Pinball Expo 2022: overall report
Posted on October 21, 2022
Pinball Expo 2022 is here and Pinball Magazine is present to report from the show. A small warning upfront: as this is a show with A LOT going on, and I’m helping Martin Ayub of Pinball News out with the video registration of seminars, it turns out to be hard to find the time to sit down, write a report, and edit the photos I’ve taken. I’ll try to report as much as possible during the show and will most likely finish the report probably when the show is over.
Pinball Expo is held at the Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. Martin Ayub of Pinball News and I often travel together to these events and we both report from them separately. Martin covers the show in his way on his Pinball News website, while my report is more like a travel blog.
We arrived in Schaumburg on Monday, October 17th, two days before the start of the show. Monday evening we went to Enterrium, a huge local arcade. Pinball designer/programmer Scott Danesi (Total Nuclear Annihilation, Rick and Morty) had announced on Facebook he would be at this barcade that evening to play redemption games at half price. As it turned out, Scott wasn’t the only pinball designer present as Mark Seiden (Jersey Jack Pinball) and Ryan McQuaid (American Pinball) were also present. All three have a history of starting with homebrew games. Martin and I played a couple of games on Toy Story 4, which was the first time I got to play the game. As I haven’t seen any of the Toy Story movies, I had an unbiased approach to the game and I can only say that it’s a great shooting game. It plays like butter, very nice flow.
Tuesday morning we visited Jersey Jack Pinball, where we got a factory tour from game designer Eric Meunier. For photos of that tour, see this article. The JJP factory is a very clean, classy and efficient factory, and Eric had time to give a very detailed tour. Following the tour, Martin and I were playing a few more games of Toy Story 4 in the JJP reception hall, when game designer Steve Ritchie walked by. We both know Steve well and were happy to see him again. As he was heading out for lunch with Mark Seiden, he invited us to join them. We went to a Chinese restaurant with a very good reputation. Many pinball industry professionals eat here regularly.
Following lunch, Martin and I headed to American Pinball. We were supposed to meet David Fix, but as David is one of the main organizers of Pinball Expo he was busy setting up the show at the Renaissance hotel. Instead, we got a factory tour from Max Senesac, who has been working for the company in Sales for almost a year now. Comparing the production facility of American Pinball with Jersey Jack Pinball, I’d say the American Pinball lines are a factor five smaller than at JJP. As a result the production lines at AP are shorter, which means less stations on the line to put parts on the playfield and each station has more parts to install on the playfield. Still, a very efficient line. Photos will follow soon in a seperate article.
Following the tour, I got a chance to talk to veteran pinball designer Dennis Nordman, whos career in pinball is covered in-depth in Pinball Magazine No. 2. Dennis is currently working on two games for American Pinball. Both are non-licensed themes and the first of these games will have artwork by Christopher Franchi.
Tuesday evening we were invited to a league night at Mark Seiden’s house. Here I was able to play Mark’s Metroid game. This game design resulted in him getting hired at Jersey Jack where he is being mentored by Steve Ritchie.
Wednesday morning, Martin and I checked out of our hotel to move to the Renaissance Hotel. For both of us, this is our first time attending Pinball Expo at this location. Last year, Pinball Expo moved to this location, but we couldn’t attend due to Covid-19 restrictions. The hotel reminds me a bit of the Texas Pinball Festival hotel.
Wednesday is build-up day for all exhibitors on the show floor. The only public event part of Pinball Expo is the Bumper Blast Welcoming Party, which this year was held at Enterrium. Schoolbuses were available to bring visitors from the Renaissance hotel to Enterrium.
At Enterrium, it turned out the Bumper Blast event was held at the same time as a local pinball tournament, resulting in a very crowded Barcade. For the tournament, all piball machines had been moved to the area next to the bowling alley. The Bumper Blast event was held in a separate room in the back, on the other side of the bowling alley, where free food and drinks were served. I arrived rather late, which turned out to be a good thing, as there had been a lengthy line for the food and drinks, which by the time I arrived was reduced to a minimum. While at times some of the food trays were empty, they would within minutes be replaced with new trays of food.
