Pinball Magazine No. 3 has an interview with Sylvain Escalle, the main organizer of Festi’Flip – Europe’s biggest pinball show. That interview features photos from Festi’Flip 2014 taken by Argentinean photographer Santiago Ciuffo, known for his Pinball book.


This year Festi’Flip was held on the weekend of October 24 and 25, again in the Palais de Spectacles in St. Etienne, France. As editor of Pinball Magazine I attended the show for the second time – this time without Santiago Ciuffo, so I took all the photos in this report myself.


Just like last year I decided to drive to St. Etienne by night in order to avoid the French traffic during the day. I arrived around 10:00 AM on Friday at the venue where I was greeted by Phil Keller and his partner Rebecca Astley. Great people, good to see them again. The first games were already on the show floor as well as the first vendors who were starting to build their stands.


After a quick round of saying hello to familiar faces from last year I unloaded my car and checked in to my nearby hotel to get some sleep.


When I came back to the venue in the afternoon a lot more games and vendor stands had been readied. I set up my stand and then walked around, taking photos of rare games. As France used to be a Gottlieb friendly territory there were quite a few games that I’m not that familiar with.


Festi’Flip is held in a sort of sports arena. There is the center show floor, which is surrounded by a ring of cushioned seats on a higher level. That area was not accessible to the public. There is an outer hallway surrounding the main showfloor in which games were also set up.


Compared to last year it seemed to me that the center show floor had more space for vendors than last year. I’m not sure there were less games than last year as it seemed to me that there were more games in the outer hallway this year. Some of the vendors at the show are actually featured in The French Connection section in Pinball Magazine No. 3 and it was nice to meet the people behind the interviews. I had brought them copies of the magazine and it’s always nice to see the response to seeing the magazine for the first time.


Later in the afternoon I noticed that once vendors had finished their build up, some bottles of strong alcohol were appearing  from under the table and everybody was having drinks. Even in the parking lot bottles appeared from cars and were shared at the back of the trunk. Interesting.


In the mean time the guest of honor of this year’s edition had arrived: Gary Stern. Although Gary had just been in Europe for several events and had flown back to Chicago for Pinball Expo, he took a plane back to Europe just to attend this show. The number of (new) Stern games at the show was quite impressive. Several vendors had brought a wide selection of Stern titles, including the most recent games: KISS and Game of Thrones. Heighway Pinball was also present with two Full Throttle machines.


Last year the Festi’Flip organization surprised me by hosting a dinner on Friday night for all vendors, volunteers and those who brought games. This year was slightly different as instead of providing a dinner several food trucks parked behind the backstage area where people could get a meal of their choice. There was a choice of Indian curry, Spanish paella and a local pasta dish with blue cheese. In the main hall the pool tables in the center were moved aside to make place for large tables and benches so everybody could eat together. Very nice. After dinner I didn’t stay around for too long and went back to my hotel.


On Saturday morning I got some breakfast at a nearby supermarket and arrived around 9:30 AM at the Festi’Flip venue. As my French is not that great I had asked Nicolas from PinSound (also featured in Pinball magazine No. 3) whether he knew a French girl who could host the Pinball Magazine stand during the show. Nicolas had found someone: Solene. I met them both right after I got in. With Solene watching the booth I was more free to walk around the show floor. At 10:00 AM the doors opened and the floor quickly filled up with visitors. Apparently there had been a huge cue outside.


For the past four editions of Festi’Flip each show had a theme. This year’s theme was Star Wars. Not only did that result in quite a few Star Wars themed pinball machines on the floor, but also a group of cosplay artists dressing up as various characters from the franchise, complete with light sabers and other accoutrements.


They were walking around in the hallway and on the show floor, having their pictures taken. A few times during the day they would perform fighting scenes from the movies. As I’m not familiar with Star Wars I only recognized Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Other characters I recognized from movie posters, but I have no clue what their names are.


As I had help in the Pinball Magazine stand I was able to walk around and take photos. Saturday afternoon I had a lot of fun having all the Star Wars cosplay people pose with either Pinball Magazine No. 3 or Santiago Ciuffo’s Pinball book.


In terms of attendance Saturday was a busy day. In total 1720 people bought tickets at the entrance. That’s impressive. In the afternoon it got quite warm on the main show floor. In the meantime Solene was glued to her phone and occasionally selling a magazine. Gary Stern was just walking around and sat down in the Pinball Magazine stand for a bit. When Phil Keller, who was carrying a microphone and was announcing things the entire weekend, announced that Gary would be signing autographs at the Pinball Magazine stand, Gary was a little afraid nobody would show up. But people did show up and kept Gary busy for quite a while, posing for photos, signing flyers and so on.


Around 5pm the same ritual as on Friday started again. From under vendor tables bottles of wine and other drinks showed up to help the vendors through the rest of the day. That was actually only two more hours since the show closed at 7pm, and at that time all visitors, volunteers and vendors were sent outside.


