, with significantly higher housings, ramps and toys on the playing fields and sometimes additional structures and lamps on the headboard. The aim of the game is no longer just to keep the ball in the game for a long time and to collect points, but also to complete complex tasks. The electronics adapted to the skills of the respective player and regulated the level of difficulty of the respective game or regulated the free play limits. 1986 saw the appearance of the first rear panels with photo motifs, these were no longer printed on the glass, but deposited as a sheer film. Such panes, in contrast to the very sensitive screen-printed panes, are immune to temperature differences and moisture, but no longer offer any glamor .

In 1988 the sales figures fell sharply again, only Williams, the undisputed market leader for several years, was able to sell good numbers and took over the Bally pinball division. In 1991 the matrix display appeared and replaced the various counters. The industry tried again and again to launch the two-DM game, but this was not generally enforceable. In 1992 and 1993 the pinball machine experienced another boom. Since around this time, devices with licensed topics have appeared almost exclusively, mostly from films. Bally started the trend towards licensing themes in the second third of the 1970s. Gottlieb soon followed, and Williams was the last company to join this trend. In 1994 some wide-body pinball machines reappeared.

In 1995 another crisis began for the pinball industry, from which it has not been able to find its way to this day. In contrast to the time of crisis at the beginning of the 1980s, when people slimmed down in order to save costs, more complex and sophisticated pinball machines than ever were produced despite the sales problems. The sometimes quite rare pinball machines of these years of construction are among the most popular and most wanted in fan circles. In 1999 the attempt by Williams to establish a new generation of pinball machines with an integrated screen failed. The second pinball manufacturer, Williams, who remained alongside Sega Pinball, ended its production. In the same year Sega Pinball was bought and renamed Stern Pinball , whereby a large part of the Williams employees were also taken over.

In the following decade, Stern Pinball was the only remaining pinball manufacturer with a pinball production that continues today. It was not until 2011 that Stern got competition and with Jersey Jack Pinball another serious manufacturer with its own development and production entered the market.


In Austria around 1970 a pinball game cost 1 schilling throughout. Later on, games cost more with more modern, more complex machines. Only very old, very simple machines, but no pinball machines, could be operated with smaller coins, i.e. 50 groschen or 10 groschen, for example an ancient small showcase in which a fortune teller doll moved a little and which after a short time a card with a Oracle spat.

Basic structure

Pinball lever

General distinction

Typical format of a modern pinball machine

Pinball machines are often classified according to the way the game is controlled.


These devices have a purely mechanical structure; the flipper fingers , if any, are also moved by muscle power. The only electrical elements are the lighting or a point display.

Electromechanical ( EM )

These devices use relays , coils, motors and switches to implement the game logic. The flipper fingers are moved by coils - the player simply presses the button on the side of the flipper. The logic is housed in the body of the housing, only the counters for the points are in the backbox.

Electronic ( SS )

The mechanical and electromechanical pinball machines have been completely replaced by purely electronic devices. The logic is based on the interconnection of ICs , transistors, processors and ASICs . Only with these devices could complex game sequences be realized in order to offer missions with several tasks for the players. In contrast to the electromechanical pinball machines, the logic is housed in the backbox, smaller circuit boards for controlling motors can also be located directly under the playing surface.


The so-called pinball levers are a central component and eponymous element . These three or seven centimeters long levers, in German like the entire device, usually referred to only as pinball , more rarely also as flipper arm or flipper finger , are the central control element for the player. They are almost the only way for the player to influence the game. They are operated by a button each on the left and right side of the housing. With the help of the flippers, which are usually located in the lower area of ​​the playing field between two slingshots, the player can shoot the ball back into the game. On the one hand, a quick reaction is important, on the other hand, a high degree of skill is required to shoot the ball in the desired direction in the short reaction time. Around the beginning of the 1970s, longer flipper levers (3 inches (7.62 cm) instead of 2 inches (5.08 cm)) became popular. These allow the player to aim much better than the previous much shorter levers. Like all other elements of the playing surface, the pinball machines are also driven by solenoids below the playing surface.

The inlane and the outlane are in the same place on almost all modern pinball machines. There is almost always a rollover in them.

