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ARCADE EXPO 2017

Last year we paid our first visit to the Museum of Pinball in Banning, California, for the second ever Arcade Expo show. This year we are back for Arcade Expo 3.0 which has moved from the usual January slot to the busier show season of March.

Once again, the Arcade Expo venue was the Museum of Pinball, at 700 South Hathaway in the semi-desert landscape at the base of snow-capped hills south of Banning.

The setting for the Arcade Expo show
The setting for the Arcade Expo show

The Museum of Pinball is sited in its own compound, consisting of the main museum building and numerous satellite storage units.

The Museum of Pinball building
The Museum of Pinball compound

The Museum of Pinball building
The main Museum of Pinball building

There was plenty of parking on site, both at the front of the building and elsewhere on the compound, while street parking was also an option.

Parking at the front of the building
Parking at the front of the building

Meanwhile for the adventurous, RV parking and camping was available a short distance from the main Museum building.

The campgrounds
The campgrounds

We arrived on Friday afternoon when the Arcade Expo show opened to the public. Although it was reasonably busy then, Saturday was when the most visitors arrived.

The queue for admission on Saturday
The queue for admission on Saturday

Entry cost $45 per day for the shorter Friday (2:30pm-midnight) and Sunday (11am – 7pm) sessions, or $55 for Saturday’s full day (11am – 2am). Children’s passes were priced at $20 a day, while a 3-day pass costs $120 for adults or $55 for kids aged three to twelve.

Even before visitors got into the Museum building there was plenty to see in the forecourt, from food trucks to beer and ice cream tents and vendor stalls.

Mexican food from this food truck
Mexican food from this food truck

Ice cream, drinks, burgers, hot dogs and more from these food vendors
Ice cream, drinks, burgers, hot dogs and more from these food vendors

Crepes and grilled cheese sandwiches available here
Crepes and grilled cheese sandwiches available here

Outdoor seating proved very popular with the great weather
Outdoor seating proved very popular thanks to the great weather

Local brewer, Brew Rebellion, had a stand here too
Local brewer, Brew Rebellion, had a stand here too

Mexican ice creams and sorbets were also available on Saturday
Mexican ice creams and sorbets were also available on Saturday

A little further along we have more stalls and some shooting games.

Rifle games in a side building
Rifle games in a side building

Gun games
Gun games

Into the vendor area
Into the vendor area

The biggest vendor by far was Marco Specialties who were showcasing the latest Stern Pinball games and also had a special guest.

Three Batman 66 premium models
Three Batman 66 premium models

A Pabst Can Crusher, three Ghostbusters, a Kiss and a Metallica
A Pabst Can Crusher, three Ghostbusters, a Kiss and a Metallica

Two Aerosmiths, another Pabst Can Crusher and another Metallica
Two Aerosmiths, another Pabst Can Crusher and another Metallica

Many of the Stern Pinball games featured artwork by ‘Dirty’ Donny Gillies, and the man himself was here at the show to meet guests and autograph various pinball items.

'Dirty' Donny Gillies with some of his artwork
‘Dirty’ Donny Gillies with some of his artwork

In addition to Donny and the latest games, Marco also had a selection of pinball spares on sale with their usual offer of free continental US shipping on orders made at the show.

The Marco Specialties parts stand
The Marco Specialties parts stand

Sharing the tent with Marco were Captain’s Auctions who had a stand of their own.

The Captain's Auctions stand
The Captain’s Auctions stand

Outside the tent, the David Trotter was stoking interest in his Launch the Ball movie venture and looking to raise the necessary funds from investors.

David Trotter on the Launch the Ball stand
David Trotter on the Launch the Ball stand

In the tent next door, more arcade vendors had their stands set up to sell assorted video game systems and trinkets.

Video game items for sale
Video game items for sale

Video game items for sale
Video game items for sale

Video game items for sale
Video game items for sale

Also set up outside was a small music stage where bands and lone performers entertained guests to the show. Some acts were more annoying than enjoyable, but some talented musicians also played here with the music resonating around the compound.

Earlier in the day we had live singing to a pre-recorded backing track
Earlier in the day we had live singing to a pre-recorded backing track

The audience was small but enthusiastic
The audience was small but enthusiastic

In addition to the food and drinks vendors we saw earlier, there was also a side window where visitors could purchase items from the cafeteria inside the main building without having to leave the glorious sunshine.

More drinks and snacks
More drinks and snacks

Inside the cafeteria
Inside the cafeteria

Inside the cafeteria
Inside the cafeteria

Just outside the cafeteria, at the entrance to the main building – was a large canvas where visitors were encouraged to leave their mark.

Sign you name or leave your message
Sign you name or leave your message

And so we come to the main part of the Arcade Expo show – the games halls. We say ‘halls’ because the building is split in two, with pinball machines on the left as we enter and video games on the right.

The main Museum sign
The main Museum sign

To the pinballs on the left
To the pinballs on the left

To the videos on the right
To the videos on the right

Before we get to either of those though, there’s the Museum’s gift shop.

Get your Museum of Pinball souvenirs here
Get your Museum of Pinball souvenirs here

Arcade Expo T-shirts
Arcade Expo T-shirts

Assorted gamer swag
Assorted gamer swag

Assorted gamer swag
Assorted Pac-Man swag

Entering the main pinball hall, we have a jaw-dropping array of machines ranging from the early electromechanical to the newest LCD screen models, arranged in rows which disappear into the distance.

The central rows in the pinball hall
The central rows in the pinball hall Click to expand

The hall is divided into sections dedicated to the various manufacturers. The Data East/Sega line is the first visitors get to see.

