LAKEWOOD, NJ -- Jersey Jack Pinball Inc. reports that its first product, the Wizard of Oz flipper game, will begin shipping by late spring or early summer of this year. The pinball machine was originally scheduled for release in December.
The game, with a theme and characters licensed from Warner Bros., is being produced in two series. A limited 1,000-piece edition, subtitled Emerald City, will be first off the line; a standard version will follow.
Jersey Jack Pinball was established early in 2011 by industry veteran Jack Guarnieri, who got his start in the coin-op business in 1975, repairing electromechanical pinball machines. When he formed Jersey Jack Pinball, he assembled a team of pinball designers and support staff with the goal of reviving the craftsmanship and artistry of the classic flipper game by paying close attention to every detail, from the artwork on the cabinet to the game programming. | SEE STORY
Guarnieri has been keeping pinball followers aware of his company's progress through weekly email updates. "We even have a special online Newsgroup just for WOZ owners," he said. "This has become an amazing community. Our customers are just as much a part of this journey as our team members are." One of JJP's recent updates revealed the hand-drawn playfield created by artist Greg Freres. SEE JJP NEWS FORUM
Guarnieri believes that a rolling steel ball and the coordinated interplay of the design elements and playfield "toys" work together to create the magic of pinball. This mechanical action cannot be duplicated on videogames, he noted; and the need for distinctive skill acquired by practice contributed to the game's undying appeal to its fans.
JJP officially began production on March 13. Many suppliers, in different areas of the United States, are producing parts for the game. These parts are making their way to JJP's 42,000-sq.-ft. production facilities in Lakewood, NJ, where the games are being assembled. | SEE STORY
PHOTO: Jack Guarnieri is pictured in early March following the construction of a 300-ft. assembly line in the Lakewood, NJ, factory that will build the Wizard of Oz pinball machine. WOZ playfield art and the pin game’s final soundtrack have been approved; cabinet production began on March 13. The first games are expected to ship late spring or early summer.
The company began taking orders for the limited-edition Emerald City model last year, and had presold the entire lot by July, although a few games may be available through distributors.
According to Guarnieri, this is as much a story about the rebirth of pinball as a story about a business venture. To presell 1,000 games -- millions of dollars worth of a new product -- in this economy is very unusual, and is a testament to his industry reputation. It also has put millions of dollars into motion for suppliers to buy tooling, hire people and make parts to support the pinball startup, whose objective is to use as many U.S.-based suppliers as possible, even if those parts may cost a bit more.
In recent years, pinball has become something of a novelty in commercial arcades. Through one of Guarnieri's other companies, PinballSales.com, which he founded in 1999 to sell commercial amusement games to the consumer marketplace, he has built a reputation for customer service and a customer base of over 12,000 pinball enthusiasts all over the world. The trademark saying of PinballSales.com is: "We sell everything nobody needs."
Guarnieri explained that pinball today must be a game that retains its traditional authentic mechanical action while selectively incorporating the most appropriate new technologies to enhance the play experience. Instead of a static picture in the back head or backbox of the game, JJP's Wizard of Oz features a commercial 26" LCD monitor to display custom animations, movie clips and scores. The booming sound system delivers custom music and voice characterizations by professional actors who marry pinball language and speech calls and the iconic movie to interweave the classic story with the game.
Wizard of Oz makes extensive use of Bally/Williams parts dating from the era that players agree to have been the high point of classic pinball development. The game features a wide body that provides room for designers to add "toys," ramps and lots of action. It is loaded with five flippers, four magnets, four pop bumpers and interactive widgets, one replicating Dorothy's house. The farmhouse is located on the upper Munchkinland playfield, so the player will have to make a loop shot around to get it spinning. When it drops, the feet of the Wicked Witch of The East pop out of its base.
The new game will check off many "industry first" boxes, Guarnieri believes, and represents a paradigm shift for pinball in the 21st century. For the past decade, Chicago-based Stern Pinball has been the only manufacturer of what are widely considered to be the last authentic electromechanical pin games. Guarnieri is about to change that.
The goal of Jersey Jack Pinball, Guarnieri emphasized, is to build a new player base of young people who have never played pinball before. He's convinced he can do this by loading his games with new technology, custom sounds, light shows, physical interaction and animation on an LCD monitor.