Guide to Game Room Pinball Machines

Pinball is an arcade game in which the player must control one or more balls on a playing area set up inside a glass-covered cabinet, or “pinball machine.” A player must accumulate the most points possible in order to win. Since beating the best person you know is the finest part of playing pinball, most players prefer to play against their friends or family.

Aiming the ball towards predetermined targets will result in points for the player. While easier targets only net a player a few points, harder targets provide higher scores. The balls are collected in a drain that is situated just below the playing surface. When every ball has landed in the drain, the game is over.

3 Generations of Play

There had to be a more effective way to organize all the games given the variety available. The three generations play a role in this. Your search will be more focused if you are aware of the genre of games you like. The generation that created the game will have an impact on how the machine operates, the overall ruleset, and the game design.

Electro-Mechanical (EM) Machines

These will be your favorite games, full of nostalgic themes and imagery from your childhood. They were made until around 1978. They will be the oldest devices on the market, and they have already shown themselves to be incredibly durable.

While many of them are still operating today with little problems, they require regular maintenance to last a long time. The mechanical components of the older generation require more maintenance and are more likely to decay and malfunction if not taken care of.

A score motor and stepper units are used to drive the relay-based system that powers these machines.

The EM Machines are frequently collected since they are considered classics. The likelihood of seeing them being played in public locations is therefore low. An EM Machine might be ideal for you if you have the necessary mechanical skills and are prepared to pay a substantial amount of money up front.

Solid State (SS) Versions

With the explosion of electronic gaming, these pinball machines entered the market. Between 1975 and 1990 was when they were mostly produced. They have been computerized as an electronic system by utilizing microprocessors.

In other words, a screen equipped with technology is used to display the score. The SS Versions began to include more complex gameplay and rulesets in addition to animations and light design. They also came with more sound effects.

The older SS Versions do not always live as long, although being an improvement over the EM Machines. As it is not just a mechanical design, maintenance might be more difficult and electrical parts frequently need to be updated. They’ll still be fairly robust computers all things considered.

Dot Matrix Display (DMD) Machine 

Since the 1990s, DMD Machines have been the preferred pinball machine for serious gamers. Although many players still enjoy playing on vintage machines, they frequently spend more time on the newer, more interesting ones.

In the modern digital era, the score is still shown on a screen, but a video frequently plays while the game is being played. The modern sound effects and music, along with the increased lighting, make these machines particularly accessible in arcades today.

Things To Consider for Buying a Pinball Machine

TAXI pinball machine

There are many things to think about whether you want to buy a pinball machine for your business or your private game room. A pinball machine is an expensive purchase, so make sure you do your research before parting with your cash.

1. Set a Realistic Budget

How much do pinball machines cost is a common question. The response varies. You can save money by getting a used machine. There are numerous used pinball machines for sale for under $2,000 on the market. Pinball machines that are more valuable and desirable, however, can cost $10,000 or more when properly restored.

Meanwhile, the cost of new equipment is typically higher. Depending on the manufacturer and the equipment, they can cost between $5,000 and $9,000 per. Limited edition or deluxe versions of a conventional machine are occasionally released by manufacturers. These might come with additional features and are more collectable.

Include potential maintenance and restoration charges in your budget when purchasing a used machine, even one that is more affordable. Even while a pinball machine that costs less than $1,000 would seem like a good deal, repairs to get it operating could run up to another $1,000.

When purchasing new, you should plan on paying more up front but maybe saving money on maintenance in the long term. New machines are an excellent alternative for businesses or arcades because they need less repairs and have warranties.

2. Know Where to Purchase a Pinball Machine

You must consider the type of seller you should acquire your equipment from in addition to the price. Usually, two choices are available: 

  • From other private collectors
  • From distributors

Buying from Collectors

There is a sizable community of pinball collectors willing to assist you if you’re interested in getting started. There are numerous sizable pinball forums where collectors can connect and trade games.

On websites like eBay and Craigslist, other owners list their computers. On these websites, you might get a nice deal, but most collectors advise against using them because you frequently don’t know who you’re buying from. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the machine you are buying will arrive in the manner described in the advertisement.

Join the community and get to know other collectors in your neighborhood if you want to buy something from a collector. This is a fantastic method to get to know the seller. The majority of collectors are also delighted to allow you to examine the item before purchasing it.

In any case, the biggest drawback of purchasing from a private owner is that you never really know what you’re receiving. You are on your own to take care of any machine-related problems. If you’ve never owned a pinball machine before and this is your first one, you might find this very annoying.

Buying from a Distributor 

The cost of buying a pinball machine through a distributor may be higher, but there are various benefits:

  • High-quality repairs and refinishing of used equipment
  • Warranties for both new and used games
  • A larger range of options
  • Assistance in choosing the appropriate game for your home or place of business

Distributors are frequently chosen first by businesses and arcades. A distributor can provide numerous machines and has access to a large assortment of game titles. Additionally, they offer technological assistance.

Purchasing from a distributor offers quality assurance to someone looking to acquire a pinball machine for their home. Even on used machines, reputable merchants will always provide warranties. In addition, they repair and maintain the games they sell.

3. Understand the Different Types of Pinball Machines

Pinball machines in Flippermuseum

Pinball machines come in a variety of designs, including solid-state, electromechanical, and digital ones. The most widely used and economical are solid-state devices. But they can cost the most to maintain, particularly if you want a machine with a contemporary LCD.

Since they don’t need an AC converter, electromechanical pinball machines are less expensive than solid-state counterparts and simpler to maintain. Even if they are less expensive, you might have trouble finding one because electromechanical pinball machine production was stopped in the early 2000s.

Finally, digital pinball machines are the most sophisticated, but they are also the most expensive. If you intend to game frequently, you should expect higher electric bills because these devices’ LCD usage consumes more energy than the other versions.

4. Consider the Features

According to the model and maker, a pinball machine’s characteristics can change. A typical maxim is that a pinball machine’s price will increase with the number of features it offers.

The bells and whistles of a pinball game can make it simple to get lost. They were built in that manner, after all. When making your purchase, try to avoid becoming distracted by all of them. A model without a feature is preferable if you don’t see yourself using it. It will allow you to recoup a small amount of money.

5. Test the Machine

Although the majority of manufacturers do provide high-quality, long-lasting equipment, you should nevertheless give them a test drive before purchasing. Verify that gameplay is functioning properly and look for any errors or issues. Before accepting, play a quick round to avoid any major future hassles.

6. Be Sure to Have Enough Room

Remember to take the pinball machine’s size into account when adding one, whether it’s for your house or your place of business. You’d be surprised at how much room a pinball machine takes up.

Pinball machines appear smaller when viewed online or in settings like a warehouse. You might be shocked by how big they actually are once you get them to their destination. Most machines are roughly 70 inches, or little under six feet, tall, with dimensions of 32 inches broad by 52 inches deep. That would make it difficult to squeeze them through most interior doorways.

Furthermore, pinball machines often weigh 200 to 300 lbs. Consequently, moving them up or down stairs can be difficult. Make sure you have the right tools to move your machine more safely and easily.

Pinball machines must be level once they are set up in order to function properly. Therefore, you should also check that the location you’ve chosen for your machine is level and flat.

And lastly, pinball machines have a loud sound. The loudness can be changed on solid state machines but not on electromechanical ones. Decide on a location where excessive noise won’t be a problem.


Pinball devices are excellent for both recreational play and competitive play. When purchasing a pinball machine, there are a number of things to consider that can either make or ruin your enjoyment. Finding the finest device to meet your needs is all that matters.