ARCADE EXPO 2016
Date: 15th - 17th January, 2016
Twelve months ago the very first Arcade Expo was held at the new Museum of Pinball in Banning, near Palm Springs in California. One year later, we're at Arcade Expo 2.0 to experience it for ourselves and bring you all the details.
The Museum of Pinball is housed in a dedicated building on the outskirts of the city of Banning, which is around 90 minutes' drive east from Los Angeles.
It's fair to say it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Not quite the kind of place where the tumbleweed is your only companion, but...
But that relative remoteness means there plenty of space available, and with a collection the size of John Weeks', space is a definite requirement.
The regular entrance to the Museum is at the front of the property, but for Arcade Expo, ticket collection and registration payment took place at the back.
The show opened officially at 2pm on Friday 15th January, but we got in early to check out the collection. The games are split into two. On one side of the building are all the video games, and there are lots of these.
A number of vendor stands were set up around the perimeter, selling home consoles, cartridges, manuals, and assorted collectables.
The other, larger part of the building houses the pinball collection. And what a collection it is.
Two huge long rows of back-to-back machines run the length of the building, while on the left sit more rows of electromechanical games.
On the opposite side of the room to the EM rows were the two It Never Drains In Southern California (INDISC) tournaments - one for modern games, and one for the classics.
All the modern tournament machines were fitted with overhead cameras and large LCD displays for spectators. For those not able to attend, video of the games will be streamed.
In an adjacent area, qualifying for the Classics Tournament was underway.
In both the Modern and Classics Tournaments, the queues for each machine were managed by the Drains Tournament Manager software.
Although the show didn't open until 2pm, early qualifying for the tournaments was allowed for those who pre-registered. Once 2pm arrived, qualifying was open to everyone.
Arcade Expo is sufficiently large that even more space was needed for vendors, so they were accommodated outside and in a large tent.
Marco Specialties had a large stand selling parts and featuring a selection of the newest Stern Pinball machines.
Micro from High Class Pinballs also had space in the tent, as did Nifty LED.
The far end of the tent housed a selection of pinballs destined for the weekend's auction.
Saturday at Arcade Expo began at 10am, by which time a queue of eager visitors waited for the doors to open.
It wasn't long before many of the pinballs were occupied, although if you didn't mind which game, you'd always be able to find something to play.
It was too busy on Friday to see the games or the decoration properly, but at the back of the pinball hall is an 'adult's only' room, featuring games with a more grown-up theme or content such as Sexy Girl or The Sopranos. Also, since the room was lit by UV lamps, games with UV-reactive features were included. These were Big Bang Bar and Roller Derby.
Here's a full list of the 487 free play pinballs set up in the main building at Arcade Expo 2016.
In addition, a Premier Strikes and Spares was in the cocktail bar, while the Kids' Room had a Super Mario Bros. Mushroom World (not working) and there was a Baby Pac-Man in the video hall.
In the tent, Marco Specialties had six of the latest Stern pinballs on free play, making a grand total of 496 pinballs:
The tournament area had twelve machines for the Modern Tournament and seven for the Classics.
Finally, Project Pinball has two machines on their stand which were used for high score tournaments.
Those, at least, were the machines within the Arcade Expo compound. Those who were taking advantage of the camping facilities available had a few more to enjoy.
There had been a couple of seminars scheduled for Friday, but they were either lightly attended or didn't happen. However, at midday on Saturday there was a popular seminar with Keith and Randy Elwin where they talked about and demonstrated their Archer custom pinball.
The game is a work-in-progress with no artwork and only partial rules, but it was fully playable.
After answering questions about the game, Keith and Randy invited audience members to play it for themselves. Here's a video of the gameplay, and we also have an audio recording of the seminar below.
In the afternoon there was a dedication ceremony for the Walter Day Trading Card Museum which is also part of the Museum of Pinball.
Walter is an iconic figure in the video gaming world, setting up the Twin Galaxies world records site and producing trading cards to record and commemorate both achievements and the people involved in gaming of all kind.
A special area of the Museum has been set aside by owner John Weeks to display these trading cards.
Later, a special VIP dinner took place at the nearby The Haven restaurant. Along with the Italian-style food, Brew Rebellion were sampling their Infamous Ed Palmer lemon pale ale and John Paul Jones Chocolate Stout beers.
This event was to unveil a customised High Speed 2 - The Getaway machine, created by Tim Moyers.