  • The inlane is the path that leads the ball to the flipper levers. It is usually located behind the respective slingshot.
  • The out-lane is the path that leads the ball out of the field and thus causes it to be lost. In some pinball machines, the first time the ball rolls into the out-lane, it is saved and pushed back onto the playing field with an auto-plunger ( kickback ); the second time the player loses it.


The plunger shoots the ball at the beginning of a game or after losing the ball from the outside right into the field of play. With most pinball machines, the player can regulate the force himself by pulling the plunger back a certain distance, thus changing the tension of the mainspring. Sometimes there are special points or other bonuses if you shoot the ball with so little force that it leaves the lower part of the plunger channel, but then rolls back before it reaches the upper end of the channel and then enters the table through a separate side opening . Sometimes, however, so-called auto-plungers are also used, which shoot the ball in automatically, always at the same speed. Apart from the ball, the plunger is the oldest play element.


Dot matrix display

The head attachment (back box) of a pinball machine is a vertical structure that is mounted at the rear end of the pinball machine and is covered by a pane of glass (back glass). This pane of glass is printed with colorful motifs and usually contains the name of the machine and the manufacturer, as well as the points display and possibly other displays (e.g. remaining balls and games). The entire control unit, i.e. the pinball's brain , is usually located inside . Everything that controls the pinball machine, such as game play, sound and much more, is located on one or more circuit boards. Over the past 50 years, electromechanical counters , electronic segment displays and, most recently, dot matrix displays have been used. The latter may also offer animations , but these were also realized by moving figures behind the pane of glass. With older devices, the topic-related graphics were screen-printed onto the glass from behind, which results in strong colors for the viewer. Newer devices usually only have a printed plastic film (translite) behind the glass. The headpiece is also visible from afar and is intended to encourage potential customers to play. Accordingly, it is equipped with many flashing lights that draw attention to it. The flashing in different sequences (partly also supported by noises and music) outside of the regular game is called the attraction mode , which is supposed to draw the attention of the potential customer to the machine.

Game elements

Bumpers ( Bumper )

Impact tower (bumper)

This mushroom-shaped structure, also in German rather with the English term as Bumper designated values at ball contact with the located at the foot of resilient plastic ring points and hit the ball back with force. The recoil is caused by a metal ring in the impact tower, which is located above the ball when at rest. When a contact is registered by the ball, the ring is pulled downwards by a cylinder coil located under the striking tower with high force and speed, thereby throwing the ball away from the striking tower. There is usually an incandescent lamp inside a tower. In earlier times, this lighting mostly indicated certain values ​​( 100 when lit ). In more modern pinball machines, the points that can be achieved with bumpers are so low compared to the total number of points that can be achieved that the lighting is often only used for effect purposes. Interesting game effects are created by arranging several bumpers close together so that the ball is hit back and forth many times at high speed between the bumpers before it leaves this area of ​​the playing field again. Older pinball machines, in particular, were particularly appealing from such arrangements of three to five striking towers. In more modern devices, the bumpers are often only a marginal phenomenon.

The pop bumpers are a special form of bumpers . They lack the ring to hit the ball back, they only serve to count points or to activate the corresponding game elements. The heyday of these pop bumpers was in the 1950s and 1960s, mostly in combination with hit towers.



The Slingshots (English for slingshot ) hit the ball in contact with the rubber band a pitch limit back into the pitch. In contrast to the strike towers, this is a lever mechanism that is not visible to the player. When the ball comes into contact with the ball, the ball not only rebounds through the force of the rubber, but is thrown back at very high speed by the lever, which is operated by a cylinder coil located under the playing surface. The lever acts on the entire width of the rubber. Almost every pinball machine has such slingshot mechanisms in the mostly triangular playing field borders on the side of the two pinball levers. Only a few pinball machines have more slingshots on their playing field.

For the player, the slingshots are ambivalent. On the one hand, they ensure speed in the game, as a slow ball is shot back into the game at speed even before contact with the pinball levers. On the other hand, the player with the slingshots has no control over the direction in which the ball is shot. Together with the fact that the lower slingshots are usually attached at a 45-degree angle, these uncontrolled kills also send bullets directly into the lateral outlanes .


