It has likely been a while since most people last went to an arcade, but the pandemic has started the trend of people bringing those arcades home.
Pinball has seen a meteoric rise in popularity because of the pandemic and has turned basements into relics of the past because of it.
“It’s just endorphin rush. Just constant,” said Tim McCool, 32.
During the pandemic McCool moved back home as a way to save money and support his mother in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. It turned out to be a pretty great decision as he got to move back to a place that has been home to five pinball machines for the better part of the last decade.
“My mom, she’s the one that really got me into it,” said McCool. “A lot of people who probably didn’t think of considering buying a pinball machine beforehand, they were like ‘I need pinball.’”
Stern, the world’s largest pinball manufacturer based in Chicago, reported sales during quarantine five times higher than ever before. And Jersey Jack, another U.S.-based pinball manufacturer, reported selling out of its newest machine in two hours back in October.
“It is a great, wonderful, fun thing and it was nice having machines at home during the pandemic,” said McCool’s mother, Joan.
Many in the community feared the pandemic would have been the last straw for an industry that has struggled in recent years. With the closure of arcades and bars, where leagues would meet, members started taking to the online streaming service, Twitch, to showcase their activity.
“[Popularity has] really gone up another level,” said Dan O’Connor, a member of the Triangle Pinball Club in Raleigh. “We couldn’t be happier about it.”