While I have my criticisms of Farsight’s work on The Pinball Arcade (Free), the company has done a valuable service to the history of gaming and pinball fans all over the world with the game. The developers have painstakingly re-created tons of classic tables in digital form, often navigating a ridiculous labyrinth of licenses to do so. Because of that, I’ve often wondered if and when certain tables would start disappearing due to licenses expiring, but I never expected the news that Farsight delivered yesterday. The current owner of the Williams/Bally pinball IP has decided that it doesn’t want to renew its agreement with Farsight, which means every last one of its tables will be pulled from sale as of June 30th.
This is, to be frank, a devastating blow for the app. Of the 94 tables currently available for purchase through The Pinball Arcade, 61 are either Bally or Williams tables. This list includes some high-profile favorites like The Addams Family, Terminator 2, Medieval Madness, Black Knight, and many, many more. The complete list of tables to be pulled has been posted by Farsight on the game’s Facebook page. Farsight states that The Pinball Arcade will carry on without Bally/Williams, with the next spate of releases including all of the tables from Stern Pinball Arcade (Free). Releases beyond that will have to come from existing partners Stern, Gottlieb, Alvin G. and Company, and any other manufacturers that Farsight can make deals with. It’s not the end of the world, but there are no bones about it: Bally and Williams are responsible for most of the popular pinball tables in the history of the hobby, and their absence will be strongly felt.
The tables will remain available for sale until June 30th, and the good news is that if you’ve bought them by then, you will continue to have access to them. Moreover, Farsight states that they will continue to support those tables with bug fixes and updates as needed. After the tables are removed from sale, the app will be restructured with table packs following more of a manufacturer-specific focus. Unfortunately, when the pulled Switch version returns, it will not have any Williams or Bally tables available, so if you want any of those tables in handheld form, you’ll have to go with the mobile or Vita versions.
It seems like this was as much of a shock to Farsight as it is to any of us. According to the company, there was nothing they could do. The Williams/Bally IP holder simply declined to renew the ten-year long contract. It’s hard to imagine why it would do this, but perhaps it has its eyes on a deal with someone else? Even if these tables do come back with another company, however, it’s doubtful anyone else would put in the licensing legwork that Farsight did for some of these tables. This may well be the last time we see things like Star Trek: The Next Generation or The Addams Family available in digital form, and that’s very sad. Get them while you can.