Arcade veteran seeks to be pinball wizard

Video may have killed the pinball machine, but arcade veteran Jack Guarnieri aims to give it new life.

If you of a certain age, pre-dating the PlayStation and Xbox and Wii, you probably remember the pinball machine. You maybe even played a bit back in the day. Flippers and bumpers and ringing bells haven't fared so well in the digital age, though.

That's where Jack Guarnieri comes in. He is -- almost singlehandedly -- trying to revitalize pinball as a pastime with a new high-tech game based on, of all things, "The Wizard of Oz."

"When you license a theme you want something very rich and vibrant," Guarnieri says. "With the 'Wizard of Oz,' we know we want to get Dorothy back to Oz, so we have a storyline [and] are able to create unique toys and mechanisms and playfields and animation. You have spinning house that lands and the witch's legs pops the eye candy of the game is outstanding."

Guarnieri has been in the arcade business for decades and is a huge pinball fan, so he has faith his custom-made machines will take off.

"I knew if I assembled a great team we would be successful," he says. "We have an amazing customer base and the support is there."

Guarnieri has been been testing out the machines in high-traffic game centers and is enthusiastic about the player response. The machines will cost operators about $7,000, and Guarnieri bets that they'll make their money back within a year.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.


I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...