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The end of pinball - Input Junkie
November 17th, 2009
12:50 pm

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The end of pinball
It might have been inevitable anyway
Eventually, to keep the pinballers playing, the games became so advanced that entry-level players faced an impossible barrier. High-schoolers in 1986 were either dropouts or professionals in 1992 and without inflow of new players that year essentially marked the end of pinball. In 1992 The Addams Family was the last machine to sell big. By this time, pinball machines used a free-game system called replay boost. After any replay, the score required was increased by some increment. Apparently, only hardcore pinballers were left and this was the only way to prevent them playing indefinitely for free.

Was this tragedy of the commons on the player side? The manufacturer side?

Addendum: Perhaps the pinball machine manufacturers could have solved their problem by making conspicuously graded machines, so that players would want to play the harder machines, but still had beginner and intermediate machines to get started on.

Some years ago, I heard about an excessive barrier to entry for comics readers-- the story lines had become so complex that only the hardcore fans were likely to be interested. Afaik, this wasn't an effort to control the readers. I'm guessing that all the short plots had been used up, and no one had the gall to just say "we don't care if we repeat old stories for our attractive new characters".

Or I might be completely wrong-- I'm barely on the edges of comics fandom.

Link thanks to Marginal Revolution.

(17 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:fabricdragon
Date:November 17th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
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part of the issue is that there are very few "new" comic characters... that are not brought into existing story arcs.
so thats a new character, whose first major appearance is... in an Xmen story.

and frankly? i think most of the writers over write in comics. because they HAVE long term readers..... so they dont want to lose them because their money is there.

and new characters who dont do crossovers much dont get publicity.
except from independents. who have no publicity money

the webcomic to print revolution is slowly changing this, of course.

pinball is different.
you dont have "comic book hard cores" hogging all the available comic books.
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From:nancylebov
Date:November 17th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
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It might have taken a whole new comic company to start new characters.
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From:agrumer
Date:November 17th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
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From:nancylebov
Date:November 17th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
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To what extent are they catering to new readers?
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From:kgbooklog
Date:November 17th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
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Catering to new readers isn't enough; you have to also get your books where those readers can find them. And that means getting them out of comic stores and into book stores; this is what manga importers discovered, and old book publishers are beginning to pick up on. I think comics sold as issues are slowly dying for the same reasons the fiction magazines are.

Webcomics seem to be a revolution, but it's hard to say what results we'll get from them. Giving away your product for free is a great way to attract new customers, but a lousy way to make a profit. Also, creators not having to worry about what executives think is marketable has a side effect of making it really hard to find the good comics in all the slush. I am encouraged by the fact that they're starting to get critical acclaim and even win major book awards, which is good for the medium as a whole.
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From:agrumer
Date:November 17th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
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Giving away your product for free is a great way to attract new customers, but a lousy way to make a profit.

It seems to be working pretty well for some people.

I think comics magazines are dying off because, like newspapers, they're essentially disposable ways of getting at the content. (Unless you're a collector, but that's just one segment of the overall comics market, and an even smaller segment of the potential comics market.) The net does that faster and cheaper.

Comic books are thriving because books are less disposable. A big, fancy, full-color graphic novel is the sort of thing you hate to throw away. And it's a physically satisfying object, which is an experience you don't get from the net.
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From:nitebytes
Date:November 17th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
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Oooh gods Addams Family pinball.
They had that at my local. It was a rock pub too. You could play a fun pinball that wasn't too tough, listen to good (and bad) local bands, and drink cheap beer all in one place.

Not only is the pinball gone, but so has the pub. It's now a car park.
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From:anton_p_nym
Date:November 17th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
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The exerpt you quote above sounds remarkably like what I experienced in the paper wargame industry... and where I see the current PC gaming industry going, especially given the commentary of "hard core" fans in that community. I definitely see some parallels with comics, too.

-- Steve'll have to give that article a careful reading when he gets home tonight.
From:geekosaur
Date:November 17th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
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And going the other direction, the "hardcore" types seem to be livid that the Wii hasn't died on their command.
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From:metahacker
Date:November 17th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
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It's notable that both Warhammer 40K and D&D, two heavyweights, simplified their systems significantly in the latest revisions.

Of course for 40K that takes it from "insanely complex and self-contradictory" to "ridiculously complex", but hey.
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From:carbonel
Date:November 17th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
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I lost interest in pinball machines about the time that the only ones you could find were the two-level ones. I didn't like those, and I didn't like machines that talked to me.

I miss Time Warp, and Eight-Ball, and a red-and-black one from Bally whose name I can't recall...
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From:dcseain
Date:November 18th, 2009 12:31 am (UTC)
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Yeah, i hated the talking ones too. Time Warp and Eight-Ball were fun.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:November 17th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
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It's much simpler. Pinball was killed by video games.
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From:womzilla
Date:November 19th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
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The sales of comic books from the 1940s to the 1970s pretty much perfectly reflect the increased adoption of television. Why pay for disposable stories when you can get them for free on TV? Funny animals, a mainstay of American comic books from their inception, were particularly hard-hit as funny animals moved from the movie screen to the small screen. The only genre of American comics that survived as a significant commerical force into 1980 was superheroes, because you couldn't get them anywhere else.
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From:jonbaker
Date:November 17th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
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>barrier to entry for comics readers...repeat old stories.

40-50 years ago, they had no problem repeating old stories. Debbie has some big collections of Superman and Batman from that era, and the stories are so repetitive that she couldn't finish reading them. Very similar situations, over and over.

I've seen the same with hobby magazines. Dad used to get Popular Photography, but stopped after a while, because "every three years they repeat themselves." I've been reading a model train magazine, and it seems they repeat themselves a lot too. There are only so many ways to lay track or build a building.
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From:agrumer
Date:November 17th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
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That's because 40-50 years ago you didn't have a significant adult comics readership. The reader base was kids, who would read comics for a few years and then grow out of it. A few years later you'd have a whole new pool of readers who didn't remember that nearly-identical story you ran five years back. Or maybe they did, but didn't really notice or mind, because young kids can be like that.
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From:whswhs
Date:November 17th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
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I think that the punk rebellion against "long boring guitar solos" reflects exactly the same clash of interests/preferences between True Fans and the popular market.
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