Posted May 06, 2010 | Stern
Gary Stern and Pat Lawlor
The goal of the classic board game Monopoly is to corner the real estate market and become the last man standing. It's a fitting license for the most recent Stern Pinball release, the first by-product of a working relationship between the sole remaining pinball factory and the well-known designer of many Williams' pins, Pat Lawlor. He was responsible for one of the best selling flippers of all time, The Addams Family, as well as many other popular games.
Well before Williams' exit from the pinball business two years ago, Stern topper and lifelong pinball maker Gary Stern declared that his company would be "the last man standing" in the business. They have lived up to that claim with a series of popular games including South Park, Harley Davidson, Austin Powers and now Monopoly (see related story on the new game) since Williams demise. "We were thrilled this summer when there was enough demand for Austin Powers that we didn't shut down the factory for a summer break," said Stern. "With Monopoly, we have already increased production from 25 to 35 a day and are getting that number up to 50 a day rapidly."
Recent news that New Line Cinema is going ahead with Goldmember, the third and final installment in the Austin Powers series, should keep earnings high on that soon-to-be classic pin as well. With a scheduled release date of July 26, 2002, Goldmember will bring back Mike Myers as all of the classic characters, including Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Fat Bastard, plus Myers' newest addition to the series, the villainous Goldmember.
In an interview last month, Stern said interest in Monopoly was already reaching a feverish pitch. In fact, momentum for the game began even before the factory had completed its run on Austin Powers after a Monopoly test piece was discovered and posted on the Internet, prompting a flurry of interested callers. "The enthusiasts found it!" Gary declared. "I look at this game and think of it as two licenses, Monopoly and Pat Lawlor."
A collaborative effort Monopoly may be the first joint effort between Lawlor and his design team and Stern's engineering and manufacturing staff, but it probably will not be the last. In fact, Gary said he would like the factory to work with Lawlor on one of its three projected annual releases in the future. It should be an exciting partnership, considering some of the potential licenses coming to Stern in the near future, Gary adds. "Nobody has ever done anything like this before," said Stern designer and Director of Mechanical Engineering Ray Tanzer of the collaborative effort. "Of course, we had some reservations at first, but it went so well throughout the process. The team Pat has put together knows so much about the business, it was a perfect fit, like they were an extension of our design team."
Throughout the process designers and engineers from both groups built and rebuilt versions of the game, or its assemblies, passing revisions back and forth. The team at Stern lent their expertise in both their software and hardware, tutoring Lawlor's staff on their design software and producing the bill of materials and subassemblies for the joint project. Along the way, they would ship sample games, along with parts, back and forth between Stern's facility and Lawlor's full-service design facility in Marengo, Ill.
"We went through all the same phases we would have in developing the game in house except they would bring us the first sample," explained Tanzer. "The tricky part was making sure that we were both keeping up with the revised drawings. Otherwise, it would have been chaos because they did a lot of their own prototyping. But it all worked out, and they were a great group to work with." Staying the Course.
Although the factory has tightened its belt some in recent months with limited staffing cutbacks, they continue to churn pin games off their main line while ramping up production from time to time on contract work in a second assembly zone. Stern recently completed a full run of Smashing Drive games for Namco and is starting production on another deluxe video soon.
Stern is also working with H. Betti Industries on an ongoing basis, making NFL themed pin games. In fact, the NFL pinball machine was featured in a recent issue of TV Guide. Listed as one of the 10 best Logo Loco gifts, the publication said of the game: "The most ardent football maniac can be an at-home pinball wizard with an arcade-quality NFL Pinball Machine." NFL is now available in 19 different teams, including the Giants, Jets, Browns, Steelers, Eagles, Texans, Cowboys, Seahawks, Vikings, Panthers, Falcons, 49ers, Bengels, Bears, Redskins, Packers, Broncos, and the world champion Ravens.
