I liked this interview. Gary Stern offered some deeper insight the longer he spoke off the cuff, especially about the business side of pinball and its future. And I mostly agree with him on everything.
Unfortunately, I think he and his fellow executives are missing some key opportunities, especially in "my" age group, and especially among men, to push pinball to the front of a rec-room "wish list". But in order to get these visions met he is going to have to leverage his suppliers, which tend to be smaller, and Stern is going to have to raise its corporate profile, which I don't think it does very well.
The opportunities are mostly in the affiliated markets he mentioned. He has a Harley, he was in Florida with his Harley, and he loves pinball. He probably wasn't the only one in his crowd with similar tastes and interests. So at all Harley shows there should be a corporate-sponsored Stern pinball tent (or a co-marketing with a smaller local vendor like Curly). At Barrett-Jackson, for example, there is almost always one vendor who shells out big bucks to showcase a few new and used pinballs, and he usually sells out. To those car show visitors, that vendor is the only pinball supplier on earth, and his prices are usually high (probably to cover his huge vendor fee).
Getting the "younger people interested" is more about availability, approachability and - let's face it - age-appropriateness. You cannot call Whoa Nellie and the Pabst Blue Ribbon game age-appropriate for kids, but the layouts are certainly kid-friendly. And even the cheapest "Pro" model these days is a hefty investment for any family, which puts pinball on an unnecessarily high shelf. So, just as in the old Sears days and Zizzle days, someone tries to come out with an econo-model to get folks interested in pinball, but cheaper games tend not to be durable games and they get played to death, and that "pinball side" of people's brains goes back to sleep again. And when it finally wakes up and people buy a new game they get overwhelmed by the game's rules and complexity. And servicing it requires the kind of deep technical knowledge the Cell-phone Generation simply does not have.
If Stern wants to win customers, they have to move both forwards and backwards. The folks on this board would buy a game made of solid gold if it had a deep enough rule set. But Stern needs to "become Gottlieb" a little bit, too. They could recycle the same dependable mechanisms over and over and make some really compelling family-friendly games for not as much money. Car companies have built different models of cars on the same chassis. Pinball needs a similar "chassis". Unfortunately, the collector and enthusiast crowd is constantly yearning for newer, more eye-catching features while the real big action may be on the "other side of the market".
I'm going to listen to it again later. Thanks for sharing!