Sunday, April 5, 2009

The economics of pinball parts reproductions

From IPB

During my visit to Illinois Pinball last Friday a couple of things that I observed and were told have been sticking with me.

Gene Cunningham and I were discussing the run of Addams family playfields that were being completed. This is not a direct quote, but here it is as I remember Gene telling it.

Gene: Of all the playfields we make about a third are completely wrong. They have to be sanded back down to the wood and reprinted at an additional cost. Of all the playfields we make about a third are seconds that have to be sold at a discounted price. Of the remaining two thirds, about a third have a minor defect that may or may not be noticed by the customer. When they do notice it, they demand a refund or a discount and sometimes trash the product to other collectors. The fact is, that when Williams was producing product, a minor (or even major) defect would have been put into the game and shipped. If a color was mismatched from the master, oh well, that's what it was, and that's what you got.

Gene went on to add that they make about $100 per full price playfield sale.

Gene: You see this mold? It's for widebody lockdown bars. It weights 1.5 tons. When we produce these, this mold has to be loaded onto a truck and shipped to the manufacturer. It requires a nitrogen release as to not bend the product. When you go through this trouble, it is not really economical to produce 100 lockdown bars, but we can't sell 1000 of them, so what to do?

I guess the point of this post is that despite how IPB is run (disorganized among other things), they really do care about keeping pinball viable. Gene has pissed away more money on pinball then most of us will make in a lifetime. I honestly believe he takes a loss on just about every product he personally has reproduced (this does not include what he just licenses).

I'll remember this the next time I piss and moan about some part that I want not being reproduced, or not being perfect. I'm lucky if they exist at all, because nobody's getting rich making it.

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