Export business, particularly in Europe, used to account for more than half (60%) of Stern's sales. Increased game costs in local currency, because of a strong dollar, and the changeover to the new Euro currency has slowed sales in that arena, putting domestic business back on top for the time being. "The export business recovery will be pure upside and we are hoping to gain that ground back soon," said Gary, who was off to Europe a day after our interview for several trade related events. "We have been grinding along since October 1999 (when Stern bought the firm from Sega), and have produced several runs of both South Park and Harley. We have gotten ourselves in a position to go back and do good licensed product."
RePlay visited the Stern factory earlier this year as Austin Powers games were rolling off the line. That tour revealed the intricacies involved in creating pinball games from the ground up, something that only Stern continues to pursue. They provided us with a number of interesting statistics, both about the company and about their unique product. For instance, a pinball machine has 3,500 parts (including 1,200 screws, nuts and washers) and approximately 33 assemblies. Inside the game, there is approximately half a mile of wire, 115 lights, 68 switches, 24 coils, 357 tie wraps, 88 terminals, 10 fast-ons and 33 polarizing keys.
Stern Pinball's manufacturing facility is housed in a 40,000-sq.-ft. factory in the Melrose Park industrial zone just west of Chicago. The company employs almost 60 regular staffers as well as an additional 200 or so part-timers depending upon production cycle. The games are available with multi-language display and documentation, and each pinball takes approximately nine months to a year to develop from concept to finished product.
Stern Pinball was purchased from Sega in 1999, which had previously purchased Data East Pinball. The company was founded in 1986. All three corporate entities operated out of the same Melrose Park location. To learn more about Stern's newest product Monopoly, contact your nearest distributor. You can also contact Jolly Backer at 1-708-786-7039 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Shelley Sax at 1-708-786-7030 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Visit Stern's website at www.sternpinball.com for more information on Stern Pinball.
Monopoly Pinball Sidebar --
Tilt Your Money Maker!
Stern Pinball and Pat Lawlor Design unveil Monopoly themed flipper game Monopoly, the best-selling board game of alltime, is now the latest pinball machine on the boardwalk. Brought to you by Stern Pinball, Hasbro Inc. and Pat Lawlor Design, the flipper was designed by Pat Lawlor and his team of mechanical and programming engineers. Pin game design veteran Lawlor has created some of the most popular titles in the history of the game, including The Addams Family, Twilight Zone, Funhouse, Whirlwind and Earthshaker. These machines, even today, consistently rank among the top earners on the trade publication charts. Stern execs say Monopoly was envisioned and designed in the same great tradition that created these classic pinballs.
Monopoly has a grand history as a board game. In 1934, during the height of the Great Depression in the U.S., Charles Darrow sold his board game to Parker Brothers (now a part of Hasbro), who in turn brought it to the public. Within a year, Monopoly became the best-selling board game in the country. The Monopoly game has since sold an estimated 200 million copies in 80 countries and has been produced in 26 languages.
Game features of the new Monopoly pinball machine include an Electric Company billboard, a bi-directional, rotating mini-flipper in the Water Works, and a ride on the Railroad Ramp. Also, you can take a lesson from Mr. Monopoly and break the Bank, start the cash grab, and shoot the upper ramps for big Monopoly points. The goal of the game is to move your piece around the game board, collect properties, and lock balls. When you pass GO, multi-ball will start and you can become the millionaire you've always dreamed of being!
In addition to these exciting play features, the Monopoly pinball comes with an outstanding art package by John Youssi, fantastic sounds and music by Incredible Technologies, and the voice of Mr. Monopoly, who makes all sales final. "We have designed an outstanding street piece with a timeless theme that should be a strong earner for a long time to come," declared Lawlor.
"We're very excited to have Pat Lawlor designing this pinball," added Stern Pinball topper Gary Stern. "We really feel that this will be our biggest game yet."
To get your Monopoly pinball machine, contact your nearest Stern Pinball distributor. You can also contact Jolly Backer at 1-708-786-7039 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Shelley Sax at 1-708-786-7030 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Visit Stern's website at www.sternpinball.com for more information on Stern Pinball. Games began shipping last month.