We’ve had rain – lots of rain – and snow on our visits to the EAG International show in London’s East End in previous years. but this time it was a clear, bright morning when we visited for the second day of the event.
The ExCel sits alongside the Galleons Point Marina, part of the River Thames and a historic part of the old London docks which has now been largely redeveloped into modern industrial units, hotels and housing.
The EAG International show has been held at Excel London ever since it left Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre for the 2010 show. Before that, amusement coin-op had been part of the larger ATEI show which also encompassed gaming, casinos and fairground rides. The coin-op side became marginalised and separated to form, initially, EAG Expo and now EAG International. The gaming part has its own show – ICE Totally Gaming – which is also held at ExCel London from 6th to 8th February.
There was good news for visitors to EAG this year. The show has grown slightly and managed to fill all the available the space in halls N1 – N6.
As you can see from the pictures, the hall wasn’t exactly packed with visitors, but for pinball fans this year proved to be a treat with eleven pinballs from five different manufacturers on show.
Pinball Heaven’s stand featured more than half of them, with Jersey Jack Pinball showing their new Pirates of the Caribbean game alongside their Dialed In! and The Hobbit titles. JJP’s Jack Guarnieri was there to talk to visitors, game owners and potential European distributors for his company’s titles.
Pirates of the Caribbean is not yet in production, so this was a sample machine. Even so, it didn’t exhibit any problems and seemed to be enjoyed by everyone who got to play it.
Pinball Heaven were also showing titles from Chicago Gaming and Dutch Pinball. Doug Skor from Chicago Gaming was there with his Medieval Madness and Attack from Mars remakes, while Jaap Nauta and Barry Driessen from Dutch Pinball brought their The Big Lebowski game along.
Not far away, Electrocoin – Stern Pinball’s UK distributor – featured four of the company’s recent titles on their stand, including their newest, Guardians of the Galaxy.
Despite some talk of the game being a little lacklustre, we greatly enjoyed playing it and the artwork is a riot of colour both inside and out.
There was a problem with the drop target mechanism refusing to drop as a result of an incorrectly-manufactured part. Stern know about this, have fixed it, and are sending out replacement parts to those affected. The drop target was disabled at the show to avoid repeated ball searches.
Stern Pinball apparently had a team of five at the show, with Gary Stern, George Gomez, Dave Peterson, John Buscallia and Jim Belt all making the trip across the Atlantic. We only saw Gary there briefly, but George was keeping an eye on the games, chatting to visitors and signing flyers for much of the day.
The final pinball was to be found on the Home Leisure Direct stand.
Home Leisure Direct had an Alien pinball from Heighway Pinball for visitors to play.
The upper flipper was sticking when we played it early in the morning, but it appeared to have been fixed when we called back later in the day.
So those are the eleven pinballs at the show, but there were a few other things which caught our attention.
Texas-based Valley Dynamo makes the All Star Baseball pitch-and-bat game (and the Zombie League version) designed by Dennis Nordman’s Gizmo Game Design. There was a machine set up on the Valley Dynamo stand, although the backbox running man unit didn’t appear to be working when we played it.
Pinball popped up in a number of different ways across the show. Here are a few we spotted.
Pinball-style capsule dispensers are as popular as ever, appearing on several stands.
Pinball also cropped up as a toy prize.
This oversized pinball ball was plunged to hit a row of ping pong balls, knocking them into ticket-winning holes.
It was especially interesting because it features an under-playfield electromagnet. Usually these magnets are only energised at certain points during the game, but this one is used to grab the steel ball and hold it away from the shooter rod in-between games, meaning it is energised most of the time.
We are familiar with various video pinball games, but Car Mechanic Flipper from Pixel Flipper is a twist on the genre.
Not only is it an upright design, it’s also Lego-style in its deliberately blocky graphics. Rather than a ball, you flip a car around a playfield town, destroying assorted targets, buildings and people, before steering the car as it crashes through parks and along roads. It’s a fast, crazy game and lots of fun to play.
As in previous years, the coin-op industry tries to provide entertainment not available at home, and usually that involves making bigger and bigger fully-immersive games. That trend continued this year, but virtual reality is also a growth area.
Eugene Jarvis’s Raw Thrills company had their latest big screen games.
Combining a large physical sit-on game with virtual reality made this Tron-style light cycle game both popular and very enjoyable, with the monitor showing the in-game graphics pulling in people.
It even temped one or two well-know pinball people to try it.
While the light cycle VR is for a single rider, there was a twin VR – that’s ‘VR’ as in Virtual Rabbids.
Still want more? Then here’s a multi-player VR shoot ’em up from Hologate.
Although there are monitors to follow the view the players get, it’s still not hugely engaging for the audience.
While everyone is looking for the next great game, perhaps the newest hit could also be one of the oldest?
Yes, Pong is back. The original video tennis-style video game has been brought back by Atari, but in the ultimate retro turnaround what started the video game craze now returns in mechanical form.
That’s right, the two bats and the ball are all physical white blocks which slide around a smooth playfield thanks to magnets below the surface. An LED display keeps score, and some colour is added by RGB LEDs around the outer edge of the playing arena. Playable as a one- or two-player game, this cocktail-table format is likely to appear at a bar or arcade near you soon.
However, not every product is destined to take the world by storm.
And that concludes our report from the show floor.
Finally, here’s our signature in-depth look around the whole EAG International show in our Thirty-Two Minute Tour. We hope you enjoy it and will join us for our next show report which will be coming soon.