07 July, 2018

The desolation of the digital pinball landscape

There have been months in the past when I was writing several posts on pinball, be it on the Mac or iDevices. But gradually things started deteriorating. 

First one of the oldest digital pinball developers, Littlewing disappeared. (Not the developer himself. Fujita-san is alive and well, working for Google in the US. But his twitter posts are now mainly about food). Still, I must point out that Fujita-san does does care about his work and did produce an update to both Tristan and Crystal Caliburn so as to comply with the 64-bit directives of Apple.

Then we had the major deception of ProPinball "revival". After a huge delay, compared to the initial announcement, the team of Adrian Barritt managed just barely to produce a version of Timeshock running on the Mac and the iPad with the old physics engine. Then they folded before making good on any of their promises. That was really a disappointment for all of us ProPinball fans. 

ASK Homework did produce several pinballs including the Zaccaria line which was indeed of great quality (but then, I am a sucker for oldies). However, once the Zaccaria collection was complete, two years ago, they disappeared. I am not very optimistic about their possible return.

But the major blow for the digital pinball community was FarSight losing the rights to the Bally/Williams pinballs. Two thirds of their pinball library disappeared on July 1st and I am not quite sure that FarSight will be able to weather this. Will they be able to find a sufficient source of revenue with just the Stern pinballs? Only time will tell (and we are talking here about short-term).

So what does remain? One pinball developer who is probably still alive is Gameprom. However their last creation is more than a year old so the situation is iffy. The only solid presence in the digital pinball world is that of Zen Pinball. They have a steady production of interesting tables. (There are around 80 of them). Sometimes I do not like them (for reasons I have abundantly explained) but all in all they are great pinballs and, in the long run, the last hope for the survival of digital pinball. Once Zen Studios stop producing pinballs we'll have to look for another pastime.

01 June, 2018

The sky is falling

The sky is falling, or winter is coming or any other cliché you happen to favour. If you are following my blog (well, even if you are not following it but you are interested in digital pinball) you are certainly aware of the major disaster awaiting us: Pinball Arcade is going to lose two thirds of its tables (and, to my eyes, the really interesting ones) after the licensing contract with Bally/Williams expires. 

I have been following people's reactions on the web. Most interesting were the ones I read in the comments to the podcast linked to by my friend Marco in the previous post of mine. People started talking about pirating. This is easier said than done. Most probably the ones who are big mouthing do not know much about pirating apps. Perhaps this is easier on Windows but as far as the Mac is concerned pirating is barely an option. I looked around and it seems that there is a cracked version of Pinball Arcade although it does nor even contain all of season 6. Pirating on iOS is a no-no thing, unless you have a jailbroken device. Unfortunately for potential pirates, jailbreaking is moribund and there is no much hope in this direction. (I happen to have a friend of mine with an old iPad, jailbroken in iOS8. I convinced him to load Pinball Arcade and some tables. Well, it turns out that if one uses iFunBox one can have access to the folder where the tables are stored and make a backup of them. This would be OK for one's peace of mind but not for much else).

So, what can one do waiting for the cataclysm? I think that the only way to do this is to download all the tables one owns before June 30th. Then refrain from any further updates which may erase the tables. In fact FarSight should offer a new version of Pinball Arcade  which would not interfere with the previous one after the deadline. But, given their previous record, one can only dream. 

10 May, 2018

The end of the World

It's not yet the end of the World but it's definitely the end of digital pinball. While visiting the Ars Technica page (a site I follow regularly) I stumbled upon the awful news: FarSight is losing their license for the Williams-Bally pinball tables. After June 30th 61 tables will disappear from the FarSight catalogue. We are talking here about the main bulk of Pinball Arcade and a collection of the best games out there (including the Pat Lawlor ones).

I don't know if FarSight will be able to weather this out. Of course they are are already talking about Season 8, on track to launch this summer, based on Stern tables, but I am not very optimistic. Just look at what will disappear

The Addams Family
Attack from Mars
Banzai Run
Black Knight
Black Knight 2000
Black Rose
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Cactus Canyon
The Champion Pub
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Doctor Who
Dr. Dude & HIs Excellent Ray
Eight Ball Deluxe
Elvira and the Party Monsters
F-14 Tomcat
Firepower II
Fish Tales
Fun House
The Getaway: High Speed 2
High Speed
Indianapolis 500
Jack Bot
Judge Dredd
Junk Yard
The Machine: Bride of Pin•Bot
Medieval Madness
Monster Bash
No Fear: Dangerous Sports
No Good Gofers
The Party Zone
Red and Ted's Road Show
Safe Cracker
Scared Stiff
Space Shuttle
Spanish Eyes
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Swords Of Fury
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Theatre of Magic
Twilight Zone
White Water
WHO Dunnit
Wild Card
World Champion Soccer

The list is depressing. Hell, Eight Ball Deluxe will disappear for the second time. 

What can one do? Well, I for one downloaded all the tables I own and will not update Pinball Arcade on my iPad anymore. I suggest you do the same. Moreover if there are tables you would like to have now is the time to buy them. Still I am afraid digital pinball is going the way of the dodo and in a few years this blog will become one of palaeontology.