FAIR 2003
(F.E.R. Interazar 2003)

Inderman from Pinball Hispano reports from Madrid, Spain.

On the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of October the Spanish Recreational Fair (FER Interazar) for 2003 took place in the IFEMA in Madrid, Spain. The main manufacturers and companies related to recreation in Spain, as well as some representatives of foreign companies with a presence in the country were booked to appear.

As you might imagine, gaming machines dominated the fair. A multitude of stands featured smiling, attractive young ladies (in most cases without much knowledge of some of products made by the companies which they represented) contributed to give the event an extra visual interest, while they showed the latest new features of the Spanish games industry. Dealers made an effort to communicate the excellence of products of their company, the great benefits to the buyer and the success that will surely come if they were to invest in such-and-such machine. In short; a fair.

Throughout the fair you could find prize machines ready for the occasional visitor who wanted to stop and play them. The games did not cost any money but they did not pay any prizes either. Even so it was interesting to play, for example, the remake of 'Escalera-Tobogan', the game machine with which Recreativos Franco gained much popularity (not to mention money) but was made by another company, probably after acquiring the license. Or to have sensations similar to the game of pinball on one of the bingo machines that made us enter a bar or hall game so many times, thinking that there was pinball waiting for us, only to discover that the device did not have flippers. Or simply to kill the time playing some of the classic slot machines.

However, although the prize machine occupied most of the fair, the video games, billiards, touch screens, vending machines, attractions for children and redemption machines or cranes also had their place, as well as a good number of salesmen of spare parts, prizes, accessories, etc. for all of them. Particularly remarkable was the increasing presence of machines to access the Internet and to see the evolution of video games. It is no longer enough to mount a game in a generic cabinet, one that is inferior to domestic consoles; now it is necessary to make use of virtual reality, interactivity, multi-players and to give to a greater sensation of realism and other senses that attract the attention of the player and they offer new sensations to him.

There are some classics that they do not change though. For example, shooting games or the simulators of different vehicles with handlebars, steering wheels, cranks, handles, etc. But one thing seems clear: companies need to innovate or die. This evolution has been continuing for years, but it seems that it will continue while there are new features to offer to the public.

Close Encounters of the AACPerian* Kind

*AACP Stands for 'Asociación de Amigos y Coleccionistas de Pinball' that is 'Pinball Friends & Collectors Association', a group of pinball fans from Spain.

Aside from being a good opportunity to find out the new features in the recreational world, these fairs are wonderful occasions for meet other pinball fans. On this occasion I was the only AACP outside Madrid that dropped by the FER (as far as I know).
Once inside I had the pleasure of meeting with Toni (who, by the way, I remembered even less hair), Perimatón, with whom I have had occasion to share several pinball moments including the acquisition of my second machine, and I could meet the Turball friend, who had communicated with me in the pinball forums and by mail and even spoken sometimes by telephone, but who I did not know personally. In addition I could greet Angel, another fan who appears sporadically in the PH forum.

Toni, Turball and Perimaton; The AACP monopolizing machines

For a short time we enjoyed pinball conversations and comments about our flippers. In short, an interesting meeting. These things make a visit to a fair something much more pleasing and interesting.

Good, and what of pinball?

Not too much, we are not going to lie about it. We are now in the low part of the pinball cycle and the operators do not enjoy much the work needed to invest in pinballs, although it seems that this tendency is reversing. Now to see if Williams revives itself...

If you were to look for pinball you were forced to head for Commercial Cocamatic

As far as pinballs are concerned, the best place to go was the stand of Commercial Cocamatic. Being the official importers of Stern Pinball and as Stern Pinball the only active manufacturer of pinballs in the world, it is logical to think that if there were pinballs at the fair they had to be there. And indeed they were there. A pair of The Simpsons Pinball Party machines were accompanied by 10 of the last Stern game, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. A design of Steve Ritchie that delighted all those that approached that way.

Part of the machines that Commercial Cocamatic had arranged to play

In order to promote its machines, the very same Gary Stern had come this year and it was common to see him in the vicinity of stand. I had the opportunity to exchange some thoughts with him and to thank him for his work. I wanted to ask some questions to him about his next game launch, but he stayed quite tight-lipped and pointed me to the month of November, when it is anticipated that it will be publicly released , although he commented that on Internet they had begun to circulate rumours and that they guessed right on this occasion. Alerted by the message of Juaney in the PH forum, I asked him: "It will have something to do with ' The Lord of the Rings'?". He was limited to a smile and to comment: "Perhaps. A little patience." (Note: In the time it has taken to publish the article this news has become a little out of date! :P)

Who is that man next to Inderman? :)

The 12 machines were all set to free play and were working perfectly. In the case of some though, the person who installed them didn't take too much care to make them level and so some leaned towards right or the left. But apart from that detail, it was pleasant to play the machines. There was a shortage of flyers though. There were none for the SPP and I could only get one for the T3 with great difficulty. I had the opportunity to play several games on both and to draw some conclusions.

The Simpsons Pinball Party

Colourful and varied. The main thing with this machine is that I more or less have the same feeling as I did with 'Roller Coaster Tycoon', also from Stern and which was at the FER of the 2002. It is very showy but the great amalgamation of lights and colours on the playfield means that sometimes you do not know what to do with the ball, so you aim towards all the flashing lights that show where to shoot. That yes, the playfield is well designed and in just a short time you have an idea of what shots suit you most and those you really need to make (these last shots have the tendency to end up in the outhole or the outlanes).

