A very interesting and insightful article about pinball machines and the economic drivers that led to their demise.
In 1980, pinball went digital, multi-ball, and multi-media starting with the game Black Knight. Black Knight brought pinball to a new level, literally speaking because it was among the first games with ramps and elevated flippers, but even more importantly because it brought a new challenge that drew in and solidified a pinball crowd. In doing so it also set the pinball market on a path that would eventually lead to its demise.
The article goes on to describe how the algorithms of the machines and the physical limitations of the machines themselves became the barrier to entry for new players, while at the same time video games were on the rise and they gave its users the ability to practice at the lower levels and get better as they advanced.
Every year I go to the Pinball Wizards Convention in Allentown, PA and marvel at the enthusiasm of the people playing the pinball machines, as well as the “chewing gum and paperclip” appearance of how the machines are wired and constructed. The irony is that the advanced (for the time) calculations and logic baked into these machines (not to mention the artwork and design that made up the visual and physical presentation of the machines themselves…there was one guy who said he spent over 500 hours drawing a design for a game!) may have done more damage than good.