The universal appeal of pinball with its huge popularity is in part due to its playability. Anyone can learn how to play a game of pinball in a few minutes while enjoying the process. One of the factors that wields a big influence on playability whether or not pinball machines have magnets in them.
Some pinball machines have magnets in them, but not all. Magnets can be mounted below the playfield to change the direction of the ball. These are either permanent magnets or microprocessor-controlled electromagnets. They became trendy when manufacturers realized they could improve the gameplay.
Below, we take a closer look at what magnets in pinball machines actually do. We also consider which pinball machines have magnets, and which ones don’t, while also discussing the different types of magnets within pinball machines.
Do All Pinball Machines Have Magnets?
In 1947, only one machine, Williams’ Torchy, used a magnet. It took 43 years for their usage to go mainstream as the use of magnets became popular after the early nineties. Some of the most popular games, such as The Addams Family, Spiderman, Indiana Jones, and Judge Dredd, all incorporated the use of magnets into their gameplay.
Manufacturers have devised innovative ways to use magnets in their games. Magnets can be used to grab, drop, fling, or accelerate a ball. Using a combination of multiple magnets, it is possible to create some fascinating visual effects. We’ll talk about those in more detail soon, but what are the different types of magnets found in pinball machines?
Permanent Magnets vs Electromagnets – Which One Is Best?
Over a period of time, the carbon-steel pinball gets magnetized, so the effect of permanent magnets gets stronger, but the real impact on playability is visible when electromagnets are used. The strength of the magnetic field around a permanent magnet is constant. It never changes or goes off.
Since the electromagnet is controlled by a microprocessor, it can increase or decrease the voltage applied to the coil, thereby greatly increasing its magnetic power. It can be switched on or off according to the rules of the game. Every pinball machine has its game rules programmed into its memory with a microprocessor to implement decisions according to the way the game is progressing.
Working For Or Against The Player
Embedded electromagnets impact playability because they can work for or against the player. A strategically placed electromagnet can ensure that a ball rolling straight down towards the drain can be influenced to roll towards one of the flippers, offering the player a chance to save the ball. The game can also decide not to change the ball direction when the score is very high.
Not all magnets used are square or rectangular, as there are instances when spiral magnets and circular magnets are used. In order to influence a fast-moving pinball ball that weighs 80 grams, a permanent magnet needs to have a fairly strong magnetic field. There are two types of high-intensity magnets: rare earth magnets and Neodymium magnets.
Electromagnets Are Better
Both are very expensive when compared to the cost of electromagnets that are much cheaper.The voltage to an electromagnet can be switched on and off rapidly in a series of pulses to accelerate a ball or create some spectacular effects. It becomes clear that the electromagnet is far superior in many ways to a permanent magnet and provides the flexibility for the game to implement its own decisions.
What Pinball Machines Have Magnets?
It is doubtful that manufacturers would be willing to divulge information about magnets utilized in their pinball machines, so below is a list compiled from players who have observed games where the ball is moved by a magnet.
This list is by no means complete as it is meant only to provide an alternate perspective on how magnet usage gained extensive support from manufacturers by using them in their games.
Pinball machines that have magnets include:
- Jurassic Park
- Black Knight 2000
- High Roller Casino
- Tales Of The Arabian Nights
- Judge Dredd
- The Getaway: High Speed II
- Pinball Circus
- The Shadow
- X-Men (LE)
- X-Men (Pro)
- Cirqus Voltaire
- Jolly Park
- Wizard Of Oz
- Twilight Zone
- Tales of the Arabian Nights
- Theater of Magic
- Pinball Magic
The Effects Of Magnets In Pinball Machines
The Twilight Zone
In The Twilight Zone (Bally), the player controls the ball using magnets. There are no flippers.
Goldeneye (Sega) had a magnet between the flippers to save the ball and throw it back into the playfield.
Pinball Magic (Capcom) has a magic wand above the playfield. When the ball goes near the wand, it appears to get stuck to it, then slowly rolls down in line with the wand. As it leaves the end of the wand it moves normally again.
Cosmic Cart Racing
Cosmic Cart Racing (Multimorphic) has a multi-ball sequence where a ball comes to a dead stop then waits for another ball to knock it back into play.
X-Men (Stern Pinball) has a Magneto spinning disc that captures 3 to 4 balls, holds them for a few seconds, and then releases them in different directions.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Williams), a ball moves from one side of the playfield to another.
Ghostbusters Premium/LE (Stern Pinball) has a quite few magnets under the playfield. The ball can move randomly, move around in circles very fast, or move back and forth for a few seconds before a magnet sling throws it.
Tales Of The Arabian Nights
Tales Of The Arabian Nights (Williams) was one of the few games to use magnets offensively. It would grab the ball suddenly and then throw it at the player.
The Shadow (Bally) has a sequence where the ball comes to a dead stop. It then moves backward for a few inches before shooting forward.
Lord Of The Rings
In Lord of The Rings (Stern Pinball), the ball hovers in a ring for a few seconds.
Theatre Of Magic
Theatre Of Magic (Bally) has an effect where the ball gets caught in mid-air by a magic trunk.
The Getaway (Williams) features a supercharger using a magnetic accelerator. The ball whizzing around has to be seen to be believed.
The Addams Family
Some of the best effects can be seen in The Addams Family (Bally). Even though it was one of the earliest machines to use magnets, it was capable of some remarkable feats. The ball would stop dead in its tracks, jump to the right or left, or even roll backward.
Many pinball machines do have magnets in them. The addition of magnets to the playing field was a milestone in the evolution of pinball from its humble origins in bagatelle, to what it is today. Some of the manufacturers who adopted its usage created timeless games that are highly popular.