Michael Goetzman

Sega Pinball Machines

Sega pinball machines were a product of the Sega games company limited. Sega being the short form of the words: service games. Sega was a Japanese publisher and a video game developer whose headquarters are in Tokyo, Japan. Sega had multinational offices all over the world and  in the recent past had been developing and manufacturing home video games, that’s from 1983 up until 2001. They, however, started incurring financial losses from their DreamCast console and they decided to restructure and focused on the provision of soft wares as a third party developer. To date, Sega remains the world’s most renowned and prolific producer of the arcades. They pride themselves with over 70 franchises which host over 500 games and over 20 different arcade system boards since the year 1981. They are also known to have published and sold some franchises that were multimillion games franchises notably total war, yakuza and sonic the head hog. Sega is subordinate to Sega holdings which are a part of the greater Sega Sammy holdings the Sega of America has its headquarters in California while Sega European has its headquarters in London.

Now why am I interested in Sega? I own two pinball machines: Starship Troopers and Goldeneye, created by Sega. I wanted to research the history of the pinball machine and the Sega Company.

Let’s start at the very beginning! The first pinball machine was made by Martin Bromley, James Shumpert and Irving Bromberg in Honolulu Hawaii. The three men had formed a company called standard games which was coin-operated machine. These machines were made specifically for military bases where the military would play for amusement during their leisure time. As the military personnel increased so did the demand for more pinball machines.  This was during the First World War. After the wars, the founders sold the company and opened up a distributor called the service games whose main focus was on the military. Later in 1951, the United States government banned these slot machines in the U.S territories. Bromley sent to Tokyo, Japan two of his trusted employee’s ray Lemaire and Richard Stewart to establish a new distributor which was named service games of Japan, this was in 1953.

An officer of the united states David Rosen who was based in Japan launched a photo booth company that later became Rosen enterprise and started importing the pinball slot machines to Japan and service games shut its Japan doors in 1960.Rosen merged with Nihon Goraku and opened up Sega enterprises. Sega transitioned into a manufacturer from an importer band released its first pinball machine submarine simulator game called the periscope. It became a successful venture in Japan and was even exported to the United States and Europe and cost around 25 cents per play. Sega was sold off in 1969 to gulf and western industries which were an American conglomerate but Rosen continued to be the CEO. The company continued growing and in 1974 Sega enterprise ltd was created by the gulf and western allowing their stock to be taken public.

The years 1978-1983 were also referred to as the golden age of the pinball games. By now Sega had really prospered from the 1970s, pinball gaming boom. In 1979 the revenues were at $100million US dollars and by 1982 the revenue had surpassed $214 million dollars. That year marked the launch of the first isometric graphed game zaxxon, subroc 3D the first stereoscopic 3D game and Astron belt which was the first laserdisc video game. Other notable games that Sega came up with between 1979-1982 were the carnival, Monaco GP, heads on, space fury, turbo and pengo

Between1982-1989 Sega had published the attari 2600 versions of the arcade games and tapper from midway, space fury, cannibal, turbo, and zaxxon. Sega licensed these games and others under different companies. Due to the overabundance, video crash games crashed, this led to the fall in segas revenue up to $136 million. Looking for alternatives Sega decided to make and release the first home video game console. it was then that gulf and western sold Sega enterprise assets to bally manufacturing in 1984. Bally manufacturing made pinballs. The home video game console the SG-1000 was launched successfully but the Nintendo’s NES quickly obscured it. This happened because the Nintendo’s NES had greater support from the third parties and they also had the more advanced hardware. Robert Deith, Rosen and Hayao Nakayama purchased the Sega assets at $38millionj dollars and later sold it to a Japanese conglomerate CSK. It’s based its headquarters in Japan and later placed their stock at the Tokyo stock exchange and Isao Okawa who was a friend to David Rosen who was CSKs chairman became Sega’s chairman.

Sega now released the Sega master system featuring Alex Kidd. Alex was unofficially Sega’s mascot until when he was replaced in 1991 by the hedgehog, the master system was now of a superior quality than the NES, it, however, did not capture Japan and the north Americas market due to aggressive strategies that his competitor Nintendo had applied and the fact that Tonka who was the console marketer in the united states on behalf of Sega was ineffective in his marketing mandate. The master system ruled Australia, Europe, Brazil and New Zealand and their games were sold up to 1990. Their main competitors by this time were the Nintendo NES and SNES. The period of the 1980s afterburner and hang on arcade games were released and made use of the force feedback control and the hydraulic cabinet functionality. Sega released the R-360 which was the 360-degree rotating machine. Sega also released the super scaler and the system series tor the arcade system boards. In the 1980s UFO catcher, medal games and the craw crane games were also introduced.