  • The Stationary Targets are ordinary targets that only register hits.
  • The bullseye targets score more points if they are hit exactly in the middle.
  • The drop targets sink into the playing field after they have been hit. They usually occur in combination with a few others; they reappear when all associated drop targets have also been sunk . Sometimes they reappear due to other mechanisms. They are also sometimes placed in front of other targets to make meeting those targets more difficult.
  • The swing targets move back and forth on the field.
  • The Roto Targets consist of several targets arranged in a circle, which can rotate around a common (vertical or longitudinal) axis. If they are hit, turn one further. It is usually decisive for the game which of the targets is hit.
  • The spinners are propellers that start to spin when the ball rolls under them. The longer they keep turning, the more points the player receives.
  • The harder you hit Vari Targets , the more points you get.

Holes and Kickers (Ejects)

The holes are depressions or holes in the playing field. If these troughs are on a wall, there are sometimes so-called scoops behind them, vertical , curved plates that guide the ball into the trough. If a ball remains in such a hollow, the player receives points. There are three types of holes:

  • The horizontal kickers shoot the captured ball with a solenoid in a certain direction on the playing field.
  • The vertical-up kickers use a solenoid to shoot the captured ball up into a wire ramp.
  • The gobble holes catch the ball and you get a lot of points or a free game, but they no longer release the ball. They were mainly used in the old pinball machines.


  • The habitrails or wire ramps consist of four or six parallel metal rods, between which the ball fits exactly. They usually transport the ball from a vertical-up kicker to an additional mini-playing field , somewhere on the playing field or to the pinball levers in order to enable the ramp to be hit several times in a row.
  • The usual ramps are made of plastic or metal and are usually larger than the ball. They lead from the playing field onto a mini playing field or they go first up and then down again.
  • There are also special ramps such as V-turns and funnel-shaped ramps .


Electromagnets are sometimes installed under the playing field. They change the movements of the ball. In many machines they are rarely switched on.

  • Electromagnets are often used to make the course of the ball difficult to predict.
  • Sometimes they are used to drag the ball to a specific location.
  • They are also used to take the ball and carry it somewhere.
  • In the Magnasave (or Magnosave ), an electromagnet prevents the ball from rolling into the outlane. The Magnasave is activated by hitting certain targets.
  • In Bally's The Twilight Zone machine, electromagnets were used on a mini-playing field , allowing the player to control the movement of the ball.

Some pinball machines have additional ceramic balls ( powerballs ) that are not influenced by the electromagnets. These bullets rarely come into play by hitting specific targets.

Other elements

  • Rollovers - They react when the ball rolls over them.
  • Gates - Gates are leaves or wires under which the ball can only roll in one direction.
  • In order to prevent the ball from being lost by the pinball levers, two systems were widely used in the 1970s, but were only rarely installed from the 1980s onwards.
    • Center Post - The center post is a vertical pole between the flipper levers, which is usually sunk into the playing field. It was used on the long flipper levers. When certain targets are hit, it is extended and almost always prevents a ball from falling between the two flipper levers. This is partly realized by an illuminated plastic cylinder, which is mounted flush with the playing surface between the flipper levers when not in use and which can be extended about two centimeters upwards if necessary.
    • Zipper-Flipper - To temporarily protect the player from losing the ball, there were Zipper-Flippers (Bally) for the short pinball machines . Here the two flippers are moved towards each other in the middle and snap into place so that the ball would remain between the flippers if it were not moved.
  • Diverters - Diverters are levers that direct the ball in one of a number of possible paths. You are hired by meeting certain goals. They are mostly controlled with solenoid coils.
  • Mini-playing fields - The mini-playing fields are usually located above the normal playing field and can be reached by ramps. There are various goals on these playing fields as well as on the actual playing field. Bumpers are very often used on these playing fields.
  • Captive Balls - These are balls that can only move in a certain area of ​​the playing field.
  • Spinning Discs - A spinning disc is a spinning disc built into the bottom of the pinball machine.
  • Toys - They represent figures or things that have to do with the topic of the automat. Some toys do not intervene in the game. Others replace certain game elements (e.g. instead of a kicker hole a dinosaur that catches the ball and shoots it back onto the playing field). Sometimes they are also an important (unique) part of the game (e.g. a mini-playing field that the player can tilt using the flipper levers on the left or right ).

