Pinball 2000 was a technology developed by Williams pinball in the late 1990’s when the pinball industry was facing major contraction due to the amount of arcades that were gradually disappearing due to the rise of home consoles. Two games were developed from this technology before Williams closed their pinball division, Revenge from Mars and Star Wars Episode One.
Revenge from Mars, the first Pinball 2000
Revenge from Mars was the first game developed on the pinball 2000 platform, released in January of 1999. It took the pinball industry by storm, the biggest innovation in pinball since it went to digital scoring in the late 70’s. Instead of shooting at the usual targets, video targets were now ‘displayed’ on the playfield. This led to some very cool effects, as instead of just hitting the lit arrow and getting a flash and sound effect, the target would now explode or do some other cool animation. New players in particular were really impressed with the new gameplay, while more traditional players weren’t as enthused by the new changes, feeling it wasn’t ‘real’ pinball. Operators really liked it though because the games brought in more money that the previous games Williams had released, plus had a lot of things that made operating easier like swappable playfields and in depth diagnostics.
The general consensus on RFM (acronym for Revenge from Mars) is that it was a great initial game for the Pinball 2000 platform but as good of a game as some of Williams earlier efforts (at least in the eyes of pinball fans). New players really liked the video integration though. If you check out the game at the Internation pinball database here:
You’ll see a lot more pictures and information about the game, including a bunch of user reviews.
Star Wars Episode One, the second Pinball 2000 game
The second game developed for the Pinball 2000 platform was Star Wars Episode One. It came out in June of 1999, hoping to ride the wave of Star Wars Mania that was sweeping the nation at that time. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t quite meet expectations and neither did the game, as a result. Williams was hoping that after they sold more than 6800 Revenge from Mars, they could sell even more Star Wars. The combination though of the movie not being great plus a price increase caused a lot of people to cancel their orders, leading to a production that was significantly less than Revenge from Mars.
Star Wars was made to cater more to the beginner crowd, which led to a lot of veteran players being disappointed with the game. In fact, if you read the reviews at http://www.ipdb.org you’ll see that the reviews are mainly negative on the game compared to Revenge from Mars. I personally find the game decently fun but it does seem like you shoot up the middle a lot. I like the neon light saber on the right side, I think that was a really nice touch on the game.
Pinball 2000 now
After Williams closed the pinball division in late 1999, no new Pinball 2000 games were ever released. One of the biggest disappointments people had about that was that the third game, Wizard Blocks, was never released. There are pictures and video of the game circulating around the web, this video on youtube shows Wizard Blocks:
It was supposed to be the first game that really took the technology to the next level, so it’s unfortunate that it never made it to production.
One of the biggest issues that Pinball 2000 owners had was that if the computer in the game went bad, there were no longer replacements because it was PC based rather than the normal custom board. This was solved for a while when a product called Nucore came out, it allowed owners with broken computer boards to get their games back up and running. Production of Nucore was suspend though and has not resumed as far as I know.
Buying a Pinball 2000 machine
If you’re going to buy a Pinball 2000 machine, the biggest thing to watch out for is to make sure that the game works (basically that the computer is good) and that the monitor is good. There are replacements for the monitor now that are LCD based, but the computer can be harder to find or repair. The prices aren’t too bad for the games, traditional collectors haven’t really gone of them. Star Wars Episode One swappable playfields are even available occasionally so you can have two games (if you swap them) and only need one cabinet.
Hopefully this has been helpful for those of you looking for Pinball 2000 information. If you have any questions, please email or check out some of the links I gave in the article. Tilt! the battle to save pinball is also a good documentary if you really want the whole story. I bought the film and really enjoyed it.