Opinion: Sterns Stranger Things UV Approach Sets Another Precedent In Pinball

We live in strange times. Pinball machines new in box are getting more and more expensive, yet some would argue that the feature packed days of the WPC era are long gone. Of course, the fates of companies such as Bally, Williams, Data East and the like show that maybe a pinball with packed features at such a price is not sustainable.

We now live in a world where tiering of machines is common place. Stern stick to their tried and tested Pro, Premium and LE model, unless of course it’s a boutique pin. Then you can go a similar route but add some fancier names (think the difference between ordering a large coffee or a venti). Other manufacturers are on this bandwagon now too. Even JJP, lauded as the manufacturer that won’t “cheap out” on toys and features lost the elevator lock on the entry level Willy Wonka. Spooky had a BS edition of Rick and Morty, although you had to be a member of the fang club to order, there was still a variance in the models.

Stranger Things Pinball UV Light Kit

So what’s the problem with the Stranger Things UV Light Mod?

Where the UV light mod sets a dangerous precedent is that the play-field has already been inked to allow it. So even those top tier LE owners have paid something already into a mod they cannot use. Stern was always coming out with this as a part of the machine. They didn’t, however, include it straight up. Lighting changes aren’t new. That tiering has already seen a “dumbing down” of RGB lighting experiences between Pro and Premium+ games (again, a Stern invention).

The further kick in the teeth on this is that the UV lights are interactive, so it isn’t like you can simply plug them in to an existing light. They are a controlled light and Stern included where this controlled light was activated from, again in the design of the game. Where did that cost go? Into the increased MRSP hike that the Pro machine has recently experienced? Maybe, but like the setting of the sun, that is almost a guarantee as manufacturers look to increase vastly their material margin on games, which one would assume is already eye-watering.

What are we talking though?

The next big thing is the price of the upgrade, it sits in at $279, or £215. I mean sure, it’s only roughly 3% on top of what a pro machine costs, but with a bill of materials somewhere around £8, that 3% material margin boost on a machine is a welcome addition to Stern.

The Principle and The Precedent

The issue I really have with this is the principle and precedent. There has long been debates about DLC code updates and personally, I think if you get a whole new coded game, or modes much outside of the scope of the original game, that’s all well and good. This is simply not the case.

Here we have a feature that was designed into the game from the very start, hence the ink and ports for it, that even LE owners don’t get as standard. The model was always to sell this feature as a later upgrade, even though it was hard-wired into the game. This sets a dangerous precedent for code, because let’s be honest, the way code is shipped these days, who can say what was meant to be in or out of the original design. I expect we will start seeing more and more vague dual purpose inserts in the future to allow the DLC to slide in without much notice.

Going Large For £215 Just Jumped Another Tier Barrier

In a world where an entry level Black Knight game can see you lose an upper play-field. I mean really. An upper play-field missing on a Black Knight game, add-ons just jumped another tier barrier. Pro owners are used to losing such items, and accepting of such things. Will Premium and LE owners be so forgiving?

Stern have once again been paying attention to the fast food market, where going large for 30p seeks to extract the maximum cover price per customer. We’ve had toppers, side blades, shooter rods, now we are into controlled lights. What’s next? I have my ideas, but daren’t even whisper them in fear of seeing such enhancements on the next title.

What are your thoughts? Have you bought a Premium or LE and feel let down by another mod you have to buy? Let us know in the comments below.


  • this is spot on. it was blatantly obvious that the reception wasn’t what stern expected during the reveal yesterday (given 90+% of the streaming comments from owners and pinball fans alike). even jack danger (now a stern employee), who’s known to interact with his fans as they ask questions or crack jokes seemed a bit out place and didn’t know what to say while treading into these unknown waters.

    until the masses start abstaining and holding back their “shut up and take my money” dollars, I can see stern (and other companies) continue these “guerilla” style tactics of seeing just how far they can push their customers before they break. rumor has it that john borg was not too pleased of having the BOM for munsters stripped bare and turning out a mere husk of a game with one of his dream themes.

    I get that these companies, both public and private, have to show a profit for their endeavors and that there are rising costs that have to be passed onto the consumer, but anyone with the slightest amount of common sense has to start to question when the prices continue to rise, but the feature set and the quality of the parts is reduced at the same time (not to mention, returning to the practice of shipping the games with “bare bones” code).

    even blizzard recently acknowledged that they made a huge mistake with their latest warcraft offering and are attempting to regain the trust of their customer base by offering refunds. will stern do the same? or will they continue to think they are invincible and continue down this path unless it’s already too late?

  • Having been involved closely with Stern’s approach to how poorly they treat their dealers, it was only a matter of time before their greed turned to abusing their customers loyalties. They have demonstrated disdain for their clientele with this latest manuever and until we complain with our wallets, they will continue to push the envelope. I will NOT ever purchase any one of their new games marketed like Stranger Things. While I can accept a feature restricted game in the Pro series, when I shell out for an LE, (which I have done three times) I want ALL the bell and whistles. I will be hard pressed to purchase a new issue Stern now.

  • One common theme in today’s pins is the cheap materials. The lack of stainless, poor quality wood that dimples, etc. means I will NEVER buy one of these. They are horribly overpriced given the quality. I will stick to the Williams Classics.

  • There/ bones code is KILLING ME. I think its GREAT they can update code to add things and fix bugs. But they now rely on it almost as a time extension on the release date. It’s like “Its fine… ship a $5k+ item out with incomplete modes or features. We’ll fix it when we get to it”. It may be a bad comparison but I NEVER remember a Bally/Wms game having incomplete code. When you buy a car do you get three tires and have to wait for the FOURTH?

    Tlhe worst I’VE seen was Spiderman. No INSTANT INFO! Bare Bones graphics and at the end…. Superhero Mode was NOT THERE. So the code can be so incomplete or missing that you dont even know what is missing.

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