Game systems in modern pinball machines

  • end-of-ball bonus - every time the ball is lost, the player receives points. The amount of these points mostly depends on how often a certain target has been hit. In almost all machines, the end-of-ball bonus can be multiplied by hitting certain targets (bonus multiplier).
  • Multiball - In the multiball game there are several balls on the playing field at the same time. It is therefore difficult to play.
  • Ball Lock - Every time a bullet hits a specific target, it is locked in and a new bullet appears on the plunger lane. Once a certain number of balls have been locked in, they are all released and a multiball game begins. In many newer games, the balls are no longer actually locked in, but the machine stores the number of hits on a certain target, and after a certain number of hits the multiball game begins.
  • Jackpot - If you hit a target that is difficult to reach or if you create a complicated sequence of hits, the jackpot is added to the points. The jackpot is increased by hitting certain targets; the value of the jackpot is often maintained over several games. With some machines you can only hit the jackpot during the multiball game. In newer games it is sometimes much easier to hit the jackpot.
  • Extra ball - If a player receives an extra ball, he may play an additional ball after losing the ball. In multiplayer mode, the player who receives the extra ball may play it immediately.
  • Ball Saver - If the player loses the ball shortly after being shot, he may repeat the shot.
  • Follow-up hit - If you hit a certain target often in a row, you get a lot of points.
  • Modes - Modes are times during the game when the rules change. For example, you get a lot of points for hitting certain goals (several times) or you have to hit a certain sequence of goals to get a lot of points. With some machines, the modes become more and more difficult the more modes you master.
  • The wizard mode is started with many pinball machines, e.g. B. all other modes have been mastered and / or other tasks have been completed. A wizard mode is usually extremely difficult to achieve.
  • Free Spins - When someone receives a free spin, most pinball machines make a loud bang, mostly made with a solenoid.
    • Replay Score: If the player manages to exceed a certain number of points, he receives a free game
    • Special: If the player hits a target that is very difficult to hit, the outlanes are illuminated. If he hits the outlanes, he receives a free game or an extra ball.
    • Match: With some machines you get a free game if the last two digits of the score match a random digit followed by a zero. The probability of getting a free game in this way is only apparently around ten percent (with modern machines the number of points always ends at  0 ), since the probability can be set by the operator. For Bally and Williams games, it is 7% by default.
    • High Score: Typically, you get one free game if you make it onto the high score list and three free games if you finish first.

The multiplayer mode

In almost all pinball machines, up to four players can play against each other. After the first player has lost the ball, it is the turn of the second player, and so on. If the last player loses his ball, it is player one again, followed by all the other players.

Playing techniques

Most beginners hit the ball with both flippers at the same time. This is easier at the beginning, but after a while you should try to use only one pinball machine. If you operate both flippers at the same time, the probability of losing the ball is greater. Also, many tricks require coordination between the pinball machines.


When aiming , the aim is to let the ball rolling out of the inlane roll to a certain point on the pinball lever and then to press it to hit a certain target. If you shoot the ball with the tip of the flipper lever, it rolls to the opposite side, if you shoot it with the middle part of the lever, it rolls straight up.

  • Lifting the ball off - Due to bumps in the inlane, the ball can move a little upwards away from the flipper. If this happens, you have to hit the ball a little earlier and faster than normal to get the same results.
  • Shot speed - some players can selectively change the effect of a shot by operating the flipper at a certain speed.
  • Redirection - In redirection, the player tries to influence the direction of the ball with a flipper when hitting the ball back. This playing technique is dangerous; control tricks such as trapping should be preferred to it. By shooting the bullet back at the exact angle it came in, you can increase its speed. This technique is often used to get a harder hit on a ramp that has previously been too weakly hit.

When trapping , the player lifts the pinball lever and lets the ball roll into the corner between the pinball lever and in-lane. Then he lets go of the flipper lever again, waits until the ball is in the right position to shoot him and operates the flipper lever again. This trick usually only works when the ball is slow. Trapping is one of the most important pinball tricks.

  • Drop Stop - This difficult trick can only be used when the ball is rolling towards about the center of the flipper lever. While the ball touches the pinball lever, the player releases it. The ball then rolls down on the flipper and the player can shoot it against a specific target.
  • Flip Trap - The flip trap is used when the ball moves towards the tip of the flipper lever, it is the opposite of the drop stop: the ball and the flipper lever must come to the exact same place where the tip of the flipper would be . The ball then rolls into the corner formed by the flipper and in-lane.

