OPINION: Stern Pinball has Feature Every Modern Pinball Needs

By Todd Russell Feb13,2024

Not too long ago had the chance to play Jersey Jack Pinball’s (https://www.jerseyjackpinball.com/) Elton John. The experience surprised me — in a good way.

The light show was as good as or better than I’ve seen on any other pinball machine by any company. The music selection included most of Sir Elton’s greatest hits, songs I’d want to play pinball to, it even has Elton sitting at a piano and a cool LED giving status updates on the side. Flow was good, they seem to have fixed the weak flipper strength, yeah, this is a winner.

@playgamesmore

Elton John (Jersey Jack Pinball 2023) this is my new most favorite to play JJP! Higher scoring, Elton piano with LED is cool. more! #eltonjohn #jerseyjackpinball

♬ original sound – playgamesmore

This is a great pinball experience. Better than the other JJP’s I’ve enjoyed like GnR and Godfather (yes, I like the machinegun tat-tat-tat mode and amazing lights on Godfather!). They even have that tech at the end where it snaps a photo including you with your high score.

But it’s missing something.

A feature Stern Pinball figured out that changes things for active pinheads like me. Players that like to shoot the games for scores. To better our games, our pinball skills and scores. Chasing those wizard modes.

It’s not only JJP that doesn’t have this feature. Spooky Pinball, American Pinball, Dutch Pinball, The Pinball Brothers, you name the competitor, I’ve played modern machines by pretty much all of them and they’re all missing this feature. Do you know what it is?

Stern Insider Connected.

(Stern IC link | read more PGM articles about Stern Insider Connected)

This great program keeps track of our scores across all their IC-connected machines, all we need to do is scan our QR code in. It allows us to compete in local leaderboards on location, it tracks our highest scores, achievements, no matter how many different Insider Connected machines.

@playgamesmore

Fast, easy, convenient login to Stern Insider Connected system. Just print out your QR code and laminate on business card size card, carry around, more convenient than using your phone. #sternpinball #insiderconnected #how #cool @SternPinball

♬ original sound – playgamesmore

This is the feature that the other modern pinball companies need to add. I realize Stern Insider Connected is proprietary, but there is nothing saying their competitors can’t setup something similar.

Clone it, do business with Scorbit (https://scorbit.io/) and include the Scorbitron, whatever they need to do, but give modern pinball this modern score chasing, achievement and quest hunting functionality at the time of purchase. Do not require owners to mod their pinball machines and add this separately.

Oddly, Jersey Jack Pinball used to have Scorbit functionality included with all their pinball machines and it was removed, per notification from Scorbit in March 2023:

Regrettably, Jersey Jack Pinball has informed us that they no longer value the services provided by Scorbit and connected pinball and have chosen to remove Scorbit from their machines,

As such, effective immediately, Jersey Jack Pinball machines may no longer connect or function with the Scorbit app as they had previously. Existing achievements, leaderboard entries, and other data will continue to exist within the platform, but no new achievements can be earned or challenges played as the service is removed.

SERVICE INTERRUPTION TO JERSEY JACK PINBALL CUSTOMERS – Scorbit

This was a bad business move, considering Jersey Jack Pinball didn’t bother to replace Scorbit with anything else yet and didn’t reduce the price of their pinball machines. Bummer, bummer, bummer.

Maybe some, perhaps many, pinheads don’t care about this feature, but my family does. We love this feature. We don’t love playing every Stern Pinball machine, but love the Insider Connected machines more than the ones that don’t have it purely because of this feature.

If you’re looking for a counter-opinion, Gonzo’s Pinball Flipperama, a YouTube channel recently interviewed Jersey Jack’s owner, Jack Guarnieri. I left a comment that I was “disappointed” Gonzo never asked Jack why Scorbitron was removed? Gonzo replied that he was new to the hobby, didn’t know what Scorbit was and his channel wasn’t a “news channel” and, well, this zinger (see red):

Fascinating that someone new to the hobby, making pinball videos and promoting the love of playing pinball, sees Insider Connected as “shit.” Gonzo, his channel is sponsored by a UK pinball distributor, wants to “play pinball to get away from technology.”

