Stern Pinball's PBR machine draws raves at Comic-Con
Stern Pinball made old new again at Comic-Con International.
The Elk Grove Village company debuted its Pabst Blue Ribbon-themed “Can Crusher” pinball machine during the event, which was held July 21-24 in San Diego, according to a news release from PR Newswire.
The machine is based on an old-school model of pinball, Jody Dankberg, Stern Pinball director of marketing and licensing, said. That design includes score reels and a one-level playing surface, Dankberg said.
The machine is almost entirely blue, save for some flame-like artwork and displays of the PBR can. The news release added that artist Dirty Donny did the art for the machine, with the metal band Red Fang providing the game's music.
Dankberg said the idea for the game started when the PBR team approached Stern Pinball “about a creative advertising project involving pinball.”
“To partner with Stern Pinball on the 'Can Crusher,' and have a superstar artist like Dirty Donny and music from Red Fang was exactly what we set out to do when we wanted to make a pinball machine the PBR way,” Pabst Chief Marketing Officer Dan McHugh said in a statement. “The game does a great job of capturing the essence of our brand.”
Pabst is the largest American-owned brewery and has been in business since 1844, according to the news release.
Dankberg said her company also had its new Ghostbusters and Spider-Man games in San Diego.
“Comic-Con has always been a great platform for us to show the world what we do,” she said.
And the response to the game at the event was “overwhelming,” Dankberg said, with it getting some play on national TV.
“Even Conan O'Brien talked about it in his monologue,” she said.
The PBR machine will go on tour to concerts, barcades and other events, according to the news release.
The strong reception of the PBR machine reflects a growing interest in pinball. A CNN.com story from 2014 said the International Flipper Pinball Association, which ranks players, saw its membership go from 500 in 2006 to more than 23,000 in 2014. In March of that year, the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association hosted a 400-player tournament – the largest such tourney in history at that point. Dankberg said that currently, there are more than 45,000 ranked players competing around the world.
“Yes, competitive pinball is thriving,” she said.
Other themed Stern Pinball machines – which are hand-crafted, according to the news release – have included “Game of Thrones,” KISS, WWE WrestleMania, “The Walking Dead,” “Star Trek,” Metallica, The Avengers, X-Men, AC/DC, Tron, Transformers, Avatar, Iron Man and Batman.
The Stern Pinball website says the company's roots go back to the 1930s, when Sam Stern was president of pinball pioneer Williams Electronics. His son, Gary, later became the founder, chairman and CEO of Stern Pinball. Gary Stern helped found Data East Pinball in 1986. Data East was purchased by Sega to form Sega Pinball, but Stern later bought the business from Sega and renamed it Stern Pinball Inc.
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