Pinball 2000 was WMS Industries
' last attempt to rekindle
the popularity and profitability
. The company who had been involved
in numberous revolutions
during pinball's lifetime, and produced highly popular machines like High Speed
, decided to try something new, when it became clear that nothing so far was drawing the crowds the way it had been done. The pinball crew at WMS loved their game, loved developing them, loved playing them, and they knew if they didn't come up with something special, it may be the end for their career designing pinballs at WMS.
Pinball 2000 took the regular pinball, and grafted a video monitor to the top, in a sense remaking the traditional backbox. It was not in the strange way that Baby Pac-Man combined pinball and video games, but something different. The playfield was standard size, and the backbox now stuck out over the playfield about a foot. The monitor inside, a 19" monitor with 640x240 resolution, was pointed downward, causing the image to reflect off of the playfield. The playfield was shortened by 4 inches to 43", to give a slightly smaller footprint - however, as the playfields of old Williams Electronics machines were only 42" long, the playfield was still longer than classics. The new backbox didn't fold down, like traditional pinballs, but was easy to remove.
Player's scores would appear at the top of the playfield, in a rather dark section. Below that, images would be projected, designed to match up to targets on the playfield, allowing the animation to appear to interact with the physical parts of the playfield. This also would make the machine cheaper to maintain, as the "virtual" mechanisms shown by the monitor wouldn't break down like traditional physical parts.
Besides the addition of the monitor, the Pinall 2000 machines were designed to be more modular, allowing an operator to replace the pinball playfield and the logic/ROM boards very quickly - the entire playfield could be swapped for a new one in as little as 60 seconds. The intent was to make getting a hold of new machines much cheaper, as the cost of new pinballs kept rising (by this point, a new pinball was well over $5,000).
The ROMs in the machine were also designed to make software updates easy. For a few years, as the software had reached higher complexity, updates were being done for pinballs. They were usually done in the form of swapping out ROMs by a distributor, to update the machine to the latest version. Pinball 2000 would replace that by a transfer from the serial port of a computer, allowing software to be downloaded via the internet. There was even the option of a modem for the Pinball 2000 unit itself, making updating as simple as connecting a phone line.
The Pinball 2000 machines used a Cyrix MediaGX motherboard, in an industry standard "Baby AT" form factor. The case of the CPU area used a standard off-the-shelf PC power supply. The ROMs, memory, and DCS-2 Audio System were on a PCI expansion card, known as PRISM.
The first machine was debuted in the Coney Island Emporium, inside the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, Pinball 2000 did not bring the operators or the players in high numbers. Only two machines, Revenge From Mars and Star Wars Episode I were available in the Pinball 2000 line before WMS Industries closed down their pinball operation.
As one of the designers, George Gomez, said at a convention the day before WMS Industries closed down their pinball division,
You've only begun to see what we can do with Pinball 2000. To me that's what's sad. If Pinball 2000 goes away and doesn't make it... Think of the first dot matrix games that you saw and think of the things we didn't do in that first game. I wasn't even around for that first game, and think of what a dot matrix game was like at the state of the art, like Monster Bash. You've seen two [Pinball 2000] games that were built under duress. They were built in a very short period of time under a lot of stress to get something done, and get it working and let's go.
Pinball 2000 Machine specifications:
Backbox - 28" (77.12 cm) Height/23.5" (59.69 cm) Depth/24" (60.96 cm) Width/130 lbs (58.97 kg) Weight
Cabinet - 45" (114.30 cm) Height/48" (121.92 cm) Depth/22" (55.88 cm) Width/230 lbs (104.33 kg) Weight
Overall - 73" (185.42 cm) Height/48" (121.92 cm) Depth/24" (60.96 cm) Width/360 lbs (163.30 kg) Weight
Pinball 2000, http://www.pinball.wms.com/pinball2000/home.html
Pinball 2000, http://www.coneyislandemporium.com/pinball2000.html
Pinball Owners' Association: The Making of Pinball 2000, http://ds.dial.pipex.com/poa/p2ksem.htm