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It'll make you want to enter the Upside Down.

The Stranger Things Pinball Machine Is the Coolest Pinball Machine

Gizmodo reports that Stern Pinball is upping its game with next year’s selection of Stranger Things tables. Stern is the last major pinball company in the world, and it’s used Stranger Things’s telekinetic main character, Eleven, to bring in new technology inspired by the ‘80s setting of the show and illusory stage magic.

Stern is a relatively young company; it started eight years after the Who’s pinball ur-text Tommy and two years after the movie adaptation. (Tommy itself finally became a pinball machine in 1994.) All of Stern’s machines are assembled by hand at its Chicagoland factory, and licensed machines like Stranger Things have helped the company stay relevant. Stern’s recent aspiring rival, Jersey Jack Pinball, has embraced the same model, both by tapping pop culture properties and by introducing technology like bluetooth into its table designs.

The Stranger Things table comes in three trim levels that cost between $6,000 and $9,000. All have the same hand-drawn art inspired by the Netflix show, and players cruise around the usual ramps and flippers to avoid triggering a switch to the Upside Down. Stern says a built-in projector and screen, for the second- and third-tier models, are the first of their kind in the pinball industry. The entry-level table has a retro-looking storefront design on this space.

The top tier, the Limited Edition table, adds features like anti-glare glass, a shaker motor, and creator autographs. All three levels have a custom-designed demogorgon sculpture that emerges from behind the storefront or movie screen when players trigger the Upside Down state. And all three have the same ball trap inspired by Eleven’s telekinetic abilities, using hidden electromagnets to hold balls in place—one of pinball’s oldest tricks because the balls themselves are made of steel.

One famous exception is an industry-changing ‘90s machine based on the Twilight Zone remake that was popular in the late ‘80s. This machine had one white ceramic ball that was exempt from the magnetic fields that influenced the rest of the steel balls.

In 2016, Stern told Polygon that its business model relies on carefully choosing a few designs to work on each year. From pinball’s peak in the 1990s, when manufacturers were racing to make tables and even the wildly successful Epic Pinball DOS game, the market has shrunk a great deal and required quick thinking at the manufacturing level. (The same company that made Epic Pinball in 1993 makes Fortnite today.)

Stern told Polygon that it welcomed others into the industry because that would mean there was an industry—no longer just “the last pinball factory in the world,” but multiple companies working to build interest in pinball with all of their products. Pinball video games have remained a steady, popular subgenre for decades, but nothing beats the hands-on experience and mechanical wonder of a pinball machine.

This Article was first published on popularmechanics.com

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