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Interview: Gary Stern


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#1 Noah Fentz

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:27 AM

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Gary Stern, founder of Stern Pinball, Inc. I addressed the state of the industry, among other things.

Here's what he had to say...





Start Interview


I have an opportunity to ask follow up questions. If there is anything you'd like to know, post your questions here.

Enjoy.


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#2 KEG

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:53 AM

Another nice interview, Keep them coming. For such a young site you are getting things done. Thanks for all the hard work you and your staff are doing on this site.
And thanks to all the members keeping pinball alive.

#3 Joe

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 01:25 AM

The game operators don't want fix the game much less update the software and That is bigger.

sound needs more rom space and some times more sounds / better sound can be better then stereo.

getting games on site is one thing. THE BIG THING IS KEEPING THEM WORKING that can make pc games better then non working games on site.

Ask about if there is any work on better software support of working around broken parts.

Also Ask if they can add PLAYER VOLUME Control a few other games and even SLOTS Machines have that. I don't like it when the sound is to low to hear.

I want to play more but is hard to find working games on site gameworks in schaumburg IL is good at fixing games now but they don't have new games yet. Other operators in the area suck as they DON"T FIX THERE GAMES.

Edited by Joe, 13 February 2009 - 01:36 AM.


#4 threadfin39

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 01:42 AM

I'm glad to see Stern is still cranking out pinball machines.Appreciate all your hard work Noah,and your staff. good.gif

#5 humid

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 01:57 AM

Lots of good pointed questions Paul. You used your 20 minutes very effectively.It's too bad Gary had to put the right 'spin' on answering what his fave game was...likely not a Stern machine!! I'm certain that if machines were selling in bigger numbers there would be a few non-licensed games in the mix, but he has to flow with the market demands.

Though video pinball may not deliver all the tactile sensations one gets from a real machine, I do think that the chaos element of the ball does come through in many authors recreations. Was hoping to hear if he'd hint on when 'S.A.M.' would be updated, so we could get to move on to newer models. A very entertaining interview.

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#6 Joe

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 04:35 AM

QUOTE (humid @ Feb 12 2009, 07:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Lots of good pointed questions Paul. You used your 20 minutes very effectively.It's too bad Gary had to put the right 'spin' on answering what his fave game was...likely not a Stern machine!! I'm certain that if machines were selling in bigger numbers there would be a few non-licensed games in the mix, but he has to flow with the market demands.

Though video pinball may not deliver all the tactile sensations one gets from a real machine, I do think that the chaos element of the ball does come through in many authors recreations. Was hoping to hear if he'd hint on when 'S.A.M.' would be updated, so we could get to move on to newer models. A very entertaining interview.


There may be more Grand Prix like non-licensed that are based on the a licensed game for area where the license is not big.

#7 xzotic

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 09:54 AM

That's a very interesting insight.... (Sorry this is a bit long)

I'm somewhat suprised that he has such a focus on being a manufacturing business. Cost control and making a profit on the assembly is amicible and necessary but only addresses one part of the balanced scorecard in running a successful business.

It seems that the business is somewhat devoid of the whole customer quadrant. The very part of the business that if addressed would increase overall sales, improve innovation and reduce costs through higher number of units sold. It's almost as if the business is stuck in a holding pattern of lowest costs will do.

I don't want people to take this the wrong way because on the 'flip side' they are the only pinball business operating today, so they have to be doing something right...but I can almost see why...through pure cost control, grit and determination to manufacture and survive rather than innovate and entertain to new heights. The ironic thing is that they have no competitors yet they choose to stagnate.

I just looked at a Youtube video of WPT and was shocked to see that the table layout, toys, DMD etc could have all been made in the 90's. Now don't get me wrong - I love 90's pinball and I also liked the look of the table in play but its hardly reflective of another 18 years of development.

By now stereo sound should not only be standard it should have been exceeded by 5.1 surround. The mono colour DMD's should have been replaced with multicolor brilliance. The exploitation of ingame video minigames should have been well developed by now. The story lines, game depth and extensive use of samples (for licensed titles) should be well above what these titles have included.

The essence of pinball can still be maintained, but the advances in technology and entertainment should have continued to push innovation in table design and technology. Imagine seeing a table at your local pub with the above all taken care of... It's not necessarily complex - just engaging with an incredible amount of depth. In doing so Stern would capture both audiences - seasoned pinball fans and new players.... just like poker, easy to learn, difficult to master.

The final irony is that on comments for the youtube video someone thought the WPT table was 'amazing' as they had never seen pinball that looked like that before!... Think of the untapped market if people were simply exposed to more pinball let alone massive advances in innovative tables, design and sound. Asking pubs to get pinball in isn't the answer. Stern actively marketing to pubs that they have the next generation entertainment platform that will get more people down to the pub buying beer is the way to get the company moving...

He touched on organising tournament sessions...Well how about a dual pinbal setup that puts players head to head. A bit like the Nascar linked races of yester-year but using and renewing pinball as the new platform for shared gaming experiences? This sort of setup is difficult to emulate and therefore the real life experience is really the only way to play it...

