Customer Stories

What it takes to make a pinball machine


Published on March 31, 2022

Great people, the right tools, and passion for the game, as old-school maker Stern Pinball explains after 36 years of turning out hits.

Founded in Chicago in 1986, Stern Pinball is the oldest continually active pinball manufacturer in the world. Throughout the years, the game has evolved as technology in the world has changed. But one thing remains: the makers’ passion for the game.

“When people love [pinball], they spend that much more time and energy thinking about ‘how do I make this better?’ And here at Stern, we're trying to make the best products we can,” says Tim Sexton, lead software developer.

Sexton is among thousands of employees, distributors, suppliers, and other pinball professionals who work together to create and deliver the game that has brought joy to so many generations. Each game has a theme, around which the art and play field components are designed. Building a pinball machine not only takes time, teamwork, and a love for the game; it also requires the right tools.

“Dropbox is used heavily in file sharing and collaboration in order to put the pieces of a scene together,” says Sexton. “All the different pieces of a project are shared through Dropbox to all other members of the team. They’re getting really fast iterations through Dropbox, updating the scenes, and making them as polished as they can be before they go into the game.”

In addition to being a collaborative tool within teams, Dropbox is used to connect people across the company. 

“As we're getting ready to launch a game, sales and marketing guys are needing assets,” says George Gomez, Chief Creative Officer. “They need art assets, images, video assets to create sizzle videos and other marketing materials.”

Even though Gomez leads the creative department, he says every member of his team makes a contribution. “The best designers empower all of those people to bring their best stuff to the table. That collaborative component is what makes the games great.

“People here are pinball people,” says Gary Stern, founder of Stern. “A lot of them come from pinball, one way or another: family, working in it, competing in it, what have you. They create fun, and that's what keeps everybody excited.”

Sexton says there’s nothing else he can imagine doing. “It’s the process of taking what I’ve enjoyed before I worked here, contributing to the future of [pinball], and getting everyone excited about making a pinball machine. We know when it goes out, it will have a great impact with the customers and with the community.”

Watch the video to hear more from the people behind Stern Pinball.