deeproot Pinball – What’s It All About?
This post has been updated just hours after publishing, due to an announcement by deeproot where distribution is pushed out to up to summer 2020 at the latest.
This post has been updated 22nd November 2020 with information relating to the recent Fliptronic stream which saw the game live in a public location.
Economics will tell us that under general market conditions, where supply is limited pricing at market demand rate is higher than when more competition enters the market. In fact, a new supplier will shift the whole supply schedule to the left and at every demand level, pricing will be lower (thank you five years of reading Economics, you all now know as much as I do). So when I heard that there was a manufacturer making claims about supply levels that could outstrip Stern, huge amounts of up-front investment and some well known names attached to it, I was more than a little intrigued. I have no skin in this game, other than wanting to be able to buy high end games at the most competitive pricing, and I will try and cover other areas of the deeproot puzzle in other posts, but right now I will focus on the bits of information I have heard about deeproot pinball – with my condensed version and basic introduction to deeproot.
What and who is Deeproot?
Deeproot Tech LLC, parent company of deeproot pinball describes itself as:
deeproot Tech, LLC is a San Antonio, Texas based R&D tech company and contract manufacturer. deeproot Tech is a subsidiary of deeproot Capital Management, LLC, and affiliate company of deeproot Funds. Our engineers are currently working on several tech related projects, including deeproot Pinball.
Robert Mueller, Lead Investor in deeproot pinball is said to have a wide ranging amount of investment with reports stating that there was an initial investment fund of $15M raised for the deeproot business, that’s a good amount of start-up funding. Robert has also invested heavily from his own pocket.
The team at deeproot pinball website is currently listed as:
- John Popadiuk – Exclusive Game Designer (Theatre of Magic, Circus Voltaire)
- Dennis Nordman – Exclusive Game Designer (White Water, Scared Stiff)
- Jon Norris – Exclusive Game Designer (Surf ‘n’ Safari, High Roller Casino)
- Barry Oursler – Exclusive Game Designer (Space Shuttle, Junk Yard)
- David Thiel – Pinball Audio Artist (Stern Spider-Man, JJP Pirates of the Caribbean)
It is also widely reported and confirmed by world number 7 player Steve Bowden that he is also involved with deeproot pinball as Rulset Designer, he doesn’t however, currently feature on their website.
Looking at this team and the funding available to deeproot, I have to say it certainly is impressive. There’s a huge array of talent from the industry, a tenured team of designers, who have put out some absolutely incredible games over long careers, mixed with some real player experience from the highest competitive level; on paper it looks like a perfect 5-a-side team you’d pick for a Sunday match, if the goal was not football, but pinball experience. From a financial point of view, it seems there is certainly money to put into this project, which feeds into nicely, when we can see something from deeproot pinball.
When will we see games?
Deeproot spoke a lot in interviews on This Week in Pinball of the Five Days of pinball, those five days entail the following elements:
- Day One: The deeproot Standard
- Day Two: Design
- Day Three: Immersion
- Day Four: Culture
- Day Five: Launch Event
Of course the main thing everyone will be asking is, what is the date on this? Well, deeproot have been incredibly secretive. To ad-lib this response, over the many times this question has been asked , Robert has always said… It will be ready when it is ready.
One thing that is known, and this article is not about Zidware, however there is a legal obligation to previous customers of John Popadiuk’s company Zidware to deliver games by 30th June 2019 – at time of publishing, that is just 31 days away.
Just hours after publishing (as above), deeproot pinball released this update, pushing the entire timeframe out to potentially Summer 2020!
Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland
Whilst information is scant on layouts and games, Robert has all but confirmed that Zidware games Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland, Magic Girl and Alice in Wonderland – will be in the released. When I say all but confirmed, deeproot haven’t confirmed anything yet officially. Recently, an introduction video for Retro Atomic Zombie Adventureland (RAZA) was released – again, it’s pretty darn obvious but technically nothing has been released.
Based on this, yep… sign me up. This looks great. The visuals, a storyline in there and some beautiful artwork, are just gorgeous. Although I will say, to all you Dragon Ball Z fans out there… does anyone see a striking resemblance to Piccolo here?
Pricing and Distribution
Deeproot said in this panel at Pinball Expo 2018 – that there would be only one tier and one price per game (unlike Stern’s Pro, Prem, LE models) and that they “would love to get prices lower than any pinball company has ever done, but with more quality and toys in it than any pinball company has ever done.” Given that Homepin have Thunderbirds in the U.K market at £5,495 new in box, does that mean we could be set to see at £5,000 New In Box game that we would all want to buy?
The usual distribution model of pinball machines is through dedicated arcade and pinball distributors who would offer technical support and warranty coverage as well as stocking the game and making a margin for the added value they offer in doing so for the end user. When questioned on distributors involvement from a technical viewpoint, deeproot Pinball “would prefer distributors not deal with our games”. Many have commented that this meant that deeproot would not be involved with distributors at all, however I think if you actually watch the video you can clearly see just moments later that isn’t the case. deeproot want games to be available to customers in just 2 weeks from order, for the U.K. this would be possible but for huge costs. If I were a betting man, I would suggest that deeproot will either try and legitimately gain access to distributors end users, whilst heavily enforcing the RRP (without setting the end sale price for legal reasons) and keeping the margin between industry price and RRP low, due to handling all of the warranty and support in-house. The U.K. could easily receive boards etc. on a two day run from the U.S.A and with reliable board-sets, this shouldn’t be a huge issue. The sweetener for distributors would be the chargeable warranty works back to deeproot should there be in the field failures of products.
In the above instance, U.K. distributors would be involved, just not from a technical perspective, but with handling, installing and being the route to market to end users, however with volume being the driver for lower received margins. Of course, this is purely my take on the information received thus far from interviews etc. from deeproot.
Live Stream 21st November 2020
The following link shows the live stream from an event at in Texas, where streamers Fliptronic. The following points were noticed by myself, so here is my take.
- There were a number of bugs presented in the game that caused resets, but the design team stated they were aware of many of these and working through the code on this.
- The design team were noted to be taking pictures of stuck balls in live play, looking to address these at a future date.
- The game was using manufacture suppliers, and the full manufacture kit, which puts into question whether the stuck balls issues will be resolved (let’s be honst, many pinball machines get stuck balls!)
- The pinbar was fully functional, if not confusing.
There is still a long way for deeproot pinball to go in terms of delivering games, but for me, I am excited and see what they are trying to build as extremely exciting. The games will be ready, when they are ready and more and more keeps slowly seeping out (the RAZA video being huge) on the fact that progress is being made. How will they get games to the U.K.? What is the U.K. strategy for distribution? Tech Support? Pricing? All remain unclear. I contacted deeproot for information solely relating to the U.K. market, to which at the time they stated they had no plans.