Twenty years ago, pinball seemed to be circling the drain. In the 1980s and 1990s video games stole market share from the mechanical sort, and home games-consoles stole market share from arcades. By 2000 WMS, the Chicago-based maker of the Bally and Williams brands of pinball machines, then the biggest manufacturer, closed its loss-making pinball division to focus on selling slot machines. Yet today, pinball is thriving again, both at places like Logan Arcade and in people’s homes. Economist:

Sales of new machines have risen by 15-20% every year since 2008, says Zach Sharpe, of Stern Pinball, which after WMS closed became the last remaining major maker. “We have not looked back,” he says. Next year the firm is moving to a new factory, twice the size of its current one, in the north-west suburbs of Chicago. Sales of used machines are more buoyant still — some favourites, such as Stern’s Game of Thrones-themed game, can fetch prices well into five figures. Josh Sharpe, Zach’s brother and president of the International Flipper Pinball Association, says that last year the IFPA approved 8,300 “official” tournaments, a four-fold increase on 2014.

What is driving the boom? Much of it is nostalgia. A generation raised on pinball in arcades in the 1980s and 1990s are now at an age where they have disposable income, and kids with whom they want to play the games they played as children. Marty Friedman, who runs an arcade in Manchester, a tourist town in southern Vermont, says that he and his wife opened their business after he realised it would allow him to indulge his hobby. “I compiled a list of the games I felt were essential to a collection you would deem museum-worthy,” he said, and went about acquiring them. But canny marketing is also drawing in fresh blood. Newer Stern machines are now connected to the internet, so players can log in and have their scores uploaded to an online profile. Both Sharpes suggest that the mechanical nature of the games appeals to people bored with purely screen-based play.