Very much a contrary opinion to mine, and there are certainly people that agree with that extreme position. Is Gonzo an edge case or the majority? I don’t agree, obviously, but it’s fascinating to me that another pinhead — especially a self-admitted newbie– doesn’t see the value and importance of changing pinball from how it’s been for the last 50+ years into something modern and exciting and … well, more social!

Sidenote: my co-host on the Saturday recap show, Bradygoat, pointed out Gonzo may have taken exception to me calling out that he seemed “starstruck.” Is this a weak trait for an interviewer? Yes, usually, but even A-listers get starstruck. Take Dolly Parton for example that mentions three people that make her starstruck via The only musicians that have made Dolly Parton starstruck (faroutmagazine.co.uk)

During an interview with People, Parton revealed: “I’ve been starstruck a lot lately. I’m working on a rock album now, and I’ve been talking to Elton John, Mick Jagger, and Debbie Harry. Every time I speak to one of them, it’s just such a thrill.”

For the record, Insider Connected is not immune to criticism. As previously mentioned, they have a yearly paid subscription tier “All Access” for users that promotes access to forums that does not exist, see: Worthwhile? Upgrading to Stern Insider Connected All Access ($39.99 USD/year) + Special Access to Buying JAWS Limited Edition. In fact, despite our previous article and reaching out to Stern (and no response whatsoever to this issue), they still promote these non-existent forums as of this writing as a benefit. Luckily, the Insider Connected program is free to join and use, so you don’t have to pay for this optional subscription to enjoy all the other benefits of using Insider Connected.

Back to the biggest elephant in the room: is pinball a solo game or better played with others?

Just playing pinball by yourself is never what it has been about — to me. Sure, it’s a solo experience when you’re flipping a ball. It’s sharing the experience with your friends, family and others. Pinball has had multiple player options on games for a long, long time, if it was meant to be a one player, solo game played devoid of technology then games wouldn’t include multiple players. And they wouldn’t add modern screens, modern mechs and toys, modern chips that make them lighter, add ways to update and expand them, they’d be the same mechanical-only game forever.

This might sound like sacrilege to some readers, but I ask you in 2024 why when we have internet-connected machines do we not have this feature on every modern machine? It’s silly that a game with scoring isn’t internet connected with social features to share scores, leaderboards and score chasing. This is what we’re about at Play Games More. Of course, it’s important.

What about the older pins? Somebody is going to bring up a machine from the 70s. We’re not talking about older pins in this article (although I just did a bit), we’re talking about modern pins. You know, the ones that cost like ten grand to bring home. Machines haven’t always been this expensive. And the internet wasn’t a thing back then either.

Still, should pinball be frozen in time from a technology standpoint? Really?

We would consider buying a modern pinball machine from other than Stern without a connected feature, don’t get me wrong, because, again, you can mod most pins with a Scorbitron to get at least the automated score tracking, but Stern has the edge on this very cool player-friendly social feature and there is much more that can be done with Insider Connected than it’s currently being used for. Their competitors need to stop acting like this feature doesn’t matter and isn’t part of the modern pinball experience.

It matters.

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2 thoughts on “OPINION: Stern Pinball has Feature Every Modern Pinball Needs”
  1. Connected pinball isn’t a this OR that choice. It’s a this AND that choice. You think it’s “shit” and don’t want to use it? Fine. The game will play great, and you can enjoy everything about the table. OTOH, if you want to track scores, progress, and achievments? Then yes, Insider Connected provides that option.

    I used Scorbit on my JJP tables. I was sorry to see it go. There’s been rumors that JJP is working on a replacement system. I hope so. JJP makes fantastic games. The hardware and design is stellar. They just need to do the last bit of work on code and connected gaming.

    1. Well said, Jose. It’s not very logical to complain about features that are optional to use unless they are in some way ruining the overall experience. Some are also fearful that Insider Connected is a trojan horse for paid DLC. That maybe future new pinball machines will come without features that DLC is required to fully unlock. Could this happen? Sure. Is it likely. Aye, there’s the million dollar question.

      Thank you for reading and taking time leave a comment!

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