The Resurgence of Competitive Pinball

The Resurgence of Competitive Pinball

Written by on March 1, 2019

In a world increasingly filled and controlled by technology, one would assume there would be no place for a physical, real-life game such as Pinball. There are gaming consoles that play video games with 4k definition, and VR headsets that make players feel as if they’re actually in the game.

But that is not the case. Competitive Pinball is experiencing a recent resurgence, as life-long fans and millennial newcomers continue to grow the game. You can even find pinball odds right now.

However, there wasn’t always a time where Pinball was popular, or even morally acceptable.

The Resurgence of Competitive Pinball

Back in the 1920’s when alcohol prohibition was taking place, politicians began taking aim at everything that they found to be morally equivalent. One of their targets was gambling, and unfortunately for Pinball aficionado’s, Pinball was lumped into this category.

This was because Pinball was thought to be a game of purely chance, not skill. So wagering at local bars and arcades quickly became illegal.

Although Pinball became illegal to operate in public areas, it was still legal to own and play your own private machine. Because of this, and the fact that some bars and arcades didn’t play by the government rules meant Pinball was still slightly hanging around.

The Godfather of Pinball

In May of 1976 in New York City, Roger Sharpe and a number of New York City Councilmen huddled around two Pinball machines as Sharpe pleaded his case to legalize Pinball.

He argued that the game is that of luck, not chance, and people should be given the opportunity to play the game that he loved.

What he did next was the reason he is now considered the Godfather of Pinball.

He told the Councilmen that he can prove that Pinball is a game of skill by shooting the ball through the middle lane. Well wouldn’t you know, the next time that ball hit the flipper it went right up through the middle lane.

Pinball was quickly legalized and normalized across the country, and Sharpe is the reason why competitive Pinball is back and thriving.

Today, there are national tournaments and worldwide gaming expos.

How Many Players Are in the IFPA?

There are 65,000 players ranked by the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA). Two of whom actually happen to be Roger Sharpe’s sons, Zach and Josh, who are 9th and 25th respectively.

Zach and Josh will be competing in the Professional & Amateur Pinball Association’s Stern Pro Final, which is the Catalina Wine Mixer of Pinball tournaments.

This tournament is a collection of 40 of the top players in the world, who all have received an invitation to the prestigious tournament.

There are other tournaments year round as well, and players don’t have to be nationally ranked to compete. That is the beauty of pinball; amateurs and pros can enjoy it all the same.

These types of tournaments are becoming so popular they are even being streamed on Twitch, a live-streaming website typically dominated by video games.

Pinball has been around since the late 18th century, and it has certainly gone through its ups and downs along the way to reach its popular status it holds today. Though technology grows, there will always be a desire for a game that offers physical touch and real-life factors, and Pinball provides that.

Existing Pinball Companies

If you’re looking to get into Pinball yourself and want to buy your own machine, here is a list of the World’s top Pinball machine manufacturers:
  • American Pinball
  • Chicago Gaming Company
  • HomePin
  • Jersey Jack Pinball
  • Multimorphic Inc
  • Spooky Pinball
  • Team Pinball
  • Stern Pinball