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At CES, Stern Pinball flexes its bumpers and tries not to tilt

Pinball is in the middle of a somewhat surprising resurgence, as young people (those who didn’t necessarily grow up playing pinball) flock to arcades and dive bars across the world to try their hand. If you’ve ever been in a pinball room, you know that the most popular machines are often tied to media franchises, like Alien or Lord of the Rings.

Stern Pinball is riding the wave of the pinball revival to massive sales bumps — to the tune of 40 percent year-over-year growth in 2017 and 2016. Digital Trends caught up with Stern at CES in Las Vegas, where he spoke with Zach Sharpe, Stern’s director of marketing, who also happens to be the top competitive pinballer on Earth, per the International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA).

Stern specializes in making those licensed machines; at CES, it is showing off two Star Wars machines and one Guardians of the Galaxy rig. A full list of Stern machines can be found here.

“There are tournaments popping up all over the world, and there are 50,000 players ranked in the world, so I’ve only got one way to go, and that’s down,” Sharpe said with a laugh. Last year’s world championships were held in Denmark, and Stern has had a big hand in facilitating the pinball revolution, launching the Stern Pro Circuit, which offered more than $100,000 in total prize money over the course of 2017.

“You can find tournaments all over the world,” Sharpe said. “In fact, Portland (Oregon) has some of the most tournaments in the world. There’s [almost] a tournament every day out there!” Sharpe promises to play one-handed if he ever challenges the DT squad in a match.

Stern’s machines sell for anywhere between $5,500 and $9,500, but they don’t typically sell directly to consumers, so you’ll need to go through a distributor (or make some sort of Godfather offer) to get your hands on one personally. Want to try making your own pinball machine? That’s what Makerball is for, or you can even try your hand at making a two-player machine.

For more CES coverage, be sure to head to our official coverage page.

Update: We’ve fixed some errors regarding IFPA player rankings and Stern’s target sales markets. 

Nick Hastings
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick is a Portland native and a graduate of Saint Mary's College of California with a Bachelor's of Communication. Nick's…
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