|50th Anniversary of the Flipper -
It Started With a Nudge
Part 1 of a 4 part series.
The game we know and love has been around for a long
time, with the commercial pinball industry kicking into high gear in the 1931-32
time frame. With a low cost of entry, literally hundreds of manufacturers nailed
together their small bagatelle games consisting of a plunger, a few nails and
some scoring holes. As the decade progressed, competition became more fierce,
the games became more complex, and the number of manufacturers declined to a
small core of dedicated companies who were in it for the long haul.
Technical innovations abounded, the players loved it and the game had
acceptence as a core coin-op mainstay. But for the most part, player input was
limited to propelling the ball onto the playing surface via a spring loaded
plunger, and then letting gravity perform its black magic to cause the ball to
roll downward to a new transient home, translating into some scoring value for
the player. Nudging or shaking the game within the boundaries defined by the "stool
pigeon" or tilt device was the only other real weapon in the players
The lack of player input meant that the vagaries of chance were pervasive in
the game - a regular player's score was often times no better than an unskilled
rookie's first efforts. This of course provided a medium for a wagering public.
Could they attain a goal and possibly win a prize? Sure! But the odds were
against them and the game owners profited. Many games even sported direct payout
attachments to make absolutely clear what their purpose was.
Pinball was hence perceived as an evil habit by law enforcement agencies in
many areas and raids and confiscations were many. Being somewhat a game of
chance denied the players the opportunity to develop skills that could be used
to imprive their game - you could only get so good at flicking a plunger with
your fingers and nudging.
The problem was exacerbated following the end of World War 2. Engineering
advancements for the war effort lead most probably to increased expectations by
the public for incorporation into the devices and machines used every day at
home. What was good in 1940 was average in 1946.
In 1947, the pin games turned out were essentially the same as had been made
prior to the WW2 conflict. But in the fall of that year, new ideas were being
tossed around, and implemented in some new games. During the week of October 4,
1947, Bally introduced their newest revolutionary game - Nudgy.
As the name implies, Nudgy accounted for some additional player input, by
adding a lever on the side of the cabinet to allow players to "nudge"
the playfield. Bally must have done a good job on selling the concept to the
eager distributors and operators looking for fresh ideas. The October 11 issue
of The Billboard contained over 20 different ads from these
distributors, all with a picture of the game and supporting text. Page after
page of Nudgy ads, all with the generic message "WE'VE GOT IT TOO!".
From that issue of The Billboard:
Feature Nudge Lever in New Game By Bally
CHICAGO, Oct. 4. - Bally Manufacturing Company this - week announced its
new five-ball game, featuring a unique departure in pin game play action.
Called Nudgy, the game features "player controlled" action.
By the use of a "nudge lever" on the right hand side of the
play field board, the player can control the action of the ball by pressing the
lever with his thumb, Jenkins said. As the entire play field moves up and down
on roller bearings and travels an inch either way, the skillful player can "wiggle
the ball back up to the top of the board even after it has reached the bottom."
Every bumper scores 5,000 points; when a score of 300,000 is reached, a
hit on either of the two diamond shaped bumpers on the play field brings on a
red light at the bottom of the field and makes all subsequent bumper hits
register 10,000 points. The four kick-out pockets also automatically give
increased scoring from 25,000 to 50,000 points after 300,000 points are scored.
First distributor showing of the new game was held October 1-3 by Coven
Distributing Company here, for Indiana, Wisconsin and Northern Illinois
territory. Ben Coven, firm head, said the games on display drew over 100
operators and jobbers during the three-day showing.
But on page 126 of that same issue, buried in the corner of the page, was a
small nondescript cryptic anonymous ad. It was easy to miss if you weren't
looking closely. What was it all about?
Next: Something New on the Horizon
Pinball Feature Stories index.
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prohibited. © Terry Cumming and Pinnovations 1997-2005 All rights reserved.
Last updated: May 6, 2005