Mapping pinball trends for the casual enthusiast…

NEWS: KISS Alive! In pinball form…

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When Stern released AC/DC, I was bummed that it wasn’t a KISS machine. The band absolutely lends itself to a Stern-produced Ritchie-designed pinball. The old Bally KISS was a smashing success (17,000 units), granted it was released at the pinnacle of both KISS and pinball’s popularity. That KISS game plays like an absolute bag of garbage, but the art package on it is killer.

So here we are in 2014, and we now have another KISS “machine” that doesn’t play AT ALL, and again, the art package is killer. So killer, in fact, that I would argue the art on this Zidware/Popadiuk KISS mock-up blows away any art on a pinball machine released in the past twenty years.

I’m a pretty big fan of the band. I’m amazed that they still remain somewhat culturally relevant. Like AC/DC and the Stones, its all in the marketing of the name. In my area, KISS has filled full-size arenas and outdoor parks four the last five years in a row. It is downright difficult to get a good seat at a reasonable price. They are ironically popular with the hipster crowd, which boggles my mind as hipster morals run almost counter to the Gene Simmons capitalist model. But, for the most part, it’s the die-hard fans that grew up with the band that keep their pockets lined. Members of the KISS Army (myself included) have grown up and now have disposable income to spend on ultimate backstage pass experiences and all the crap with a KISS logo on it. If all goes well, a KISS pinball machine may be one of those pieces of crap!

So the story goes: Popadiuk and a friend played in a KISS cover band in their younger days, and both enjoyed pinball so much that they vowed to someday make a KISS pin themselves. Despite many irons in the fire already (RAZA, Magic Girl, Alice in Wonderland) and with Popadiuk’s friend terminally ill, he decided to mock up a non-working foamcore model with a complete art package that he unveiled at the Midwest Gaming Classic in Wisconsin a week ago. The game has no ramps and is pretty simplistic in its layout, which lead many to believe that this the first step in a much larger journey. It is unclear if the mock up was built to honour an obligation to a sick friend, to take to Gene Simmons for a blessing to build on a larger scale, or both.

Any negotiations with Simmons will be an uphill battle. He ain’t in it for the fine art package or build quality–he’s only interested in bottom line profit. Nate Shivers from Coast2Coast Pinball mentioned that a guitar company he worked for was in negotiations with Simmons to build a replica of his signature bass guitar, but they quickly deteriorated as it was clear Simmons was solely a profit monger and thus difficult to work with. This is Simmons’ M.O., and he’s very candid about it. I think if I busted my ass for forty years wearing full face makeup and ten-inch platform boots maybe I’d just want the payday, too.

If this machine is going to be produced, it really needs to be Stern at the helm, not a small scale, quality driven, boutique manufacturer like Zidware. Stern is better suited to build a KISS machine…they have an entire department dedicated to hammering out the profit margins with the KISS marketing juggernaut. Stern also has a proven track record with other successful music themed pins under their belt. Zidware has…well…cool plans to build three different machines and a hunk of foam that looks really cool with some KISS art pasted to it. And if Stern makes it, we will be able to bring the machine home within the year, and not have to wait three just to see sketches of the backbox side art.

In the end, I really hope Popadiuk finds a way to make this happen as the machine is absolutely breathtaking.  I would be the first in line shaking my fistful of money a la the Fry “Shut up and take my money” meme.  I guess Uncle Gene will be happy as long as the checks don’t bounce, but would the price be too high for Popadiuk to build on a boutique budget?

Further Reading/Listening:
Coast2Coast Pinball – Episode 76 “Midwest Gaming Classic Day 1 or Wisconsin Gets Spooky”
Pinside – JPOP’s KISS prototype game at MGC
Pinball Revolution – Kiss pinball by Zidware!

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