Sega Genesis was introduced in North America in the year 1989 and at this time the Sega of America initiated the campaign that was anti-Nintendo. This campaign was meant to bring out the momentum for the new generational games and they had the slogan “Genesis does what Nintendont”. The president Michal Katz of the Sega of America initiated and implemented the campaign. Nintendo launched in North America their super Nintendo entertainment system and at this same time Sega adopted a new slogan that said “welcome to the next level”

In that same year’s leadership of the Sega of America changed and was passed down to tom Kalinski from Katz. The new leader escalated further the console war that had already kicked off and was developing. In the prevention of the launch of the SNES Sega rebranded by creating a new game with a new mascot sonic the hedgehog. This shift widened the genesis success and Sega now commanded at least 65% of the market in North America. Sega released the Sega CD in 1991 in Tokyo Japan and 1992 in North America to add on to the genesis. This greatly reduced the limitations on space on their games. In 1992 Sonic ul game that was produced.  Hedgehog 2 was released for Genesis and became the most success. This game sold over six million copies by now Sega in 1990 had established Sega technical institute, in 1992 Sega Midwest studio came up, Sega multimedia studio was also created in 1993 and in 1992 Sega acquired the interactive design

In 1990 game gear was launched as the newest Sega game which was meant to compete with the game boy from the Nintendo’s but since the game had a short battery life, Sega did not come up with original games and also did not really support the game gear, it did not surpass game boy. in 1995 the game gear was followed by the Sega Nomad and in 1997 it was discontinued.

Model series of the arcade hardware was introduced by Sega in 1092 it allowed for the release of Virtua Racing and Virtua fighter and this law the ground and the foundation of the fighting games in 3D. In 1994 Sega 32X was release, this was meant to upgrade the genesis to a more advanced standards of systems of that time. At the beginning, it did really well but it lacked the good software and there was so much hype about the upcoming Sony play station and Sega Saturn. It died off after a year of real struggle in the market.

Sega Saturn was finally released in Japan in 1994 and was utilizing the two 32 bit processors. In the west, it sold poorly and thus the console was abandoned in 1998. The established genesis franchise lacked strong games and the ones available were highly priced compared to the Sony play station and this led to the console’s downfall. The games that were notable in Japan included the panzer dragoon, sakura wars, Virtua fighter 2, house of the dead and the Sega rally championship. Sega soft was established in the PC markets in 1995. The Sega soft was meant to create PC games and create an original Saturn.

Sega in the mid-1990s began expanding from just the kids-oriented and whole family entertainment company to producing and publishing games that consisted of strong sexual themes and extreme violence. They introduced the deep water label that was the mark they gave to mature content to distinguish it from the rest. They also began a gaming channel which was delivered by time warmer cable a local cable company. It gathered around 250,000 subscribers when it was at its peak. In 1997 it started experiencing serious technical challenges which led to its closure in 1998.

Sega in 1996 operated several theme parks with joypolis in Japan and Sega world overseas and branded the pinball arcades in Australia and the UK. In 1998 Sega was able to obtain the puyopuyo series and its characters. Sega continued compiling, developing and publishing the puyopuyo games even on its competitor’s platforms and Sega was included in their copyright

Dreamcast was launched in 1998 in Japan by Sega. They competitively priced dream cast because it used the self-shelf components and used technology that could host games that were technically impressive than Nintendo and the play station. Action puzzle games such as Phantasy star online, chuchu rocket, alien front online and quake 3 arena. Dreamcast was an absolute failure may be due to the fact it was launched within a small library of software’s and play station 2 was upcoming.

The list of other pinball’s that existed between 1994 -1999 include the batman forever, Godzilla, golden cue, independence day, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, south park, star wars trilogy the lost world: Jurassic Park, Twister, Apollo 13, Baywatch, goldeneye, Harley Davidson, lost in space, maverick, space jam, starship troopers, the x files and viper night driving.

Pinball games on pinball machines were great amusement in the past, the games were depicted mostly from movies that children or mature generation liked and were as interesting as the movie if not more. Basically the reasons I own Starship Troopers and Goldeneye! The machines came in different colors and shades; they were decorated with characters in the game. They consisted of the pinball and the pinball saver that was used in the game. The demise of these pinball boxes was mostly due to ban in several states and countries. They were banned because the leadership felt that these games were not really using skills but were using luck to win. The authorities, therefore, considered them as gambling dens. The children in schools used their lunch money to play these games thus the education sector was being affected. The governments banned the pinball machines and this led to the closure of many businesses.

They pinball machines have also been overtaken by both time and technology; today people play games on their phones other than the pinball machines. Some of these games have also been modernized and installed in computers. Computer games are preferred more than the pinball machines because they are portable thus can move from place to place and are played according to one’s convenience. The pinball machines, on the other hand, are big and not easily portable.

The pinball machines still exist but in very low numbers and in licensed parks. They are not accessible to many people thus people look for alternative means to buy or play the games. And this is where smartphones and computers come into place. Despite all that pinball still remains the world’s most friendly game around the globe thus there is a group of ever-expanding gamers that still buy, sell, repair and ultimately discovers and rediscovers the allure of the wild silver ball.

Game on!

~Michael Goetzman


Sega Enterprises Ltd at the Internet Pinball Machine Database

Sega Pinball Inc at the Internet Pinball Machine Database

Rossignol, Marco. The Complete Pinball Book: Collecting the Game and Its History. Schiffer Publishing, Limited

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