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Sometime in the next couple of months the first completed machine is expected to roll off the assembly line at upstart Jersey Jack Pinball's Lakewood, New Jersey headquarters. Founder Jack "Pinball Jack" Guarnieri is a former pinball repairman and designer, the founder of PinballSales.com, and a pinball columnist, which is a title I've been begging my editors at the Reader to create for some time now.
Before Pinball Jack's debut machine, based on the classic film version of Wizard of Oz, officially ends Stern's benevolent monopoly of the pinball industry I talked to Guarnieri on the phone.
What's your background in pinball?
I started repairing pinball machines in 1975 at all sorts of college arcades, back when pinball was really popular. At that time you weren't even called a technician—you were called a mechanic. So that was my first introduction to pinball and it got into my blood and I've loved it ever since.
And what inspired you to start manufacturing your own machines?
What inspired me is that pinballsales.com has 12,000 customers and those customers want a certain product that would buy and play, and we're creating that product for them.
Do you feel like there's an audience that Stern's not reaching, who are looking for something different in games?
Well I hope Stern sells 10,000 games a year. And that we sell 20,000 games a year. Because what we're trying to do is to bring new technology to the game so that when people see it, it looks like something brand new. It has a fun factor to it in the technological difference of what was pinball and what our games are; that will bring people to pinball and also build a new customer base and player base.
I've ended up talking to a lot of people in the pinball business for this article and it seems like there's a bond between pinball people. Pinball culture seems to go really deep for some people.
Well people are very passionate about pinball machines, just as I'm sure if you talk to car collectors or people who have horses or things like that… they're fanatics. And pinball people are no different. So pretty much in a lot of ways they stick together and like anything that's pinball. That could be a machine that was built in the 1940s right up to games that are being built today.
Tell me about where you guys are in the development process for Wizard of Oz.
We're gonna start production of games on March 13 and we expect games to be rolling out of the building in great numbers by late spring or summer. We have a thousand games that are already pre-ordered, and this is a game that basically nobody has seen or played so we're expecting to sell many thousands of this game.
I'm really excited to play it.
The game is going to be true to what pinball is. It's going to have a lot of mechanical action toys on the game as well as new technology, and with Wizard of Oz being the licensed title, you know, we're true to what the movie is and what that intellectual property license brings to us.