Once the building was empty only those with  VIP badges could re-enter the building for the VIP part of the day. That started with a happy hour where I was introduced to an interesting concept: at the bar plastic cups were filled with a layer of blackcurrant syrup, but instead of water the rest of the cup was filled with white wine (Sauvignon Blanc). What a great concept!


Prior to that one of Gary’s distributors had already handed me some vodka, which I mixed with Orangina, a local orange soda. After that Gary Stern explained to me that the effect of the alcohol is much stronger due to the sugar. That explained why I needed to sit down 🙂


Gary joined me and we had an interesting off the record conversation – but obviously I can’t reveal what we talked about. But I will say that Gary has a ton of great stories to tell from all his years in the industry. Who knows, some of them may  end up in a future issue of Pinball Magazine.


On Saturday evening there was moment where Sylvain Escalle, the main organizer of the show, got everybody who helped out making the show a success on stage. Similar to last year,  bottles of Festi Bulles where handed out to those who helped the show. The bottles where some sort of Champagne with a custom Festi Bulles label on it.

Right after that Phil Keller called Gary Stern on stage and they did a quiz with the audience. Phil had prepared some questions, which the audience had to answer. Each correct answer won a translite of a recent Stern game, which was held up by Phil’s assistant Rebecca. As the questions were asked in French I was too late in replying most of the time. As an improvised last question Gary threw in a question he knew I would be able to answer, allowing me to win a Wrestlemania translite. Thanks Gary, much appreciated!


The question was for which game, present at the show, Gary had posed as a character on the backglass. The story behind that game had actually been told by Paul Faris during his recent Pinball Expo speech. The game Gary referred to was Hook, where Gary dressed up as Captain Hook.


Similar to Friday night there were food trucks in the parking lot behind the backstage area. On  Saturday night you could choose between a cheeseburger or a chicken burger. I actually had both. The cheeseburger was great and had lots of toppings. There was a huge queue for both trucks as they could only serve about six burgers at once.


The rest of Saturday night the games were turned on until about 3am. As there were only VIPs, volunteers and vendors there were hardly any queues to play a game. I played quite a few games on Full Throttle and discussed the game a bit with those I was playing with. Eventually I went back to my hotel around 1am.


Sunday was similar to Saturday in a lot of ways. The doors opened at 10am and again there was a queue outside. I noticed a few new games had been brought in and I decided to make a list of games present at that time. That took me quite some time to complete, but here it is:


Festiflip 2015 game list:


  • Abra Ca Dabra
  • Airborne
  • Alien star
  • Apollo 13
  • Arena
  • Attack from mars (3x)
  • Avatar (2x)
  • Banzai Run
  • Big House
  • Black Pyramid
  • Bonebusters
  • BS Dracula
  • Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Ball
  • Cactus Canyon
  • Cactus Jack
  • Canada Dry
  • Capt. Fantastic
  • Cave Man
  • Champion Pub
  • Cirqus Voltaire
  • Congo
  • Corvette
  • Cosmic Flash
  • Creature ft black Lagoon
  • Criterium 75*
  • CSI
  • Cue Ball Wizard
  • Cyclone (2x)
  • Deadly Weapon
  • Demolition man (3x)
  • Doctor Who
  • Dr Dude
  • Dragon
  • Dragon Fist
  • Eight Ball (2x)
  • Elvira and the Party Monsters
  • F14 Tom-Cat
  • Fathom
  • Fireball
  • Fish Tales
  • Flash Gordon
  • Frankenstein
  • Full Throttle (2x)
  • Funhouse
  • Future Spa
  • Game of Thrones (Pro)
  • Game Show
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • Golden Arrow
  • Goldeneye
  • High Roller Casino
  • Hulk (3x)
  • Hurricane
  • Independance Day (2x)
  • Indianapolis 500 (2x)
  • Iron man (2x)
  • Johnny Mnemonic (2x)
  • Jungle Queen
  • Junk Yard
  • Jurrassic Parc The Lost World
  • Kicker
  • Kiss (Bally)
  • Kiss (LE)
  • Kiss (Pro) (2x)
  • Lethal Weapon 3 (2x)
  • Lights Camera Action (2x)
  • Little Chief
  • Lost in Space
  • Lost World
  • Mars god of War
  • Mata Hari
  • Maverick*
  • Medieval Madness (2x)
  • Merry Widow
  • Metallica (2x)
  • Mystic (2x)
  • NBA
  • Nitro Ground Shaker
  • No Fear (2x)
  • No Good Gofers (2x)
  • Odds & Evens
  • Pantera*
  • Party Zone
  • Pin*Bot
  • Pinball Magic (2x)
  • Pinball Pool*
  • Q*Bert’s Quest
  • Resque 911
  • Royal Flush*
  • Scared Stiff
  • Shaq Attaq
  • Sharkey’s Shootout
  • Silver Slugger
  • Sinbad (2x)
  • Solar ride
  • South Park (2x)
  • Space Station
  • Spider-Man (3x)
  • Spider-Man Black
  • Spirit
  • spring Break
  • Spy Hunter
  • Star Trek (Data East)
  • Star Trek (LE) (2x)
  • Star Trek (Pro)
  • Star Wars (Data east) (4x)
  • Star Wars (Sonic)
  • Star Wars Episode 1 (2x)
  • Star Wars Trilogy Edition (2x)
  • Street fighter II
  • Striker (2x)
  • Super Mario Bros Mushroom World
  • Tag Team
  • Take Five*
  • Tales from the Arabian Nights
  • Tales ft Crypt (2x)
  • Taxi (2x)
  • Tee’d Off (4x)
  • Terminator 2
  • Terminator 3
  • The Addams Family
  • The Amazing Spiderman
  • The Flintstones*
  • The Getaway
  • The Machine: Bride of Pin*Bot (3x)
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Simpsons Pinball Party (2x)
  • The Walking Dead (Pro) (2x)
  • The Who’s Tommy
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Theatre of Magic (2x)
  • Thord Bred
  • Time Line
  • Transformers
  • Tron
  • Twilight Zone (2x)
  • Vector
  • Victory
  • Volley
  • Vulcan
  • Whilrwind
  • World Cup Soccer
  • World Poker Tour
  • Wrestlemania (LE)
  • Wrestlemania (Pro)
  • Xenon (2x)
  • X-Men
  • X-Men (Wolverine Edition)
  • X’s & O’s