I could go on, but I'm sure this will grate with a lot of you. I do want to finish off to say that regardless of the current business strategy, its still awesome to have at least someone developing new pins even if they are stuck in the 90's (I still LOVE 90's pinball!)...but there could be so much more - that's all....
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#8 Shooby Doo

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 04:55 PM

That was awesome! Much appreciated. It was very nice of him to do an interview for the forum.

#9 pinsanon

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 06:31 PM

Great work. Saw the link on Rec.Games.Pinball and signed up here to say well done!

I've interviewed some pinball guys on my blog (written interviews) for a feature called Pinball Heroes and it seems people like reading/hearing this stuff!

Nice one!

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#10 Joe

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 04:34 AM

QUOTE (xzotic @ Feb 13 2009, 03:54 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That's a very interesting insight.... (Sorry this is a bit long)

By now stereo sound should not only be standard it should have been exceeded by 5.1 surround. The mono colour DMD's should have been replaced with multicolor brilliance. The exploitation of ingame video minigames should have been well developed by now. The story lines, game depth and extensive use of samples (for licensed titles) should be well above what these titles have included.


video modes take a way from pinball, and 5.1 is over kill also the games are to small to make it work 100%. And sped more on the game play over multicolor.

#11 yogiholzer

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 02:09 PM

Too bad that I nearly don't understand one word. Is the interview available also for read?

I probably never manage to understand English when spoken.
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#12 xzotic

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 04:29 PM

QUOTE (Joe @ Feb 14 2009, 01:34 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
video modes take a way from pinball, and 5.1 is over kill also the games are to small to make it work 100%. And sped more on the game play over multicolor.


Get a job at Stern mate, you are over qualified... blum.gif
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#13 Noah Fentz

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 06:59 PM

QUOTE (yogiholzer @ Feb 14 2009, 09:09 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Too bad that I nearly don't understand one word. Is the interview available also for read?

I probably never manage to understand English when spoken.


The interview is nearly 20 minutes. I'll try to set aside some time to transcribe it, but I'm not a typist. It'll be a while.

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Whether You Believe You Can, Or You Can't, You Are Right." - Henry Ford
The future of pinball lives, it just needs to be nurtured!
If you're here to stab me in the back, you're going to have to get in line.


#14 yogiholzer

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 08:31 PM

Even if it's interesting and entertaining/amusing, it's not neccessary, especially as it's only for me. I guess the most/nearly all do understand the content of the interview. Use your time better!
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#15 Steely

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Posted 14 February 2009 - 09:13 PM

QUOTE (yogiholzer @ Feb 14 2009, 02:31 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Even if it's interesting and entertaining/amusing, it's not neccessary, especially as it's only for me. I guess the most/nearly all do understand the content of the interview. Use your time better!
Yogi, I thought of you not being able to understand it, as soon as I heard the interview. It is very good and inspiring to hear.

I type as slow as a turtle too, otherwise I would help. It sounds like a job for the FlyingDutchman.

Thank you very much for this Noah and Mr. Stern, it was a nice surprise.

I think Gary's comment about his favorite table holds very true to many hobbyists, artists and professions. Designers and craftsmen alike often view their latest creation as their best work and most favorite.
Sure he's selling up the most current table, but if he doesn't hold the latest in high standard, and enjoy what he's doing, he's in the wrong business.

Thanks again. smile.gif

Edited by Steely, 14 February 2009 - 10:25 PM.


#16 destruk

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 06:35 AM

I think his comment about having people beg ops to put in new pinball machines isn't right. I mean sure, if enough of us beg, perhaps they'll get one, but then wouldn't we be going to bat for his company, doing his own marketing and salesmanship for him? Shouldn't he be maybe, making a hundred demo tables and giving them to operators for free for a few months to push his own product? If the product sucks, and doesn't take coins, the ops could give it back to him instead of buying and finding out later with a big loss on their investment. He wants pinball to succeed, it's all Stern does, so they depend on it. I'd think they'd do whatever they could to grow their own business instead of relying on others.
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#17 Noah Fentz

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 06:43 AM

Yeah, but bar owners don't buy them, coin-op entertainment companies do. If those companies see an increased demand, they buy more machines. More machines selling means more revenue with which to develop and manufacture, etc.

I like the league idea, personally, and would like to see it happen.

If anyone wants to start a league in their hometown, I will personally do flyers and other graphic materials to promote their efforts. This doesn't include printing costs, I will email the images to the member.

So, I say GO FOR IT!

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Whether You Believe You Can, Or You Can't, You Are Right." - Henry Ford
The future of pinball lives, it just needs to be nurtured!
If you're here to stab me in the back, you're going to have to get in line.


#18 Gravy

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 11:50 AM

Nice score Paul... well done. Also agree that Gary's voice is somewhat hard to make out at times though.

How are you recording, via a handsfree speaker phone? Perhaps consider using skype (skypout) for further phone interviews so you can record directly from your PC, you can then capture the sound input from both sides using audacity or any one of the skype audio recorders that are available.

Will link to the interview from Pinballaddicts.com to hopefully bring a few more visits your way.

Edited by Gravy, 16 February 2009 - 11:51 AM.

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#19 mikek1357

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 04:08 PM

Excellent interview, good stuff dblthumb.gif


#20 HookMan

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 07:17 PM

Very nice interview!