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Stern Pinball thrives on nostalgia for pinball and new demand from ‘barcades’ (video)

Stern Pinball thrives on nostalgia for pinball and new demand from ‘barcades’ (video)

Gary Stern of Stern Pinball shows off a new WrestleMania pinball game at CES 2015.

Gary Stern of Stern Pinball shows off a new WrestleMania pinball game at CES 2015.

Above: Gary Stern of Stern Pinball shows off a new WrestleMania pinball game at CES 2015.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

The CES 2013 prototype of True Player Gear's VR headset. What will be hot in consumer electronics and computing in 2015? Read VB’s full coverage of International CES 2015 to find out.

Gary Stern has been making pinball machines for decades. At Stern Pinball, he’s busy keeping up with demand for pinball machines, which have become very sophisticated under the hood and are newly popular in places like bars with classic arcades.

We caught up with Stern at the 2015 International CES, where his nostalgic pinball machines stood out among a sea of futuristic technology. Hidden among the the latest tech toys was a booth that took us back to the old pastime from the days before video games. Stern has lived his entire life around pinball games, as his father owned Williams, the pioneering pinball game company. And Stern started Stern Pinball in 1986.

His newest machine is a WrestleMania machine, which has a new platform, dubbed the Spike System, underneath the hood. It has a lot less wiring and considerable computing power, compared to the older S.A.M. System, which has a half mile of wiring in it. The WrestleMania machine sells for $5,995.

Gary Stern shows off older SAM system for pinball at CES 2015.

Gary Stern shows off older SAM system for pinball at CES 2015.

Above: Gary Stern shows off older SAM system for pinball at CES 2015.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Stern said there’s a retro interest in owning pinball machines in the living room, but they’re also doing well in a chain of bars known as Barcade, which features classic arcade games and draft beer from local and regional American microbreweries. Stern sold his Melrose Park, Il.-based firm to Sega in 1994 and then he bought it back in 1999.

Stern’s new Spike system is a modern and scalable electronics hardware system. It makes the machines more reliable and serviceable. You can swap out a memory card to change the game. It uses varying size liquid crystal displays (LCDs) on both the playfield and the backbox part of the machine. And it has advanced illumination effects and higher-quality sound. It won’t short out that easily from electrical surges, and it uses less electricity.

Gary Stern shows off new Spike System pinball platform at CES 2015.

Gary Stern shows off new Spike System pinball platform at CES 2015.

Above: Gary Stern shows off new Spike System pinball platform at CES 2015.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Here’s our two-part video of our interview with Stern below.


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