In the 1990’s pinball machines were peaking in terms of interest and the amount of money they were making. This led to many new machines being built in arcades across the world. Today making money with a pinball machine isn’t like it used to be, but you can still make money with a pinball machine.
Pinball machines can make anywhere from $40 to $60 or more per week, while some average at between $150 and $200 per month. Some arcade owners charge by the hour, leading to figures of around $8-10 per hour of playing, but it really depends on location and the machine itself.
While there is no doubt that a pinball machine is not going to make as much money now as it once would, they are still moneymakers in their own right. This article will explore the reasons behind the earnings changes, and some alternative ways to make money with pinball.
A Bit Of Background
Although home video game consoles were around in the 1970s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that they stated appearing in more homes. With the rise of the Sega Genesis series, and the PlayStation One being released in 1995, arcades were still a hotbed until this point.
A Downward Trend
Almost all local bowling alleys had supplied pinball machines for their customers, and this was a popular choice for teens on Friday nights. But since the 90s, pinball has been on a pretty constant decline, and the suffering industry had closed many manufacturers’ doors. The last man standing in the manufacturing industry was Stern by the year 2000.
But luckily today we have more companies crawling out of the woodworks to supply a new demand for pinball machines. This could be a positive indication that pinball machines have made a comeback in recent years. But regardless, they are still not as profitable as they once were.
How Much Do Pinball Machines Usually Make?
Fortune magazine has stated in 2013 that the remaining 63,000 machines in commercial areas are making an average of $63 per week. Some more recent forums refer to a number of around $150-$200 a month, so there is clearly a lot of variance.
On The Rise
More recently the Play Meter State of Industry report has shown that in 2015 (the latest report) the average weekly earnings were around $44. The report also showed that the gross revenue has been on a slight rise from $31 in 2011.
With 18,000 pinball machines in various locations and a total of 166,760 pieces of arcade equipment still in use, feedback from owners has led to an optimistic outlook on the state of arcade games, including pinball, as a whole. Another alternative from an arcade owner in New Jersey has been to charge an hourly fee for all machines in their venue.
By The Hour
Ken Kalada, owner of Yestercades, told ABC that he charges $8.75 per hour for all and any of the machines the gamer wants to play. This may also affect the way that new stats would show an average machine’s gross income. This is because it would be hard to tell if someone was playing pinball or Pacman.
What Are The Troubles Of Owning A Pinball Machine?
Some of the troubles of owning a pinball machine include maintenance costs, alongside the initial outlay for the machine itself. You will also need to get a license if you plan to use it to make money on location, which can take time and cost even more money as well.
You may be able to cover the cost associated with the machine itself, but it will be anywhere around $500 to $2000 or more. But your payments won’t stop there. Mandatory repairs and cleaning must be done constantly to ensure your machine keeps customers playing. If your machine gets a good amount of play, you may even need to hire an inspector to check on it every 3-4 months.
Most small repairs, like replacing bumpers or lights won’t cost too much as you can fix a lot yourself for around $20 to $30. If someone damages the back glass or the playfield however, things could get quite costly. Getting your machines into a business won’t be free either. Placing a machine into a business might cost more than expected as the average you’ll walk away with is a 50/50 profit split.
And to top it off, you’ll mostly have to get a license for your machine if it will be making money on a location. These may not be too expensive and really depend on your state. Plus, if your machine is registered, don’t forget about taxes that need to be paid from your income!
How Many People Are Playing Pinball?
71,377 people were playing pinball as part of the International Flipper Association in 2019, but this number has been increasing year-on-year by around 6,000 people. The actual number of pinball players is likely to be far higher, as this just accounts for people who are registered.
Although you may not see many arcades around you, don’t be fooled into thinking no one is playing pinball. The International Flipper Association holds tournaments for players around the globe. In 2010 there was only around 14,000 registered players.
A Changing Landscape
With all these players, there is still a demand for pinball machines whether it is in a commercial space or in people’s homes. Before 2010, many manufactures sold their machines directly to business owners. This meant the only way to play any new games was to go to the arcade, pop in a couple of quarters and enjoy a new release.
However, now there are lots of collectors out there that are buying up new releases before any commercial spaces can get their hands on them. This means it is often harder for diehard fans of pinball that can’t afford to buy a full table miss out on some of the newest games.
2 Alternative Ways To Make Money With Pinball
1. Playing Tournaments
While machines were built to make money for arcade game owners, it’s not the only way to make money with pinball. Playing tournaments can be a great way for skilled players to compete for a quick buck or two. There are many local leagues and tournaments in various locations that you can look for.
Find Tournaments Near You
Game rules vary by location and so they might be different to what you are used to. But the best way to get started is to check out leagues in your local area by checking online forums. These will help you find tournaments and dates to test your skills against some of the best in your area.
If you have what it takes to be a world champion, this hobby could pay up to $10,000-$20,000 in prize money. Sadly, this won’t be everyone, but it might be worth it to try out your skills with other players if it means making an extra couple hundred dollars.Don’t take the games too serious though as you want to remember to have fun and enjoy the game!
2. Reselling Pinball Machines
Resellers in the industry might make some money if they build up a reputation and are good with their hands. Many people that go down this route understand the craft of repairing new and old machines. They can find out the differences between machines and learn to diversify the types of machines they can fix up.
Not As Easy As It Might Sound
But still, this may be hard to make some money off of as it’s very hard to keep track of a machine’s value, as they are not like stocks constantly rising in price as time goes on, and instead it will depend on the game itself and how old it is. This is not a good idea if you expect to simply flip some machines to make some easy money.
If, for example, you see on eBay that a Ruby’s Funhouse machine sold for $4,000, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pick one up on Craigslist for half the price. It requires a lot of research and careful buying skills, and you really do need to know a lot about the tables to make this worth it.
There are optimistic signs that the pinball industry is once again growing in popularity. However, they still don’t make as much money as they used to. You could still see a few hundred dollars a month coming in through your pinball machine, but there are other routes like pinball tournaments and reselling pinball machines that could be alternative ways to make money with the game.