The game features all new cabinet and backbox airbrushed artwork, sealed with an automotive clearcoat, new translite and speaker panel artwork, modified playfield and bottom arch artwork, customised playfield components, a custom ColorDMD, and a PinSound board with a redesigned sound package.
A high score competition was held on the game during the evening with prizes for the top scores of the night.
Then it was back to the Museum of Pinball for the remainder of the evening, which included a pinball-themed pub quiz and game playing until 2am.
Around lunchtime on Saturday we completed our video walk around the Arcade Expo show. Normally these would last eight, ten or maybe fifteen minutes to show you everything. Arcade Expo has so many machines, we present our Forty Minute Tour of the Museum of Pinball. Don't forget you can expand this to full frame and adjust the quality all the way up to 1080p.
The It Never Drains In Southern California (INDISC) tournament finals took place on Sunday. The Classic Tournament finals were held first thing Sunday morning so that they didn't delay the Modern Tournament finals later in the day.
Both tournaments had two divisions - A & B - with the top 16 in Classics and the top 24 in the Modern qualifying for the A division, and the next 8 in the B division subject to restrictions on world-class players being allowed to play in B.
Players could buy unlimited entries to try to get a good score on all 12 of the Modern or 7 of the Classic machines. Entries costs $5 each, 3 for $10, or 7 for $20. Scores on all machines were ranked with ranking points awarded for position. The best 6 scores in Modern and best 5 in Classics made up a player's total score.
After a series of 4-player, 3-game quarter-finals, semi-finals, and the final, the top four in the two Classics divisions were:
In the Modern Tournament, the B division finished pretty quickly with just eight players taking part. Here are the results:
The A division, however, continued beyond the show's closure at 8pm.
The final was between top qualifier Keith Elwin, second-placed qualifier Zach Sharpe, sixth-placed qualifier Jim Belsito, and eighth-placed qualifier Raymond Davidson.
The four-game final began on Torpedo Alley. Points were awarded for the finishing position in each game with 3 points for the winner, going down to 0 points for fourth place.
Keith got off to a great start with his first ball, scoring 9M and ending on 12.2M to win game 1. Jim was second on just shy of 2M, Raymond was third on 1.4M, while Zach was fourth on 748K.
Game two was on Rock and this time it was Raymond who had the upper hand, scoring more than 1.5M on his first ball.
Raymond ended up with 2.1M which gave him the win ahead of Keith's 1.7M, Jim's 1.3M, and Zach's 0.95M.
The third game was Twister on which Keith built up an early lead, scoring 2.45B by the end of his second ball.
He increased this to 2.58B with his third ball, but Jim was chasing him for the win. He got agonisingly close to winning too, ending on 2.45B and second place. Raymond had 1.67B for third, but Zach's run of bad luck continued, as he ended his game with just 160M.
So going into the last game, Keith had 8 points, Raymond and Jim both had 5 points and so could only tie with Keith if they won and he came last, while Zach had yet to score.
That last game of the final was played on Hoops. Zach began this time and put up a good first ball score of 1.6M. Keith played second and managed 874K, while Jim had a quick drain with just 86K on the board. Raymond in the player four seat scored 209K on his first ball.
Ball two changed everything. While Zach could only add a few points to his score, Keith took control of the game and boosted his score to 6.1M. Raymond improved markedly to stand on 1.8M after his second ball, while Jim jumped up to 920K.
Those positions held on ball three, with Keith in the lead on 7.7M, Raymond in second on 2.9M, Zach third on 2.3M and Jim fourth with his 1.57M.
Raymond's second place in the last game was enough to give him second place overall, while Jim was third and Zach fourth.
With the awards presented, Arcade Expo 2016 was officially over.
This was our first visit to the Museum of Pinball, and it's clear that a lot of organisational effort had gone into making it such an enjoyable event for everyone. There was a large team of volunteers, from the game repairers to the car park supervisors to the door checkers to the registration desk workers.
If the opportunity to play 500 pinballs and a huge selection of video games all in one location wasn't enough, the area outside enjoyed a festival atmosphere as food, drink and music was all being enjoyed in the winter sunshine and into the evening.
We'd happily return next year, and it will come as no surprise to find out the team, under Museum owner John Weeks, are already making plans for an even bigger event in 2017.
In the meantime, you can find out more about the Museum of Pinball and keep up with their upcoming events at their website.
© Pinball News 2016