'The Simpsons Pinball Party', one of the Stern games that
Cocamatic brought to the fair

5 flippers on the table, 2 of them on a mini upper playfield where they are used to lock the balls for multiball, a bank of 3 drop targets with some difficulty and closer to the drain, some ingenious toys, like the chimneys of the nuclear power station which act as bumpers or the door of the garage that, once struck, raised to reveal various prizes or modes, or Bart on his skateboard that moves on a small slide when the captive ball under the character is hit, and some others gave visual attractiveness to the game (I imagine that also they will cause a greater number of problems for the operators, but that's the price that there is to pay). If we added to it ramps and loops strategically placed, we will obtain an interesting pinball, whenever it is moderately well-taken care of.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Dark... it is the first impression this machine gives me when I look at it. The fantasia of colours that unfold on the SPP or ' Roller Coaster Tycoon' is completely reversed with the chromatic sobriety of a machine which is predominantly black, red and metallic. The design is by Steve Ritchie, but although is not one of the heroes of mine (his pessimistic article has contributed to that), he was the one designer that produced a DMD game that seemed most complete to me: 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'. Also he has other attractive games such as Terminator 2 (some consider rather poor), High Speed and High Speed 2, No Fear (here am I the one that dislikes it) and both the Black Knights (I ask myself if I would like the BK2000 so much without that impressive sound/music), among others.

'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' the current game (or not?) from the Stern factory.

Contrary to the SPP, the shots seem clear enough in this machine; the objectives are well defined and the machine guides the player towards the most interesting places, especially if you understand the English with which it speaks to you (a pity that the translations did not arrive at this point).
Toni commented to me that to him it seemed that the machine had an empty center of the playfield. To me that is something that does not concern me: Whatever obstacles we have near the drain, the easier it will be to lose the ball. At first sight this machine emphasizes the RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). It is a toy that has been built in the backbox of the pinball in which an oscillating tube shoots a type of Powerball (it seems to be made of soft and hollow plastic) towards 5 targets located on the opposed side of the toy. When activated, the machine gives a short time you so that you try to hit a target which changes every second or to hit all 5 targets. Aside from this there are a few more toys; the head of the Terminator and the Terminatrix, more like decorative elements than like participants in the progress of the game.

A 'Pseudo-Pinball'

Aside from pinballs of Commercial Cocamatic, there was another device that deserves to be mentioned prominently in this article. It is not pinball itself. It is a simulator of pinball. A cabinet with the shape of average table of pinball, without a backbox, with a 42" screen in the main part and a computer inside. Perhaps some of you you have already read an article on it. Tab Austria calls it 'Virtual Pinball'.

Virtual Pinball from TAB Austria. 42 inches of virtual pinball

When saying that it is pseudo-pinball I do not try to sound too contemptuous but it is not pinball. Pinball is pure physics (chaotic, but physical after all) whereas this is pure logic (quite illogical, like all computer science). It does not stop being a simulation. Showy and with many possibilities, but a simulation nothing else. They are not the same sensations. In fact they differ hugely.

What attracted the attention of Toni and me (it would be more precise to say that to Toni it caused enough repulsion) was the game that was being executed in this 'Virtual Pinball'. Very original it was not, no. Suffice to say that I do not know what Pat Lawlor will think of it (already you know that the USA people are very given to patents and to protect all their designs, inventions, etc). If you look for parallelisms between this virtual game and another real one already well known and recognized, you will find plenty. In short, I leave it to your of perceptive abilities.

That is everything?

Luckily no. There was one more pinball table in the Fair which went largely noticed. It was not packed with new technology, did not have piles of integrated circuits (in fact it does not have even one), was not a captivating new game to storm the market. Rather quite the opposite. It was a classic one with more years of life than I myself.

'Rey de Diamantes' (Petaco, 1967)

It was pleasant to see a machine that 'was so clean and conserved. Although I had the opportunity to play it, I preferred not to do it. I was concentrating on taking good pictures of it and speaking with its owner, which produced a great satisfaction to me, since I had spent a long time trying to get acquainted with him.

Eulogio Pingarrón next to his 'Rey de Diamantes' (Petaco, 1967)

For those who you do not know Eulogio Pingarrón, I will say to you that his hands have designed some of the most recognized spanish machines. I have the luck to have one of his designs: The 'Odin de Luxe' from Sonic/Segasa. Spanish manufacturers like Juegos Populares, Peyper, Sonic/Segasa and Petaco had the fortune to be able to count on his talent and skill. But in addition to this, Pingarrón is a veritable encyclopedia of pinball. His head is full of memories, references, images and knowledge of pinball, both Spanish and outside Spain. I had the fortune to be able to have one long conversation with him and to know some the details of the history of pinball in our country. Although I was satisfied with the visit to the FER until that moment, this meant that the trip was worth far more. But the time was flying and so it was time to go. I took leave of Mr. Pingarrón and with Perimaton and Angel I left the FER. For this year.


This report is a translation from the Spanish original found at the great Pinball Hispano web site.


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