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.