Sometimes it is possible, the ball aufzuspielen by holding up the flipper arm, can hit the ball against the head and only then wegschlägt.


These methods can be used to move the ball from one pinball machine to the other.

  • Bounce Pass - If the ball rolls slowly towards the middle part of a flipper lever, you can make sure that you can shoot the ball with the other flipper lever by not shooting the ball away immediately, but letting it jump to the other flipper lever and only then shoot it . However, this trick won't work if the ball rolls too fast or if it just hits the tip of the flipper lever.
  • Hold Pass - If the ball rolls down an inlane and the player wants to play it with the other pinball lever, he simply lifts the pinball lever with which he does not want to play the ball and lets the ball roll over him to the other pinball lever.
  • Falling Hold Pass - A falling hold pass is made instead of a normal hold pass when the ball rolls very quickly through the inlane. If you were to try a normal hold pass in such a case, the ball would roll to the opposite slingshot. With the Falling Hold Pass you lift the flipper like with the normal Hold Pass; when the ball is about halfway up the flipper, let go of it.
Chill maneuver

In the chill maneuver, the player first lets the ball ricochet off the center post and only then operates the corresponding pinball lever. But he has to make sure that the ball does not fall between the center post and the flipper lever. Bouncing off a pinball machine without pressing the lever is also called a chill maneuver, which is done when the player assumes that he is jumping to the other pinball machine.


Many players try to influence the movement of the ball by bumping the pinball machine. The tilt mechanism penalizes excessive pushing of the machine. To get the ball in a desired direction, you usually have to push the machine a few times in the opposite direction.

  • Shake - If the ball is by the strike towers, it makes sense to shake the machine so that the strike towers are hit more often.
  • In-Line Friction - This trick can be used to slow down a ball that is rapidly rolling down the in-lane by pushing the machine. (The ball bounces off the walls of the inlane a few times, causing a lot of friction.)

These tricks can be used to prevent the ball from being lost.

  • Slap Save - The Slap Save is used to prevent the ball from rolling between the flipper levers. First you operate the pinball machine that is closest to the ball and shoot the ball up a little. Shortly afterwards you press the other pinball machine and shoot the ball away. When the ball rolls exactly to the middle between the flipper levers, you can bring it back onto the playing field by first pushing the machine to the right or left and then doing a slap save.
  • Bangback - The bangback is used to bring a ball rolling down an out lane back onto the field of play. You lift the pinball machine, which is on the same side as the ball, and push the machine upwards when the ball is roughly below the tip of the pinball machine. The ball rolls to the other pinball lever and you just have to shoot it away. The bangback is generally only possible on certain pinball machines such as B. Twilight Zone can be implemented, carries the risk of injuring the wrist and is usually punished with a disqualification in tournaments.
  • Death Save - The Death Save is very controversial; It is also used to bring a ball rolling down the right out lane back onto the field. Raise the left flipper lever; when the ball is under it, you push the machine upwards. The ball bounces off the raised left flipper and jumps to the right. If you haven't triggered a tilt, all you have to do is shoot the ball away. The strength of the shock can be increased by kicking the right leg of the machine. Just like the bangback, the death save leads to disqualification in tournaments.
Techniques in multiball play
  • " Sending " balls - In the multiball game, it makes sense to shoot the balls on ramps or in groups of towers. So you can concentrate on the other ball (s) for a while.
  • Trap and Play - Trapping some balls on a pinball lever helps you focus on the rest of the balls.
  • Billiard Block - In the multi-ball game, a ball rolling towards the center between the pinball machines can be shot away with another ball. It's best to hit the ball on the side so that you don't lose the other ball.

Trying to direct the bullet at a specific target when it is shot is called a skillshot. In some machines you get additional points for a certain skill shot.

The tilt mechanism

The tilt mechanism penalizes hitting or lifting the machine by overriding all game elements (including the pinball levers) and thus ensuring that the player loses the ball. Newer pinball machines often make a loud noise when tilting to draw negative attention to the player. Older pinball machines up to the 1960s ended not only playing with the current ball but also the entire game of the respective player by tilting. Since the tilt mechanism was triggered unintentionally during dynamic play, this has been refrained from. Most newer machines will give one or more warnings before tilting occurs.

