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Gary Stern brings pinball to CESDonald Bell talks with the president of Stern Pinball, Gary Stern, about his latest line of affordable pinball machines designed for the home.
-We're gonna end the day, our last interview of the day, on something relatively low-tech but very close to my heart, a pinball machine, and none better to represent it than Gary Stern, the Founder, Grand Puba, Chief President, everything of Stern Pinball. Gary, thank you for coming here. -Thank you for having me, I'm pleased. -Now, tell me about this pinball. This is actually a pretty special pinball machine. This is one of the firsts of this type of pinball machine that are coming from Stern Pinball. -We're manufacturers of commercial pinball machines, and we make 3 or 4 different models a year. We make them in different levels of complexity, and we export half of them. We ship them all over the world for people to play in arcades, for enthusiasts to have in their home, for just people to have in their home, in a wreck room. We found that there are a lot of people who wanted games in the wreck room, and we decided that we should make a real pinball machine but a lower price point. This pinball machine is, we call this The Pin. It's our entry level game. It is designed from the ground up to be a non-coin out game, but with the same play and the same parts as a coin out game. So the footprints are little smaller. It weighs 125 pounds instead of 250 pounds. You can move it around in the house, and yet, it is a full-sized play field with the full features of our commercial games. It has our same flippers, our same pop bumpers, our same sling shots, drop targets, just like our regular commercial games, and its most important, it's fun. -I think, for me, also most important is it's almost attainable for me as I've been talking about and writing about a lot of your pinball releases over the past year. You got in some high-profile ones at The Avengers, a lot of Marvel tie-ins, AC/DC, I'm a big fan of the AC/DC pinball machine, but it is priced. If I wanted to go out and buy that machine, it's gonna be over $5000 for me to bring that to my home. It's also gonna be a long explanation for my wife. This machine is gonna, it retails at I believe for close to, is it $2500? -Yes. It's a suggested retail of $2499, but that was the purpose here. It was to get something a little bit more attainable to enlarge the pinball community, very important to us that we do have more people playing pinball. We are an American manufacturer, very proud of that. We'd make these games in the Chicago land area. I've been in it 65 years. I'm 67. So it's very important that pinball continues to flourish and grow. I know that there's also been a lot of interest in pinball growing because of apps. I've seen like the, all the different iPad apps for pinball that are out there. You can play Virtual Pinball on your iPhone. Has that been something that's helped maybe bring a resurgence of the interest to the pinball world? -I think it has helped bring the resurgence, and there has been a resurgence. In fact, our commercial sales in 2012 were 30% higher than they were in 2011, and all over the world, there's a resurgence. I believe that the different apps are helpful. We actually participate and license some of our titles to FarSight, which is a company that does apps for smartphones and for consoles. One of the games they built for us, Roller Coaster Tycoon, it has been very successful as an app, but the use value of the game has increased. The real game has increased, and all of these games have a value. A lot of them, almost all of them appreciate over time as you own them. So it's not like buying a television where there's a brand new one a year later that outdates it. They do increase in value. -Alright. Now, I'm getting some direction from our stage director here. She says we've been talking about this pinball a lot, but we have not been playing it at all. So would you do me the honor of playing your own pinball machine? -I'd love to, unfortunately we don't have any beer here to play for. -That was the other request for this pinball machine, it's beer holders, on the sides of that. I think if it's really gonna have a place in a man cave, it needs to have like a kegerator version. -There are accessories that you can buy to un-pinball the screw under the side of them. For you, when you buy your game, I'll make sure that you, you know, you get a case of beer and some cup holders for it. -Thank you. -Red cups will match this perfectly. -Oh yeah, I think you're right. Yeah. -We have to start the game. -No coins needed. So I'm looking at this and realized this is definitely not a toy version of your real game. This is the real game. This is a slightly different play field than I know the full size Transformers that you've done. -It's a real wood play field just like the commercial games have. A little different composition of wood, but it's real wood play field, and it plays great. -You're killing it Gary. This is great. You're sitting the bar too high that you're gonna get a high score on your own game, which I think is only right. Alright. Oh, Gary. Don't worry, there's no shame in this. You can play all the pinball you want. You've got pinball all-- You're going back into the business. -Part of the job at our company is you must play. During parts of the design process, everybody has to play for 15 minutes. -I hope our manager hears that, so thank you Gary for that, and thank you for joining us here. We're gonna wrap things up. Oh no, I'm sorry, we can't take two players, or after the cameras fade out. Yes absolutely. You got it. Thank you for joining us here. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell, and for Donald Bell, I'm here at CNET.com.