Stern Pinball, Inc. (“SPI”) designs and manufactures arcade-quality pinball games. It is the only maker of arcade-quality pinball games in the world and is located just outside Chicago, Illinois.
The company traces its lineage to Philadelphia in the 1930’s when Sam Stern got into the business of operating pinball games. These new games were all the rage in bars and restaurants, and game operators were making a very good living. Sam became so successful as an operator that he soon became a game distributor as well.
In 1947, Sam visited Williams Manufacturing Company in Chicago where, according to pinball industry folklore, he brazenly put his feet up on Harry Williams’ desk and asked, “Why don’t you sell me your company?” Because of Sam’s success as an operator and distributor, it took Harry only three hours to decide to sell half of the company to Sam.
Sam moved to Chicago and became President of Williams. Through the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, he and Harry worked tirelessly to build Williams into one of the leaders in the burgeoning pinball industry.
Sam passed his passion for pinball on to his son, Gary, who as a child played in empty game boxes on the factory floor at Williams. Gary was only 16 years old in the 1960’s when he started working for his father in the stock room at Williams.
The late ‘70’s and early ‘80s saw the emergence of coin-operated video games. As the coin-op market evolved, other companies acquired many of the existing pinball companies. In 1986, after the death of his father, Gary founded Data East Pinball, which was purchased by Sega in 1994 and became Sega Pinball. In 1999, Gary bought the business back from Sega and renamed it Stern Pinball, Inc. Less than a month later, Williams announced plans to cease pinball production in order to focus on the slot machine business.
Through the first decade of the new millennium, SPI has continued to carry the pinball banner and promote the game throughout the world. The company has released many popular games, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Shrek, Batman, Spiderman, the Simpsons Pinball Party and many more. Its games continue to be enjoyed by both pinball enthusiasts and casual players around the world.