There are different types of sensors that cause a tilt:

  • A conical pendulum within a metal ring: If the pendulum touches the ring, it tilts. By moving the cone up or down, the distance to the surrounding ring can be changed and thus the sensitivity. This pendulum prevents the game from being influenced by excessive jolting and tugging around the machine.
  • A steel ball on a track attached to a side wall inside the machine. The incline of the track is adjusted so that the ball rolls in the direction of the player and stops there. The ball at the opposite end of the track triggers a tilt contact. On the one hand, this sensor prevents the pinball machine from being lifted during the game, but would be superfluous because the pendulum also vibrates strongly when it is lifted and triggers contact. The main purpose of the ball tilt is to prevent players from reducing the inclination and thus the speed of the pinball machine by placing beer mats and the like under the front feet. However, hardly any operator actually uses this setting option.
  • A mercury switch. This is also attached to the inside of the housing in a pivotable manner by the stand. When the machine is lifted, the mercury in a small glass container flows forward and creates a contact between two electrodes that pull the tilt relay. This mercury switch was the predecessor of the ball tilt, which replaced it in the 1970s.
  • There are also sensors on the cash register door, sometimes also below the playing surface and on the pinball floor, which are triggered when the player hits it, for example to simulate the insertion of a coin. If such a sensor is triggered, the game is over immediately ( Slam Tilt ). Electromechanical pinball machines are often completely de-energized. From a mechanical point of view, these are two contact plates that belong together, the longer one of which is provided with a small weight.


The majority of pinball manufacturers are from the United States. The major US manufacturers were all based in or near Chicago . The four largest manufacturers were and are:

  • D. Gottlieb & Co .: The inventor of the actual pinball machine (1947) and global market leader until 1975. Gottlieb was a family company until 1977, when it was bought by the Columbia Group. Columbia, in turn, belonged to the Coca-Cola groupfrom 1982, which sold the pinball division. In the following years Gottlieb belonged to Mylstar and Premier Technologies. In 1996 the company finally gave up. Company founder David Gottlieb died in 1974. His son Alvin, who left the company in the late 1980s and did not have the right to manufacture devices with his name, attempted a comeback with Alvin G & Co from 1991 to 1994and failed.
  • Bally : A company for which the pinball machine was just one product among many and which is alsofamousas a manufacturer of one-armed bandits and bingos . Bally didn't focus on the pinball machine business until 1963. In 1975 Bally finally overtook Gottlieb and remained the market leader during the most successful pinball era until 1980, then was outdone by Williams and finally taken over in 1988. In the 1960s, Bally took over the smaller Midway Company. In the course of a restructuring of the group, the Bally entertainment machine line ran from 1982 under the name Bally-Midway . Originally the company was called Lion Manufacturing Company and only used the name Bally in addition. From 1969 it was the Bally Manufacturing Corporation , from 1982 Bally Midway . Now called Bally Gaming Inc .
  • Chicago Coin / Stern Electronics / Data East / Sega / Stern Pinball : The smallest of the four companies, but in principle the only surviving one. Founded in 1931 by Messrs. Gensburg, Wolberg and Koren. The von Gensburg brothers founded the rival company Genco. Sub-name Chicago Dynamic Industries , or CDI for short . CDI offered a wide range of different slot machines. B. the driving simulators Speedway and Motorcycle as well as a number of automatic shooting machines. It was not until 1963 that the company started producing pinball machines on a regular basis. In 1976, Chicago Coin was taken over by Sam Stern and his son Gary. In 1982 Stern merged briefly with Seeburg, temporarily stopping the pinball series production in 1983. 1987 Takeover or resumption of the pinball division by DataEast, then by Sega under the direction of Gary Stern. In 1999, Gary Stern took over the pinball division completely and remained the only manufacturer in the 21st century until 2013. Chicago Coin was also the inventor of the pinball silhouette with a large headboard ( lite box ), which is typical to this day, in the mid-1930s.
  • Williams : Founded by Harry Williams in the middle of World War II, taken over in the late 1950s by Sam Stern, who ran the company until 1969 and invented the long 3-inch pinball machine. In the mid-1960s, Williams was part of the Seeburg Group, and in the late 1970s it was part of XCOR. In 1980 Williams took over the market leadership from Bally, soon afterwards plunged into a crisis that was without long-term damage. 1988 Takeover of Bally, market leader until 1999. The exact company names were Williams Electronic Manufacturing Corp. from 1942 to 1967, Williams Electronics Inc until 1985, then Williams Electronics Games , today's name: WMS.
  • Jersey Jack Pinball, Incorporated : Industry veteran Jack Guarnieri founded Jersey Jack Pinball in Lakewood, New Jersey in 2011 . The first self-developed pinball machine, The Wizard of Oz , was released in 2013. As a result, Stern Pinball lost its monopoly, which it had held since 2000 after the end of production at Williams / WMS. Jersey Jack relied on a modernization of the conservative construction concept represented by Stern right from the start, new in particular was a large flat screen with 3D display options in color, which replaced the dot-matrix displays used as standard since the 1990s, as well as a headphone connection and Bluetooth -Connectivity. LCD displays were also used on the field itself. The pinball machine Dialed In from 2017 caused a sensation because it was not only the first pinball machine to have a camera, which, among other things, took photos of the players for the high score lists, but also offered possibilities to connect to smartphones via Bluetooth Remote control pinball levers.

