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.
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.