Planetary Pinball Supply, Inc FAQ - Oct 13, 2010
Q: Who/What is Planetary Pinball Supply, Inc.?
A: Planetary Pinball Supply, Inc (PPS) is a new company that will be focused on the manufacture, sales, and distribution of replacement WEG/BLY pinball parts and potentially new pinball games. PPS is a licensee of Williams Electronics Games, Inc. (WEG) and as such has the rights to use WEG copyright and trademark material. PPS also has been assigned 40 active pinball patents from Mr. Pinball Australia Pty Ltd (MPBA).
Q: Who is part of PPS?
A: PPS was founded by Rick Bartlett and Matt Christiano. Both are very active in the pinball community - Rick started and runs Bay Area Amusements as well as owns a number of games, and Matt is an avid collector as well as board member of the Las Vegas Pinball Hall Of Fame Museum. Both have high tech backgrounds and have worked at several Silicon Valley companies for many years.
Q: What is the deal between Mr. Pinball Australia and Planetary Pinball?
A: PPS has acquired the pinball spare parts manufacturing and distribution business from Mr. Pinball Australia. In addition, Mr. Pinball Australia assigns and transfers it's Williams Electronics Games, Inc. license to PPS which enables PPS to make Williams®/Bally® spare parts using WEG Intellectual Property. Included are the rights to manufacture and sell new Pinball games under the Bally mark and logo. PPS assumes all the existing MPBA parts supplier agreements.
Q: When was this deal announced and what was the timing around it?
A: The deal was closed early October, 2010 and was announced a few days later. Confidential discussions began in the summer of 2010.
Q: Is Williams Electronics Games, Inc. involved in this?
A: Absolutely. Williams Electronics Games, Inc. (WEG) controls the rights to make pinball parts and games under the Williams and Bally trademarks, as well as the copyrights to all Williams and Bally (BLY) games and associated parts. WEG licensed the rights to make spare parts for all the existing Williams and Bally games, as well as the rights to manufacture new games under the Bally mark and logo to MPBA. These rights were transferred to PPS in October, 2010.
WEG continues to be the authority for approval of new WMS/BLY licensed parts and products, and PPS will work with WEG as its licensee. In addition, as with any licensee, PPS is obligated to notify WEG of any infringing activity that it becomes aware of.
Q: How is Bay Area Amusements related to PPS?
A: Planetary Pinball Supply, Inc and Bay Area Amusements, LLC (BAA) are separate companies, with different ownership. PPS is focused on Williams/Bally parts manufacture and distribution and will explore how to make new game titles available. Bay Area Amusements sells parts for all game platforms beyond WMS/BLY and sells directly to the end customer. PPS will continue to supply the current set of Mr. Pinball Australia distributors and will continue to expand distribution as appropriate. BAA is one of those distributors and therefore will be a distributor of PPS.
PPS will operate independently (separate inventory, separate financials). However, PPS will leverage certain logistical capabilities of BAA which can help lower costs of parts to our customers. PPS will sell to all distributors on an equal basis.
Q: Where is PPS located?
A: PPS is headquartered in San Jose, CA and will operate out of 3 different facilities which are already operational.
Q: Is PPS yet another Online Pinball Store?
A: PPS is primarily focused on manufacturing and wholesale distribution of WMS/BLY parts, and as such we will build upon the distribution model of Mr. Pinball Australia Pty Ltd. We will operate an online retail presence primarily to showcase the replacement parts that we supply.
Q: When will we see the first parts from PPS?
A: Immediately - the existing array of parts (artwork, molded parts, common parts, etc) are available from PPS and we have been working for the last few months to build up the capabilities needed to pick up what Mr. Pinball Australia has developed and build from there. We will also soon be announcing a series of new products as well as capabilities to further drive additional products into the market.
Q: Why is this good for Pinball?
A: There are a number of reasons. First, the principals of PPS are passionate Pinball enthusiasts who are both familiar with the pinball community as well as the pinball marketplace. Second, we are working on accelerating the introduction of parts into the marketplace and can take advantage of a US-based business to speed up time and lower costs. Finally, with Mr. Pinball Australia, parts would need to be shipped from manufacturing sites in the US and then re-shipped back to distributors, often in the US. The net result will be lower costs and quicker delivery to distributors, and hence to the end customers - the pinball owners.
Q: So PPS is now the WMS licensee - what does that mean?
A: It means that we are able to manufacture, sell, and distribute replacement pinball parts for Williams/Bally games . Our license also allows for the manufacture of new pinball games (new titles or remakes) under the Bally mark and logo. We also have access to WMS Intellectual Property (parts drawings, artwork, etc) which will help us to create additional parts needed in the marketplace.
Q: Is The Pinball Factory no longer in business?
A: Mr. Pinball Australia Pty Ltd (their official name) remains in business selling pinball games, parts, and accessories in the local Australian market. They will no longer operate under the name "The Pinball Factory". PPS did not acquire the company but the license to the WMS Intellectual Property rights and their distribution business and spare parts inventory.
Q: Will PPS make games?
A: PPS has acquired the right to produce (with WEG approval) new pinball machines under the Bally mark and logo. We will explore options to bring a limited number of new or re-issued games to the market. In the short term, however, we will focus on increasing the number of replacement parts which are available to preserve the games which are out there.
Q: What happens to pinball.com?
A: pinball.com, pin2000.com, pinball2000.com have been transferred to, and will be managed by PPS. The sites will continue to have original WMS downloads, game information, technical information as they had before.
Q: What can companies or individuals do with respect to rightfully producing parts?
A: Parts that fall under WEG or Bally copyrights, Trademarks, or existing current patents cannot be produced and sold without explicit permission by Williams Electronics Games, Inc or its licensees. Parts covered by active patents or games utilizing parts under such patents cannot be produced without explicit agreement by the patent holder. PPS has about 40 active original WEG patents assigned.
Q: Is PPS just another company to harass pinball people for making parts?
A: No, PPS is dedicated to bringing replacement parts to the market. But there are business realities. First of all, PPS is under obligation to notify WEG of copyright and trademark infringements discovered by PPS. Second, there is significant investment in any pinball parts business as well as significant financial risk relative to small run pinball parts, limited demand for parts, and complexity and time required to make parts.
PPS will actively support (as did Mr. Pinball Australia) the use of contract manufacturers to create licensed parts. If you have a product idea or capability which might benefit the pinball community please contact us and work with us to make the product available thru legitimate channels. We see this as a great way to get more parts into the marketplace, so we will continue and expand as appropriate.
In addition, there needs to be a chain for quality and safety for the parts. Often there are infringing parts which are sub-standard and this hurts the overall pinball hobby. With PPS, all parts are run through the approval process to insure the best part is able to reach the market.
Q: The Pinball world seems have a lot of Politics, Camps, etc - is PPS just another?
A: PPS will focus on the development of parts and possibly games for the pinball market. Historically, the PPS founders have personally straddled all of the various 'camps' as our primary focus was to work with any suppliers who could help provide badly needed parts into the market.
We will work within the industry and seek advice from all that we can - including of course the pinball enthusiast, collector, owner, operator, and small businesses that support this market.
There is natural competition, but we also see a large demand for new replacement parts. Our goal is to bring as many new replacement parts to the market as is practical.
BALLY, BALLY (STYLIZED) and the FLYING PINBALL DESIGN are trademarks of Harrah's Operating Company, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
WILLIAMS, WILLIAMS (STYLIZED) and the WINGED W DESIGN are trademarks and copyrights of Williams Electronics Games, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.