There have always been small producers in Europe: in the 1950s albums in France, in the 1960s for example. B. Rally, Jolux and Martina in France, Bergmann and Förster in Germany, in the 1970s there was a brief Spanish invasion of the companies Recel, Interflip / Franco and Playmatic. In the 1980s there were some companies that specialized in device conversion, as in the post-war period, such as Geiger, Bell, Arkon and others. During the pinball crisis in the mid-1980s, Gottlieb had some devices manufactured by NSM and Bally at their subsidiary Wulff in Germany in order to be able to offer the devices more cheaply because of the high dollar exchange rates at the time.

Popular machines

Pinball machine year Manufacturer Units produced particularities
Alien Poker 1980 Williams approx. 06,000 One of the first talking pinball machines, five then new targets with memory function for a royal flush, four jet bumpers, few features for today's terms, but all the more contemporary 1980s arcade synthesizer effects, partly the same as from Robotron: 2084 , which in the background noise of an amusement arcade contributed a lot to its typical flair.
High speed 1986 Williams approx. 17,080 First pinball machine with a story (which is told, among other things, with an alphanumeric display), more complex rules, and a growing jackpot.
Bride of Pin-Bot 1991 Williams approx. 08,100 Bride of Pin-Bot is the successor to the already successful PIN-Bot machine from 1986.

This machine is one of the last that was still equipped with an electronic segment display instead of a matrix display and showed the limits of the segment display.

The aim of the machine is to transform a female robot (the bride of the pin-bot), whose metamorphosis is symbolized in the machine by a rotating face, into a human being. To do this, the ball must be directed several times over a certain path in the face. The first round, the ball lands here in the bride's mouth, ensures that she learns to speak. On the second run, two balls must land in the eye sockets so that she can see. The eyes also blink in the segment display, within the boundaries of what is possible on a digital display.

