January 12

NEWS : WHEN PIGS FLEW : THE STRANGE HISTORY OF CAPCOM’S BIG BANG BAR : POLYGON

I posted this story back in March of 2017 https://pinballsupernova.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/when-pigs-flew-the-strange-history-of-capcoms-big-bang-bar-polygon/, but I thought it was worth posting again with some of the pictures I took of the game at Silver Ball Museum in Asbury Park NJ.  It seems like this game has some buzz recently with the rumored remake waiting in the wings. Great story written about the history of Capcom’s Big Bang Bar.  After the demise of Capcom and only releasing a limited number of the game, Gene Cunningham produced the game and sold it to 191 lucky buyers.  As a side note –  the end of the story talks about the writer of the story playing Big Bang Bar at Sunshine Laundromat in New York City.  That game has been recently sold and my friend was the purchaser of the game.  I have played the game at his home many times and it plays very well.

Listed below are some other links where you can here Clay Harrell (AKA SHAGGY) interview Gene Cunningham, Stan Fukoka, Mark Ritchie, and Jeff Powell about the story behind Big Bang Bar on his Topcast pinball podcast. Topcast, the best pinball podcast and Clay being the best interviewer with the greatest questions.  Definitely worth a listen.

TOPCAST Links :

Stan Fukoka (Artist for Big Bang Bar) :
http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_52.mp3

Mark Ritchie (Lead at Capcom) :
http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_49.mp3

Jeff Powell (Sound Engineer for Big Bang Bar) :
http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_43.mp3

Gene Cunningham (Producer of Big Bang Bar Remake)
http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_11.mp3


Pictures :


Story:

When I first heard the story, I thought it was an urban legend. Like Mikey’s stomach, infused with a deadly cocktail of Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola. Or Walt Disney’s frozen body awaiting a return to a perfect future world.

Always affable, nearly famous Todd Tuckey has a way of making anything sound like an urban legend when he talks. The owner of TNT Amusements achieved a sort of notoriety in Pennsylvania with his late-night, phlegmatic, never-ending ads for refurbished video game machines in the early 2000s. A fact he pointed out within minutes of getting on the phone with me.

I was working on a story about buying refurbed game machines and he was my source. After working through the particulars, Tuckey interrupted my wrap-up by asking if I wanted to hear a real story.

The tale he told, heard from the friend of a collector, was about a fabled pinball machine, a dream machine that was never manufactured, its design thought lost forever. But then in 2000, Tuckey said, a real estate magnate stumbled across a stash of design documents for the pinball table in the back of an old warehouse he had just purchased.

It was pure, blind luck, Tuckey said.

Lacking any experience in pinball, the story went, this guy who had never built a pinball machine, or any machine before, convinced a few hundred people to invest money in his attempt to recreate the pinball. And over the next five years, as hope for the machine faded and the money man disappeared, this collective of potential owners began to argue among themselves, buying and trading the rights to their owed machines.

They even had a shared motto about when they would see the machine or their money again: “When pigs fly.”

Then the inconceivable happened: Pigs flew. The machine, a collector’s item made from scattered parts and fueled by grit and dreams, was completed and shipped to the investors and was better than anyone imagined.

That was the story of Capcom’s Big Bang Bar pinball, or at least the one I heard that day back in 2007.

I later discovered that much of the yarn’s minutia was wrong. But it was not because its more unbelievable elements were crafted of pure fiction but rather because the drama and impossibility of the feat didn’t do the true story justice.

Big Bang Bar‘s creation is a story of pinball’s near death, of one man’s attempt to become a piece of pinball history, of bankruptcy, of obsession, of short-lived redemption and personal disaster.

CAPCOM COIN-OP

Big Bang Bar was as much, maybe more, a product of Chicago as it was Capcom’s creation. To understand why, you need to understand how Chicago became the bedrock upon which pinball was built.

Although pinball traces its distant ancestry back to France during the reign of Louis XIV and the 1871 patent of the plunger by a British inventor named Montague Redgrave in Cincinnati, Ohio, the game’s heart and soul is deeply rooted in Chicago’s 1830s rise as a Midwest metropolis.

By the end of 1932, there were more than 100 pinball manufacturers in the U.S., most of them in Chicago, firmly solidifying the Windy City as the home to pinball.

By the ’70s, pinball machines looked much like they do today with plungers, flippers, bumpers, digital displays and a host of solid-state electronics controlling it all. The decade was even home to two pinball films: 1975’s Tommy and 1979’s “Tilt.”

But it was the golden age of arcades in the mid-80s, awash in the “I want my MTV” generation of parachute pants-wearing, Jackson-loving, quarter-popping teens, which set the stage for pinball’s greatest rise and a stark collapse into near oblivion.

The pinball industry first rocketed to the heights of culture-shaping popularity in the ’80s. Then, with the opening of the ’90s, that success staggered and began to teeter on the precipice of a financial freefall. And it was then that Capcom decided to build a studio devoted to pinball machines.

A number of people with first-hand knowledge of those early Capcom Coin-Op days said they still weren’t entirely sure why the Japanese-based company decided to invest in pinball. Several people told Polygon they were contacted by the company back in the ’90s for advice, and all of those people — highly placed in the world of pinball design and creation — told the company it was a bad idea.

But Capcom did it anyway and its effort lasted just 18 months.

“The guy who convinced Capcom to get into the pinball business didn’t really know what they didn’t know,” said George Gomez, who is currently the vice president of game development at Stern Pinball, but who at the time was designing pinball machines at Williams. “They didn’t understand the business.”

The company first got involved in pinball through a Chicago game studio known as GameStar in 1994, but by the summer of 1995, Capcom took over the operation and used it to established Capcom Coin-Op in Chicago.

“They had decided in Japan to do this, probably looking at Data East’s success in pinball,” Stern Pinball head Gary Stern said. “They hired a lot of Williams’ people. Whether they were unsuccessful because of their own practices or because the market had blipped and they missed the high point, I don’t know.”

Capcom’s step into the pinball world was complicated by the fact that it headhunted a core group of people from Williams. And in retaliation, Gomez said, Williams “basically sued everybody.” That meant that Capcom, worried about falling afoul of the flow of lawsuits over even the most straightforward of pinball designs used at Williams, had to essentially reinvent everything from the flipper to the bumper. That slowed the development process of Capcom’s initial tables and made the costs go through the roof, Gomez said.

“They had to turn on the money faucet, and they were spending a lot of money before they were going to get anything back,” he said.

While an established company like Williams could afford a misstep or two, Capcom Coin-Op, hemorrhaging cash from the get-go, had to make sure every one of its tables were hits.

“But nobody gets it right 100 percent of the time,” Gomez said. “Capcom closing didn’t surprise me. I saw the games they were making and how they were struggling to sell them. I knew it was just a matter of time.”


Read the entire article listed below :
https://www.polygon.com/features/2017/3/21/14937540/history-of-big-bang-bar-pinball