Meet Bally's: Pioneers of the Iconic Pinball Machine

Learn how Bally's transformed the early pinball machine into the iconic game we know today.

Say Hello to the Game That Added 'Pioneers' to the Bally's Name

Let's talk about pinball. You know the game. One ball, a couple of flippers and plenty of action. Folks, if you've ever stepped inside an arcade in your lifetime, then chances are you've encountered a pinball machine. And if you haven't, where have you been?! 

The pinball machine is more than just an arcade staple. It's an instantly recognisable game that's loved by players, young and old, across the world. In fact, there are even entire museums dedicated to the mighty pinball machine. This iconic game has been providing epic entertainment for nearly 100 years and shows no sign of falling out of favour anytime soon. 

If you've ever found yourself wondering just how pinball shot to fame, then you're in the right place. See, our passion for games can be traced all the way back to 1932, when we launched the very first game in our portfolio. The name of that game? Pinball.  

So, how did Bally's create the mighty pinball machine we know and love today? We've got all the answers for you to five into. Read on to find out more. 


Pinball: Where it all began 

Pinball wasn't always a game of bright lights and loud noises that we know and love today. Hop in a time machine and warp back a few hundred years and you'll find that the pinball machine was born from a French lawn game called Bagatelle. The aim of the game? To shoot balls past metal pins into holes on the lawn. 

Fast forward a bit and folks decided they wanted all the fun of Bagatelle without the need to go outdoors. So wooden boxes were built, complete with pins and pockets, and players would hit the balls with sticks. If the ball landed in a pocket, then success! Your score would match the pocket value.

Eventually the balls were swapped for marbles, and a spring and plunger was added, forming the basis of the modern-day pinball machine. 

The launch of Ballyhoo pinball 

Introducing our star player in the history of pinball: Mr Raymond Moloney. A Chicago-based salesman with a passion for games, Raymond got bored of waiting for new titles to hit the scene. So, in a bold move that's now part of the Bally's DNA, Raymond decided to launch his own pinball table. Say hello to Ballyhoo. 

Ballyhoo was such a big hit with players that Raymond decided to set up his own business selling the game. Taking inspiration from the name of the hit game, the new business was called 'The Bally Manufacturing Corporation', or 'Bally's' for short. Thousands of Ballyhoo pinball tables were sold over the next few years, delivering exhilarating experiences to players looking for low-cost entertainment, and securing a reputation as a leading pinball manufacturer in the gaming industry. 

Do you need luck or skill in pinball? 

Over the first decade or so, exciting improvements were made on Raymond's early version of the pinball machine. A big gamechanger was the addition of electricity. Adding a volt or two took the pinball machine to a new level. Previously a humble lawn game, suddenly the game was packed with even more thrills, with bells and whistles galore! 

Flashing lights and the iconic bumpers that send the ball flying around the play area were the next additions. There weren't any flippers yet, though. That's right. Those flippers that you can use to ping the ball back into the action? They didn't exist until the late 40s! Without the ability to save the ball from exiting the play area, pinball was argued to be a game of luck, rather than skill. 

With the soaring popularity of pinball, there was also a new passion emerging. Players were betting on the outcome of a game of pinball. This trend, plus the fact that pinball was seen as a game of luck, led to questions about whether the game should be legal. Timing wasn't on the pinball's side, either. With World War II in full swing, Bally's needed to refocus its energy to support the war effort and people were discouraged from getting involved with betting. Eventually, pinball was banned in many states across the USA. 

Even the addition of the flippers at the end of the 40s didn't change the laws banning pinball. Any pinball player worth their salt will be able to tell you that timing is everything with the flippers – making pinball a game of skill, rather than luck. But federal bodies took some time to decide to change the law, meaning players weren't legally allowed to jump into some pinball action for at least two more decades. 

Disco music, bell-bottomed trousers, and the overruling of the pinball prohibition. There are a bunch of things that made the 1970s epic. After plenty of time campaigning to legalise pinball for players across the US, the ban on pinball machines was finally lifted in 1976. Now that was really epic.


New versus retro gameplay 

The end of the 70s saw the development of the modern-day pinball machines that players know and love today. Adding extra technology transformed pinball into a fully electrical game. All the digital displays and sounds? They were introduced once pinball went electric. The newer versions of the pinball machine took the entertainment industry by storm, with hundreds of thousands of machines sold in the late 70s. But there was another player looming in the industry: Arcade video games. 

The 80s were all about rock 'n' roll and retro. Arcades became a hot spot for players looking for an exciting location to hang out with their buds and experience some excitement. Games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders exploded onto the gaming scene, leaving pinball machines behind in the shadows. And, staying true to Raymond's passion for the finding the hottest new games on the block, Bally's efforts were focused on delivering the latest arcade innovations to our players. So, the decision was made to sell the pinball division to a different company, called Williams. 

Don't think the game was up for the Ballyhoo pinball machine, though. Nuh-uh! Williams continued to use the Bally’s name on many of their pinball machines, probably because Bally's had already built an epic reputation in the industry for producing pinball games packed with excitement. Here's a fact for you: One of the most popular pinball games ever, The Addams Family, was produced by Williams but boasted the Bally's name. 

The new age of pinball 

By the dawn of the new millennium, there was a staggering number of new games available to players to choose from and pinball wasn't the hottest game on the block anymore. After 60 years of incredible success, the popularity of pinball was falling. Arcade games and slot machines were coming out on top. 

But, fortunately for fans everywhere, the pinball machine has been making a comeback! With classic titles appearing in arcades around the world, retro-seekers can send the silver ball flying for a action-packed experience. And, for players who like a bit of tech? There are even machines being developed with cool, new LCD elements that elevate the original technology introduced in the 70s. 

Don't stress if your local arcade doesn't stock a trusty pinball machine, though. With pinball museums available in locations such as Paris, Athens, London and various US states, there are plenty of places where you can dive into the action. The biggest pinball destination of them all? California! Visitors of the Museum of Pinball, CA, can find over 600 pinball machines, including tons of awesome Bally's games. 

Bally's focus may not be pinball machines anymore, but Raymond Moloney's passion for new games has always stayed at the heart of everything 'Bally's'. Nowadays, Bally Casino is an ultimate destination for players looking for an awesome gaming experience, with an epic collection of slot machines, live card games, casino classics and retro titles on offer. 

Intrigued? Sign up to get on Bally Casino and see for yourself! 

Fascinated by all things Bally? We don't blame you. Head over to our blog, where you can find plenty of interesting facts, plus the latest updates and how-to guides.