Virtual Pinball Used To Be Awesome

Alex Rowe
5 min readFeb 26, 2024
AI artwork generated by DALL-E 3 from a prompt written by the author. All words below are hand crafted real human words.

If you go back ten years, the video game pinball space was thriving. Pinball FX 2 was riding high off the back of its original tables and different major IP licenses, and The Pinball Arcade brought elaborate recreations of iconic real pinball tables into the home without the multi-thousand dollar cost of owning real machines.

Zen Studios, with their FX series, emerged as the market sales leader, and refreshed Pinball FX 2 as FX 3 for new platforms in 2017. In a shocking move of consumer friendliness, they allowed existing players to carry all of their previously purchased DLC forward. Their lightweight engine made for an awesome Nintendo Switch/mobile version, and also an impressive conversion to VR headsets with new heights of immersion thanks to realistically-scaled tables and enhanced environmental areas and effects.

But then, as sales success in the gaming industry so often does, the money made a mess of things.

Zen decided to go for it, and they snatched the license to the classic Williams library of real tables away from their competitors at The Pinball Arcade/ FarSight Studios. This greatly tipped the balance that had formed around the virtual pinball game space, putting most of the popular eggs into Zen’s basket, giving them free reign over not only all their neat licensed tables but also the most popular classic machines…