I’d always thought it should happen, but Michael Shalhoub & Rian Gledson have made it happen. The first ever Sydney Pinball expo.
One town hall. Hundreds of pinballs on freeplay. And I was all out of gum…
Last weekend, pinball fans took over Petersham town hall, in Sydney. For two days there were pinballs to play, a competition to enter, parts & memorabilia to buy, a pinball auction and an official dinner.
It was hard to miss the expo – they’d positioned 2 pinball machines outside – on the footpath. Excellent way to attract attention. Once inside, the smiling ticket sellers were ready to answer your questions, or sell you one of Michael Shalhoub’s incredibly detailed “Compendium” pinball books.
Moving on, the foyer of the hall contained 6 pins in very good condition – all there as part of Z Ball’s pinball competition. Over the 2 days, competitors battled long & hard, with the eventual winner being VAD from Dubbo. He won a Jackbot pinball machine – great prize!
And then, you entered the main hall.
Looks pretty good, eh? Click on the above picture to zoom in.
As you can see, there were are 100 machines in the hall, covering most of pinball’s history. All were on “freeplay” mode. It was a great chance for pinball nutters (like J-OMG) to try the rarer titles, and less obsessed members of the public to have a bit of a bash. Sadly, many pins developed faults throughout the weekend, and there simply weren’t enough technicians to keep them all going. (Perhaps next time they could just turn off one “row” each half hour, fix them, and keep going?)
Whilst the centre of the hall was taken up by long rows of machines, the edges were inhabited by stalls. Moving around the edge of hall in the clockwise motion, there was Capital Pinball (ACT) exhibiting Attack from Mars, Medieval Madness & Cactus Canyon. These games were in great condition, & you don’t get many chances to play a CC these days!
Next up, was the AMD company, exhibiting their 60-in-1 cocktail, with a 21″ LCD screen. But that didn’t catch my attention. The pinball next to it did. Stern’s “24” – as you know I love the show, so I waited patiently for a turn. And… it’s great. Sadly, like most machines at the expo, the sound was turned down. It would have been fun to hear Chloe in action. Next to 24 was the newer NBA machine. I didn’t try it – but it seemed quite popular.
After the event, I caught up with Tom & Michael from AMD. I asked them whether the expo met their expectations..
1200 people through the door on Saturday was a good result, with a constant stream on pinball fans coming through right up till closing time. Sunday’s attendance wasn’t as impressive but the Pinball Auction seemed to move at good pace.
And what did people think of Stern’s latest titles?
Many ‘24’ fans were pleased to see the correlation between the Pinball and the TV Series. NBA was more popular – as it appeals to all pinball fans. We anticipated many enthusiasts to comment on the ‘basic’ playfield of the 2 latest Pinball machines from Stern, but only a handful made such criticism.
Improvements to be made?
We believe the level of advertising was adequate but hopefully next time the Auctioneer’s microphone will work! Also, a program of events for the two days of the expo.
Next to AMD’s display was Three Ball Wizard, selling an array of pinball-themed T-shirts. I asked the stall holders what was selling well… their “What Tilt??” shirt was moving fast, as was a cute “polaroid” style design of a row of pinballs, labelled “My first love…”
Moving around the room, we found Arcade+ exhibiting a number of the “new” home arcade machines. If the style of their upright cab below looks familiar, that might be because they supplied the official “Good Game” arcade unit for the ABCTV show. You’ll see a piece of paper cover the screen in the below photo – it was sold mid-afternoon on the Saturday.
Speaking of Good Game – they were at the expo, and I was lucky enough to have a good chat with reporter Tracey “Rei” Lien. She was filming an upcoming story – expect to see it soon. I also bumped into Steven “Bajo” O’Donnell, who was hoping to play a 1992 Data East Lethal Weapon 3. Sadly for Bajo – the machine was broken… I’d just tried the game myself. My hope to share a game with one of the GG team will just have to wait for now…
Moving to the right of stage, there were a number of stalls, including “Flipper Rescue” pinball restoration, and the AussiePinball.com.au forum. One stall – containing just one pinball, would be seen by many enthusiasts as one of the highlights of the show.
Coconut Island is a home-made pinball game. Christian Verryckt aka “Nuggy” has been working on this project for around 2 years. His rather complex game is controlled by a PC-based system he’s developed himself. All the playfield parts/layout/graphics are also Nuggy’s work, with the exception of the cabinet artwork, by well-known NZ arcade enthusiast “Spacies”.
Saturday afternoon, I caught up with Nuggy at the expo, & he was thrilled at the feedback so far. He said the game had been surprisingly bug free (besides a rare multiball issue) and the only thing that concerned him at that stage was the issue of “wear” on the playfield.
Next up, were a range of older pinballs, and some rarer items like a replica “Zoltan” (as featured in the Tom Hanks film Big) There was also a stall that appeared to be selling arcade PCBs, but they were very poorly displayed (ie just spilling out of cardboard boxes). If there were any great bargains there, I’m afraid I wasn’t game to touch them.
So – that was the room. What about the events?
Saturday night was the official dinner, and I’m told it was a great event. Michael Shalhoub, Rian Gledson & Tony (aka “Illawarra Steelers) spoke passionately about pinball, making special mention of the numerous Australian web forums that have helped grow the hobby in recent years.
Sunday’s auction was a bit “hit n miss” according to my sources. The auctioneer had terrible problems with the microphone, and families coming to enjoy the advertised “after 3pm game session” found that most of the pinballs had been sold & packed up. Aussie Arcade member FurballX collated all the auction results, and most prices seem low to average. There were around 100 bidders, with “high” results like a “thrashed” Addams Family for $4,000 to “low” results like an “amazing” Black Hole for $1,750.
NB: I’ve now added a post with the complete list of auction results – and more photos!
Of course, anyone involved in the arcade/pinball scene would know there had to be some controversy. This expo did not involve any of the big pinball companies in Melbourne. There are claims & counter-claims – and I don’t feel the need to explore them any further here.
I’d hope all these groups might be able to work together so that the 2010 expo is even better. The first Sydney pinball expo wasn’t perfect, but it did some things well, and for one weekend – pinball was BACK in town. Thanks to everyone who made this happen.