At 10:00 PM, Enterrium closed and buses were waiting outside to take everybody back to the Renaissance hotel.
Thursday morning, Pinball Expo kicked off with a tour of the Jersey Jack Pinball Factory. Below are photos from the factory tour, focusing on the tour. In a separate article, I posted photos from the tour I had two days earlier, which are far more focused on the various stages of how pinball games are build.
The showfloor for Pinball Expo is drastically different than the previous location, the Westin in Weeling, Illinois. Now, all vendors, manufacturers, and free play games are setup in one large hall. I took photos during setup of the show, which I used in a special newsletter I sent out that afternoon. Below I will post photos from the show floor during the show, with all booths set up and up and running.
The images above were mostly taken on the Thursday of the show.
So, the images above give a good impression of what the main hall of Pinball Expo looked like. Compared to previous editions, I find this new location and the current setup a huge improvement. One of the main elements of Pinball Expo that is still held in a separate room are the seminars. These were held in a room on the first level in the lobby. This year, I helped Martin Ayub of Pinball News out in the recording of the many seminars. Martin still recorded most, but I was able to take over for some hours so that he could go to the show floor to see what that was like. Note that the seminar program is packed. They start at 8:15 AM and continue until way past 10:00 PM. All seminars can now be watched on the Pinball News youtube channel, or on the Pinball News website, which also has a short summary of each seminar.
Because I was helping out Martin, I didn’t spend as much time as otherwise on the show floor. Still I was able to go over, buy some parts, play the new Queen game by Pinball Brothers, play several of the homebrew games, and talk to many familiar faces that I haven’t seen in three years or so.
On Thursday and Friday, the show closed at midnight, but that didn’t mean the party was over. The hotel has a large lobby with a nice firepit, where a lot of people hang out until early in the morning. Much to my, and many other’s surprise, the hotel bar closed at 11:00 PM, so people brought their own drinks. From the sound of it, which could be heard up to the seventh floor of the hotel, people had a good time hanging out.
On Saturday, two autograph sessions were held in the room next to the seminar room. The first session was the traditional autograph session as we have seen at previous Pinball Expos. Pinball game designers, artists, engineers and other creative people from the industry sit behind a large table and attendees of the show can have their translites, flyers, playfields and other items signed by the people responsible for that game. Unfortunately, former Gottlieb designer Bill Parker became unwell during the first session and was taken to a hospital by medics.
Later in the afternoon, Stern Pinball held their own autograph session. Besides the familiar designers and artists that also attended the first autograph session, this session had more video animators, programmers, mechanical engineers and people in other positions that are less noticable, to sign game-specific items.
Prior to Pinball Expo, Henrik Maurer of Pinball Dreams in Germany had reached out to me. He was coming to Pinball Expo and was hoping to talk to former bally pinball designer Jim Patla and former Bally engineer Allen Reizman regarding a game he recently found in Germany. That game would be the only fiberglass Bally KISS game in the world. Henrik had met Jim Patla already on Thursday. Alen Reizman would only attend Expo on the Saturday, and I was able to get him to meet Henrik and Ingo, the owner of the game. Henrik had created a one-page flyer for the game, which he showed to Allen. Allen hadn’t seen the game in over 40 years and was under the impression it was destroyed. He wanted to know all about how they found it, the condition of the game and so on.
Henrik gave Allen a few of the flyers he had printed. Thirty minutes later, multiple people started walking up to me. “I hear you have flyers of a unique KISS game. Can I have one?” I tried to explain I did not have these flyers, but quickly figured it would be easier to ask Henrik to drop off some flyers so I could make these people happy, which he did. In the meantime, Allen has posted some photos of the game on Facebook.
Another highlight of the show was walking onto the show floor and DJ Jivan Ivan was playing Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy. As I collect 7 inch singles by italian artists, I was curious what pressing he was playing, as I have never seen the U.S pressing of this track. So I explain I collect this type of music on vinyl and such and he hands me the record as a gift. How cool is that?! Thank you, Jivan Ivan!
This report is still being updated, so please come back for more soon.