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....