In the third successful run, the face in the machine rotates again, the segment display turns into an EKG that shows a heartbeat after a few seconds and the machine shows a human face that can sing and the metamorphosis is complete.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 Williams approx. 15.202 Rocky background sound, lots of mechanics and weapon effects, terminator voice output, etc. Bonus target shooting via a pivoting cannon.
The Addams Family 1992 Bally approx. 20,270 The most successful pinball machine to date with over 20,000 pinball machines sold. Funny sayings and animations as well as 3 electromagnets placed under the playing field that deflect the ball called The Power , make the pinball machine very popular.
The Getaway: High Speed ​​II 1992 Williams approx. 13,259 The ball symbolizes a racing car, on a track with a ball accelerator the ball is accelerated several times. The machine has several mini-games and various hitchhiking animations on the dot matrix display.
Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure 1993 Williams approx. 12,716 The first pinball machine with the new DCS sound system from Williams, which offers particularly realistic sound and voice output. The device is based on the Indiana Jones films of the same name and impresses above all with its depth of play and varied tasks. The large number of original film quotes creates a very special atmosphere, so that the pinball machine remains exciting for a long time.
Star Trek: The Next Generation 1993 Williams approx. 11,728 The ball symbolizes the spaceship Enterprise, a large star headquarters in the pinball machine awards orders that can be solved on various tracks. Good animations. Multiball with up to 6 balls at the same time.
Attack From Mars 1995 Midway approx. 03,450 Animations on the matrix display with chases, aliens abducting animals and humans, threatened capitals including Berlin, blown UFOs - after sinking three targets with the ball symbolizing the energy shield and meeting the model UFO behind it. Fidgeting aliens in the pinball machine. Lots of voice output and mini-games in the matrix display, for example Space Invaders.
Medieval Madness 1997 Williams approx. 04.016 Similar concept to Attack From Mars, but in the center of the pinball machine there is no UFO with a shield to be dismantled, but a large medieval castle with a drawbridge that has to be destroyed symbolically with catapult bullets (the pinball ball).

The Pinball 2000 machines are also popular, especially rare ; these are the last two variants from Williams and Bally Star Wars Episode I (number: 3525) and Revenge from Mars (number: 6878), the successor to Attack from Mars , which tried to create a connection to new game systems such as computers by combining modern video animations instead of the old matrix display with the pinball system.

The result was two very special and exotic pinball machines, which, however, no longer had the commercial success of continuing the series and generally pinball development alongside Stern.

Long-term ban in some US regions

Pinball machines were banned in some US regions for several decades, particularly New York from 1942 to 1976. The ban followed a campaign by New York City Mayor LaGuardia , who complained that pinball machines would deprive schoolchildren of their breakfast break money. LaGuardia's campaign was supported by conservative morality guards who believed that the pinball machines posed a threat to the modesty of young people.

Computer games

There are also numerous computer games , some of which are based on real pinball tables. One of the first games for home users was Video Pinball in 1978 . The Pinball Construction Set for the Apple II followed in 1983 , which also made it possible to create your own tables. On home computers like the Amiga there were e.g. B. Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies are popular. In the 1990s, the PC featured the Pro Pinball series. Furthermore, the Microsoft Windows operating system (up to Windows XP) contained the game 3D Pinball - Space Cadet , which in turn corresponds to the game Full Tilt! Pinball was taken from Maxis .

Today, for example, the freeware Visual Pinball or Unit3D Pinball in combination with the emulator Visual PinMAME (responsible for the matrix display ) enables the simulation of original and self-made tables on the PC. A similar commercial program is The Pinball Arcade , which has many licensed original tables for most video game platforms, tablets, and smartphones.

See also

The pachinko game is very popular in Japan . With its vertically aligned playing field and the lack of pinball machines, this is more similar to the bagatelle machines. Outstanding is the very strongly random game play, in which hundreds of balls are sometimes used. In addition, pachinko machines also have elements of other gaming machines.

Web links

Commons : Pinball games  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Pinball machine  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jersey Jack Pinball , design and manufacture
  2. Catalog for the exhibition "The penny falls", 2002, Groß St. Florian, fire department museum. Retrieved September 6, 2015.
  3. Internet Pinball Machine Database: Ad-Lee Company 'Double-Shuffle'. Retrieved December 28, 2018 .
  6. ^ Alien Poker in the Internet Pinball Database
  7. High Speed in the Internet Pinball Database
  8. ^ The Machine: Bride of Pinbot in the Internet Pinball Database
  9. YouTube - 7 minutes of gameplay Bride of Pin-Bot with Pinball Arcade
  10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the Internet Pinball Database
  11. YouTube - 2 minutes of gameplay Terminator 2: Judgment Day with Pinball Arcade
  12. ^ The Addams Family in the Internet Pinball Database
  13. ^ The Getaway: High Speed ​​II in the Internet Pinball Database
  14. ^ Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure in the Internet Pinball Database
  15. Star Trek: The Next Generation in the Internet Pinball Database
  16. Attack from Mars in the Internet Pinball Database
  17. Medieval Madness in the Internet Pinball Database
  18. When pinball became a crime: one man, one game, one crusade. In: orf, January 21, 2017, accessed May 18, 2020 .