Spooky Pinball is an independent of boutique pinball manufacturer that was started by Charlie Emery and his family. Charlie is best known for his Spooky Pinball Podcast which covers pinball news and info and has interviews with people from the pinball industry.
Spooky is manufacturing and selling its first pinball machine – America’s Most Haunted. This pinball was designed and programmed by electronic wiz Ben Heck. The theme is a parody of ghost hunting tv shows. The game is filled with Ben and Charlie’s style of humor and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
When the art was released before production, there were complaints about the translite having a photo image and complaints about the side art. Charlie and Ben responded by changing the translite image and offering alternate art.
At the same time Ben Heck was working on America’s Most Haunted, Charlie was working on a game of his own called Pinball Zombies from Beyond the Grave. This game was shown in a very early form and received good reviews for a unique layout and gameplay and not so good reviews for the artwork.
Ben and Charlie have made it clear in online posts and podcasts that they believe the slow sales of America’s Most Haunted (100 of 150 sold so far) are due to the fact that it is an unlicensed theme. This is in spite of the fact that collectors at least say that they are clamoring for unlicensed themes and that they are tired of every Stern being a licensed theme. Charlie and Ben point out that the licensed theme brings a recognizable story and characters and a pre-existing fan base wanting to purchase and play the machines.
Over the past few weeks, Charlie and Ben have revealed that the second machine from Spooky Pinball will be a licensed theme on the platform that was intended to be Pinball Zombies from Beyond the Grave. Ben has also recently revealed that the artwork will be done by a well-known pinball artist who is highly regarded in the industry.
On one hand, it is exciting to see that Spooky is moving forward and confident about making sales of a second machine. At the same time, it feels like this result is a real blow to the idea that small pinball manufacturers can successfully make unlicensed machines.
There are five more unlicensed machines on the way – Full Throttle from Heighway pinball, the unlicensed Pat Lawlor game from Jersey Jack, Magic Girl and Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland from Zidware and Lexy Lightspeed from Multimorphic.
It will be interesting to see whether the sales of these machines prove Spooky’s belief that you need a license to move games or prove that an unlicensed machine can have strong sales.