GARY STERN TALK - EXPO '99
By Russ Jensen
Gary began by telling us that on October 1, 1999 he and his lawyer purchased Sega Pinball from Sega and will rename the company Stern Pinball Inc., remarking that it can still be known as "SPI". After commenting that the name change was similar to what happened when Sega purchased Data East Pinball from Data East, Gary told us that it will be "the same company doing the same thing as before", and that the Stern name would be used on all future new pinball models.
At that point Gary said that the company would be producing three types of games: redemption games, pinball games, and video games under contract to Sega. He then remarked that the company would be a "design/manufacturing outfit". Gary then said that the type of games they will make in the future may be influenced by "feedback" they receive from others who use the games.
Going into what he thinks should be their future goals in game design, Gary said that they wanted their games to attract the "average player", adding "we also need new players". He then commented that in his opinion new games should provide "fun for the average players", then remarking that "some games today frustrate them".
Continuing in the same vein, Gary next said that pinball machines in most cases today provide "ancillary entertainment" in the places they were usually located. He next told us that "people will play pinballs if they are fun", adding that if the average player can succeed when playing a game he will play again, referring to this as "Pablovian Pinball". Gary then commented if you "make the players feel like they have succeeded", that makes them feel they have gotten "value for their money".
After remarking that recent games have had "more mechanical things" on them, Gary ended by adding that in order for them to continue making games they must "succeed as a business". He then asked for questions?
Gary was first asked about the new tournament style game GOLDEN CUE which they showed at last year's Expo, the questioner wondering what had happened to it? Gary replied that it was a very good game idea which they are still working on, adding that there is definitely "a place for that concept". After commenting that GOLDEN CUE was "not THE answer to pinball", he said that its showing last year may have been "a little premature".
Next someone asked why both Stern and Williams were still producing pingames when they were receiving little return on their investments? Gary answered that pinball can't earn or loose enough money to cause a big effect in the company's "core business", adding that that was certainly the case when it came to Sega.
Gary was then asked, that considering his previous comments on the "mechanical aspects" of pinball action, did he think that the Williams PINBALL 2000 concept was wrong? Gary answered that it was "a fantastic engineering effort" and Williams has done well with it so far. "Other than that", Gary continued, "I have no comment".
Someone next asked Gary if his company has any "identifiable design teams"? He replied "we are a small team", adding "you must be understaffed to make money". Gary then added "we are a small niche business".
The next question asked was if the Harley Davidson company would market any of their HARLEY DAVIDSON games? Gary replied that they sell games to the motorcycle distributors and the dealers can sell the games in their showrooms if they desire.
Someone then asked about operators complaints about there being so many "mechanical things" on their games? Gary replied that some operators say that pins are "too much trouble", but he then commented that really all operators can do is "add service" to the games they operate.
Gary was then asked about licensing? He replied that they will probably do some, but said that movie licenses are "too risky". Gary then remarked that "licensing is wonderful"!
The final question ask was if Stern was planning to provide better Internet support in the future? Gary answered that there would be some, adding that that does cost money. He then quipped "we are trying to get people away from computers"?. That ended Gary's Expo presentation.
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