Wow, that doesn’t work. At all. Pete Townshend could never set his seminal rock opera Tommy in today’s world. Of course, the real irony is how Tommy’s isolation as ‘that deaf dumb and blind kid‘ perfectly mirrors our own posture during gaming, particularly mobile: we are a nation of loners, standing bored at a bus stop, headphones on, playing in silence.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OLSONUnlike the raucous, crowd-laden pinball galleries of old, today’s digital gaming is a solitary pursuit. It fills the empty hours, the inevitable waiting periods, the lifeless moments between life’s moments. Sociologists may bemoan how this furthers the notion of “Bowling Alone” but what hits me is how once again, fast adoption of technology signals the end for another industry with breathtaking speed.

In the early 90’s, pinball machine manufacturers were at their peak, cranking out over 100,000 units a year. ┬áToday, there’s just one company left, Stern Pinball of Chicago, making 5,000 units annually. And most of those sales serve the collector market.

That’s the nature of progress–even old favorites inevitably come to mark quaint, if noisy, moments in history.

Except pinball may not be dead just yet. Like so many other industries, it’s beginning to find a second life serving the incredibly under-served masses in China, where 10,000 arcades flourish in a throwback nod to the American heyday.

So maybe pinball will get a bonus play. Hopefully, for another twenty years or so.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON