Pinball Magazine caused a stir when the first edition of the new 112 page high-quality glossy was published in August 2012.

Since then, an even larger second edition has been produced, a third is well on the way towards release, while Editor and Publisher Jonathan Joosten is also working on publishing a coffee-table book of artistic pinball photographs.

Interview by John Greatwich

Jonathan Joosten

Name: Jonathan Joosten

Editor and Publisher of Pinball Magazine, based in Utrecht in The Netherlands.

Age: 42

When did you first play pinball?
If I recall correctly it was at some sort of family reunion which was held in a bar where they had a pinball machine. I was just a kid then. I liked the game and started to notice pinball machines in more locations. Since then I always asked for a pinball machine for my birthday.

Where are your favorite places to play pinball?
It depends. I have games at home, but don’t play them that often. I like to play games that I don’t know at shows.

What types of pinball machines do you own (EM, solid-state, DMD)?
I own EMs, solid-state games and DMD games. In my home I only have DMD games. The EM games I like to sell as I’m not very good at fixing them. I do enjoy the early solid-state games, but just have none set up. They’re in a storage with the EM games.

How many do you own now, and what are some of your favorites?
In total I have about 30 I think. My favorites are the games with humor and not too difficult to understand. I like Scared Stiff, Medieval Madness and Big Bang Bar.

Do you still have any local commercial locations to play pinball?
There are a few games available on location in my city.

Are there any restrictions on operating or playing pinball in your area?
I think there’s a limit of a maximum of two games per location, but no other restrictions I know of.

Which shows do you attend?
This year will hopefully a little busier. I intend to attend Pinball Expo, South Coast Slam (UK), Festi'Flip (France), the European Pinball Championships, Dutch Pinball Open, Dutch Pinball Masters, the UK Pinball Party (if there will be one this year), the German Pinball Championships is on my list and some other shows. My handicap is that I DJ in clubs, so attending a pinball show usually costs me money as I should be working.

We are seeing more pinball machines being developed by small companies other than Stern Pinball. What is your opinion on this new interest in the game?
I think it’s great and about time. New talent will help the game to evolve and it sort of forced Stern to up their game. Pinball can only benefit from that, although I don’t like the way the prices increased.

The only thing I don't understand is why every boutique company seems to develop their own hard- and software. It would be so much easier for everybody if one or two companies would simply provide basic pinball hard- and/or software, so that not everybody has to invent the wheel themselves. Now you may have a great game designer somewhere who doesn't know how to program or understand electronics. someone like that could get a lot further when some basic tools would be around. This may actually be an interesting market for Multimorphic or Spooky Pinball. The same goes for manufacturing. Why build a factory of your own if you can source out the assembly of your games? The 'fabless' model suggested by Randy Perlow looks very interesting to me.

Where would you like to see the pinball machine technology go in the future?
I hope to see creative use of current technologies that aren’t used in pinball yet. I think it will become easier to program certain aspects of the game, like lightshows, by using new techniques. The Dutch Pinball guys discovered a technique to program lightshows three years ago. It took JJP 2 years to catch up on that, but they did.

The new talent isn’t stuck in old software developing tools like some of the current programmers. They think differently. They want to realise something and bring in software that wasn’t used for pinball so far, but it helps them to achieve what they're after in a faster way. I think that’s great.

Do you like mods for pinball machines?
It depends on the mod. Some are great, others I don’t care for that much. I only did a few minor things on my own pins.

How do you like new lighting technology?
I wasn’t a fan of LEDs in pinball as they often blind me. Now that they are being used in software to indicate modes, like on Star Trek and such, I appreciate it more.

What do you think the cost per play of new pins should be?
If it’s more than €1 per game I’m out. I think 50 cents per game would be best.

What annoys you the most about pinball on location?
Poor maintenance, sound turned off, stuff being broken.

How can we get more new people interested in playing pinball?
By making the game easy to understand, difficult to master, fun and challenging. If other people see people playing pinball are having fun, they will want to play as well.

I think it would also help if launch parties for new games would not be held at pinball locations, but more at locations that fit the theme. I don't want to beat on my own drum, but when I organized a launch party for The Rolling Stones we went to the most well known rock cafe in the country. We had posters of the translite with just a date and a venue. People thought the Stones were doing a show, and that even made the newspaper. I don't recall any of the other rock band themed games were launched at Hard Rock Cafés, or similar locations, while that should actually generate interest outside the inner pinball circle. The pinball enthusiasts will show up anyway, so why not?

It's also very surprising to see that huge shows are being held, while the neighbors have no clue what's going on. With a bit of PR a lot more people could show up. It's a good thing that pinball seems to do very well at shows that focus on more than just pinball. That's also a good way to bring pinball back to peoples attention.

Do you think we need to return to simpler and easier to understand pinballs?
Those are two different things, but I would applaud it. On location nobody cares about a deep ruleset. A game has to be entertaining from the start and people have to understand what they are doing, that they are achieving certain objectives.

Stern seems to have a patent on starting multiballs where I really don’t know what I did to achieve it. That’s not good. That indicates the game isn’t telling me what I did, or what I should do. Half the time I don’t know the characters from these licenses anyway, so that may explain why I don’t get it, but there are plenty of examples of games where some of the objectives are easy to understand. Still beats me why they can’t get it right, when the wheel already has been invented.

How do you think pinball manufacturers can make a more playable and friendly game?
I don’t think a game has to be friendly. Personally I think it’s more challenging to play a game that doesn’t have countless 30 second ball savers on every multiball. That kills all the fun for me.

Personally I think a game like Harlem Globetrotters is a great example. On the right the’re are four inline drop targets. Behind them is a 50,000 points kickout hole. Anybody understand the objective: knock down the targets and get to the kickout hole. No ball saves. On every ball the targets reset, so you have to do it all in one ball. I think that’s a great feature.

On Fathom it was even further improved. You lock a ball, targets come up. In order to release the locked ball you have to knock down the targets. Easy to understand, but rather difficult to do. That’s what makes a game fun to me. It doesn’t mean we have to go back to simpler playfields, but it would help if the player would instantly understand what he has to do.

How annoyed do you get with missing balls or hang-ups on games?
Not at all. It’s part of the game, although often the fault of poor maintenance.

Do you think pinball manufacturers should get smart and kick out another ball quickly if there is a ball missing or not scoring?
I think they are trying to do that, but with all the rush to push games out maybe that’s an overlooked element on some games? It would benefit pinball in general if a game would be ‘intelligent’ or ‘smart’ and report on stuff like that. Pushing out a new ball isn’t always the solution to the problem.

How do you rank yourself as a player, and do you play in tournaments?
I’m average at best, but I do have my moments. I only play in tournaments if I have had plenty of sleep. Otherwise there’s just no point.

The cost of new pinball ownership has increased greatly over the last few years. Does this stop you from buying new machines?
In all honesty there haven’t been that many games coming out that I would have bought. I did buy a new Big Bang Bar which was my first new game purchase. Since then, I’ve seen so many people disappointed about buying a new game unseen just because of the theme, that I want to play it first.

I do think that The Big Lebowski is very interesting on multiple levels, so that might be the next purchase. But I still want to play it first.

With the introduction of new technology, do you think pinball machines have become easier to service and more reliable?
It could be, but it shouldn’t take away the players experience.

Marsaplay made this New Canasta game that had no mechanical switches. Instead it had sensors in the playfield. They won’t break, but as a player I didn’t understand when I hit a target, or why I was awarded points. So the technique is good, but it made the game more confusing to me. That could easily be solved, but it’s disturbing they didn’t notice that themselves.

Soon new games will have wi-fi and send a text message or an email to the operator about possible malfunctions, earnings, or other data. That could be a good thing, but we’ll have to see how that will be implemented.

Pinballs machines are heavy objects to move around. Do you think they need to be lighter?
I think they do need a certain mass to avoid them being tilted all the time. It would be great if they could be lighter, but not at all costs. You could use a metal cabinet, which may be lighter, but if it becomes twice as loud I doubt that is desirable.

How do you like the warranty offered for new pinball machines and parts?
I’m not well enough informed on that to comment.

Does traditional mechanical pinball need more radical changes?
I don’t think being radical has to be the objective. The objective has to be to create a great and fun game. That can be done by creative mechanical engineering, like we’ve seen in the past. That could even be done by eliminating some of the mechanical action.

Some of the new technologies are mind blowing, but they haven’t resulted in fun games yet. That doesn’t mean we have to go back in time. We just have to figure out what we can do and how to make it fun. Nobody will buy a game just because it uses a new, or old, technology. You buy it because it’s fun, or because it makes you money on location.

Any other thoughts?
In general I think it would help pinball if more people would know about how and why some games turned out to be like they did. This is one of the reasons I am doing Pinball Magazine.

I think Roger Sharpe’s insights, which were published in Pinball Magazine No. 1, could help a lot of operators and pinball in general.

The lack of passion for pinball with some of the people working in the industry is probably killing it. Hopefully new talent will step up, take the ball and run with it to new heights.

Tell us a little about your publication.
Pinball Magazine, an in-depth, glossy, printed magazine that focuses on the people that made/make pinball possible. According to many the name is not correct as the magazine is more like a book. The aim is to do two Issues of Pinball Magazine per year.

Besides that I also publish new books on pinball. Pinball, a beautiful photobook by Argentinian photographer Santiago Ciuffo is coming up next month. The book will be available in 12 different languages. Pinball Magazine No. 3 is also in the works. That will have a cover story on the career of artist/designer Python Anghelo.

How do you promote your products?
Via, Facebook, Twitter, a free newsletter, various pinball forums, by distributing brochures, flyers, postcards and other printed material at pinball shows, and by doing interviews with websites that report on new developments in pinball.

Thanks for your time Jonathan.

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