Arcade games

  • 3 x L’Arcade 2.0 (virtual pinball)
  • 4 x Vewlix L (Streetfighter?)
  • Beast Busters
  • Byon Byon
  • Combo Boxer
  • Corso italiano
  • Dariusburst
  • Daytona USA
  • Donkey Kong
  • Ellip 6
  • Extreme Hunting 2
  • Gachagachamp
  • Guitar hero arcade
  • Gun Fighter II
  • Our Run
  • Sega Rally 3
  • Space invaders
  • Take it to the maxx megatouch
  • Tekken 5
  • various billiards
  • various darts
  • various fussball
  • Virtua Striker 3
  • Virtua Tennis 2


I recall having an interesting conversation with Gary Stern early in the afternoon about expanding the Pro / Premium / LE models with a Basic model, which I think could make an interesting addition. To prove my point I showed Gary an Interflipp Dragon game in the corridor.


This electromechanical game from Spain is about as simple as they come. There are 5 rollover lanes at the top numbered 1-5. The center playfield has 5 yellow knockdown targets, which are an extension of the dragon mouths on the playfield artwork. The game also has lanes feeding to each flipper, which help to build the numbers 1-5. For each lit number a corresponding rollover button on the center left and right will light up. These rollover buttons are aligned so that you can shoot them all in a row. Normally they score 100 point, but when lit 1,000. Lighting all 5 awards the most points. Once all 5 are lit an Extra Ball or Special is awarded when shooting the center scoop.


Also note the interesting inlane – outlane arrangement for each flipper. Catching the ball on the flipper and having it roll back on the metal guide can actually result in a drain as the metal guide has an open end. Whenever you drain a ball everything you built up resets, with no carry overs.


So it’s a  very simple game to understand and as it turns out: quite difficult to master. Kids at the show loved it. They kept playing it. So did I. It’s a very addictive game as you keep trying to get all 5 numbers lit and score the maximum number of points. So that made me wonder whether a Basic model for Stern could work. Basically that would be a slimmed down version of a Pro model, maybe even without any ramps or other bells and whistles. Just a basic pinball playfield similar to the EM and early Solid State days of pinball with an easy to understand objective, which is difficult to master.


Gary explained that even if they did a model like that there would still be the same costs for a cabinet, legs, a playfield, a display and so on. Going with alpha numeric displays would not be an option as those displays are likely to be more expensive than a dot matrix or LCD display. So the only expenses saved would be programming costs.

That means that a basic model would end up being hardly any cheaper than a traditional Pro model. In that scenario, why would anyone go for a Basic model if they can get a Pro for about the same price? The only reason I could think of was that the Basic game could be a better earning game on location, but whether that would be the case can only be established  by doing games like that and putting them out to test. The chances of that happening are probably not very big. Still I found it interesting to discuss the idea with Gary.


Later in the afternoon Gary was called on stage again to draw the winner of the raffle. There was just one prize: a brand new KISS Pro pinball machine.


The show closed at 6pm on Sunday evening. There was no after party on this night as everybody just wanted to pack up their stuff and go home. As it turns out there had been over 3,200 visitors during the entire weekend. Very impressive. Hopefully these numbers will convince the organizers of the show to continue doing the show next year.


This is most of what I remember about the show. The photos shown in this report are just a sample of the photos I took during the show. I uploaded a photo album to the Pinball Magazine Facebook page, which contains hundreds of photos capturing the event. So take a look there as well. If you’re interested in more details about the show check out the interview with Sylvain Escalle in Pinball Magazine No. 3.