The Data East row
The Data East row

The Data East row
The Data East row

Part of the Williams row
Part of the Williams row

More Williams games
More Williams games

Part of the Bally section
Part of the Bally section

More Bally and Williams games
More Bally and Williams games

Some of the modern Stern games
Some of the modern Stern games

There is also a comprehensive selection of Stern Electronics games
There is also a comprehensive selection of Stern Electronics games

Some of the electronic Gottlieb games
Some of the electronic Gottlieb games

More Gottliebs in the foreground and Sterns in the background
More Gottliebs in the foreground and Sterns in the background

More Gottlieb games
More Gottlieb games

There is also a dedicated area for Bally electromechanical games, with one row of wedgeheads and another of Gottlieb EMs.

Looking from the Williams solid state games to the Bally EM area
Looking from the Williams solid state games to the Bally EM area

Part of the Bally electromechanical games section
Part of the Bally electromechanical games section

Bally games, with part of the row of wedgeheads behind
Bally games, with part of the row of wedgeheads behind

More Bally EM games
More Bally EM games

More Bally EM games
More Bally EM games

Two Bally Freedoms - one early production or prototype and one regular game
Two Bally Freedoms – one early production or prototype and one regular game

The original bottom of the playfield
The original bottom of the playfield

The main production version
The main production version

Keeping all these games up and running takes a veritable army of hard-working tech volunteers. They were easily identified by their distinctive red T-shirts.

Another game gets urgent attention
Another game gets urgent attention

Sometimes you need a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth...
Sometimes you need a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth…

More Ballys and wedgeheads
More Ballys and wedgeheads

Gottlieb EM games
Gottlieb EM games

Even the seats are pinball-themed
Even the seats are pinball-themed

Elsewhere around the pinball hall, various clusters of games are grouped together by manufacturer or according to another common theme.

Three Capcom games with an Alvin G added to the mix
Three Capcom games with an Alvin G added to the mix

This room uses black lights to showcase UV-reactive properties
This room uses black lights to showcase UV-reactive properties

More UV effects
More UV effects

In the very back corner of the pinball hall is an area dedicated to tournament play. This weekend there were various pinball tournaments – both IFPA-accredited and not – contested in the area.

The tournament area on Friday
The tournament area on Friday

The tournament area on Friday
The tournament area on Friday

During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday
During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday

During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday
During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday

During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday
During the Three-Strikes tournament on Saturday

Trophies for the Split-Flipper and One -Handed tournaments
Trophies for the Split-Flipper and One -Handed tournaments

There were also two side rooms – one with games just for the younger visitors, and another lounge with table-top games and a ball bowler.

The kids games room
The kids games room

The table-top lounge area
The table-top lounge area

Here’s our exclusive Thirty Minute Tour video of the show. This skips the video games hall – we have a separate video of that – but covers everything else, including the stands outside and in the vendor area.

The video game hall there were hundreds of arcade games including all the classics and many rarer titles.

You can see them all in this Fifteen Minute Tour of the video game hall.

There were also a few physical pinballs to be found in the video hall, including three on the Pinball Arcade stand and another at the American Outreach Foundation.

The Pinball Arcade stand
The Pinball Arcade stand

The American Outrach stand
The American Outreach stand

Starship Fantasy also had a large stand filled with their regular assortment of pinball plastics, ramps, backglasses and playfields. You can see all they had in our video above.

On Saturday there were two more events of note.

In the Trading Card Hall of Fame, Walter Day and Billy Mitchell were hosting several talks and Q&A sessions, as well as unveiling the latest trading card subjects.

Billy Mitchell answers questions from the audience
Billy Mitchell answers questions from the audience

Walter and Billy introduce the latest people to be commemorated on a trading card
Walter and Billy introduce the latest people to be commemorated on a trading card

Then, on Saturday evening there was a special VIP meal to unveil Tim Moyers latest restoration. After last year’s Getaway, Tim returned to Arcade Expo with a Frontier. It was revealed at a party in the Beer Revolution taproom in Banning.

Beer Revolution in Banning
Beer Revolution in Banning

The unveiling party
The unveiling party

Entry to the VIP party cost $40 per head and included free drinks and food.

Inside, five pinballs were set up; Frontier, Ghostbusters, NASCAR, Big Buck Hunter and Iron Man. Frontier was on free play, but the others were coin-operated.

Frontier headed the line-up of five machines
Frontier headed the line-up of five machines

The star of the show
The star of the show

Tim with his Frontier
Tim with his Frontier

Once everyone had had the chance to try the game, food was served on the patio.

Chicken supreme, lasagne and rigatoni was served outside
Chicken supreme, lasagne and rigatoni was served outside

The evening ended with live music
The evening ended with live music

And that brings us to the end of our coverage of this year’s Arcade Expo show.

The Museum of Pinball has an amazing and unrivalled collection of pinball and video games, and gives the perfect basis for a large show such as Arcade Expo. The space available both inside and out means plenty of machine, parts, collectibles, food and drink vendors can be accommodated. This year’s hot sunny weather was especially helpful in getting guests to explore all corners of the compound.

The Museum’s remote location can’t be ignored though, and the distance from the Los Angeles metropolitan area (combined with the lane closures on the main freeway) must act to deter the more casual attendees, as did the price of entry.

$55 per person for Saturday appears high but is actually pretty good value when you consider the number and range of both pinball and video games available to play from 11am until 2am. It is, though, probably high enough to deter any families with only a casual interest in arcade games. Not that that seemed to affect numbers too much, especially on Saturday – the busiest of the thee days.

We would like to see more seminars from local pinheads. Last year’s Archer talk was a unique feature of this show, and there are surely plenty of local collectors and developers who would be willing to share details of their work.

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