Capcom Big Bang Bar
Big Bang Bar (BBB) is a pinball machine that was for many pinball collectors an unreachable dream (or still is) and became a cult object.
In 1996, BBB prototypes were presented at the Pinball Expo show in Chicago. It was Capcoms latest game and was planned to go
into production shortly afterwards. For many visitors of this show, Big Bang Bar was the best new game shown (remember this
was at a time that other manufacturers like Williams still made pinball machines, all new models were introduced to the public at this show).
Big Bang Bar was unique and raised the bar on many levels: it was certainly Capcoms best machine ever. Quality of sounds and artwork is excellent, dmd animations are great, the playfield has great flow, there's humor in the gameplay and its sounds. Everything in the whole theme fits together.
Technically there were some innovations like the use of electro-luminiscent lights on plastic ramps and the funny ball lock mechanism. The artwork by Stan Fukuoka uses bright fluorescent details (brought out even more using the blacklight in the back of the playfield), making BBB look different from any other pinball game produced. The game really stands out and attracts attention.
The adult theme made it also different from other pinball machines, the half-nude tube dancer and moaning sounds were more risquee than any other pinball machine produced (even the Playboy pinball machines).
The games rules are not very difficult but fun, average players can have a good time playing this machine.
Cabinet artwork is very special with green and blue base colors and bright accents.
To everyones surprise, management at Capcom decided a few weeks later to quit manufacturing pinball machines and closed this division. Big Bang Bar was never going into production, even with the game design being ready and many parts for it had already been ordered (around 1999 and 2000, ebay was flooded with Big Bang Bar translights, some as low as $20 a piece). Only 14 prototypes had been made - of which 11 are known in collectors possession, and one of which was lost in a fire.
Would producing Big Bang Bar have saved Capcom ? That's a question we'll never know the answer to.
Probably not, because on test locations the game didn't earn much more money than other games. Because of the adult
theme it's possible many operators (especially in the USA) would not have bought this machine, as they can't operate it
in any location.
And back in 1996 the number of private pinball collectors that bought a game new in box was extremely limited (to non-existing).
Something which not a lot of people know is that after Capcom closed, Williams bought the rights to the game
and investigated if they could produce this game.
One prototype playfield has been made, using Williams own parts. The project was cancelled, because the technical differences between both brands were just too large. One of the problems for instance was that Williams flipper coils were just not strong enough to get the pinball onto the steep ramp, Capcom coils were more powerful.
Because of all attention Big Bang Bar had gotten at Pinball Expo, the closing of Capcom, and the positive reactions
by pinball collectors, this machine got a cult status. It became one of the holy grails to own, it was a dream of many
pinball collectors to own one of these games in their home collection. Some of the few prototypes sometimes were sold.
In 2000 one was sold on ebay (and another one in a private transaction) for $20.000. Another prototype (which included
many design documents) sold for even more. Some serious collectors had standing offers of $20.000 and no-one wanted
to sell to them at that price.
In 2000 Gene Cunningham of Illinois Pin Ball also bought the remaining stock of parts and rights to create the pinball machines from Capcom.
Immediately rumors and requests to Gene started to bring Big Bang Bar into production.
It took until 2004 however for Gene Cunningham to announce he (under a new company: Pinball Manufacturing Inc.)
was going to produce Big Bang Bar.
Price for the machine was set at $4500, one game per person and a deposit of $2500 was required. 100 deposits were needed to start the project. Each game was going to receive a numbered plaque, the number and description could be chosen, as well as if buyers wanted to buy extra spare parts (like plastic sets, ramps or tube dancers).
In the end 183 deposits were entered and the project started.
183 games may seem a small number of deposits, but remember back in 2004 there were less collectors (especially high-end collectors who bought new in box games). Gene had also never produced anything. Assembling a pinball machine from scratch without having an existing assembly line and skilled workers seemed to be an impossible task for many. And the price was relatively high - back then Sterns games like The Simpsons Pinball Party could be bought new for around $3750 (when shopping around). Further the amount of games that could be made was limited because existing Capcom boards had to be used, these would not be manufactured, and only a limited amount of these was available.
What's this alien looking at ?
The project started, a private forum was created where only people with a deposit had access to, and not many information about its progress was made public. There were some substantial delays. By june 2005 the remaining payment had to be sent, but a delivery date was not known. This made rumors even bigger about the project never finishing, some people sold their deposit/order to other collectors, ..
In 2006 it finally happened ! The first European buyers received their Big Bang Bar pinball machine. In july 2006 a new RoHS (Reduction of Hazardous Substances) legislation became active, which prohibited the sale of new electronic parts that used lead-holding solder. Because the Capcom boards did not meet these requirements, the machines had to be imported into Europe before this date. In the beginning there even was asked to these European buyers to keep delivery of their machines a secret until the production run was finished. Word got out quickly however that Big Bang Bar pinball machines finally had been produced. American buyers however had to wait almost a year longer (until june 2007) for final delivery of their games.
Some photos made during production and delivery from the first games can be found at www.bbbpictures.com.
Using leftover spare parts (the amount of pcb's that was still in stock limited how many games could be produced), some extra games with serial number EXP have been produced, bringing the complete number of repro Big Bang Bar pinball machines to 191.
A few of these reproduction Big Bang Bars have been sold. Prices (depending if it was still new in box or played) was usually between $10000 and $14000.
Pinball prices that make you dizzy ?
The reproduction Big Bang Bars are almost identical to the Capcom games. The only technical difference is with the
e-l lights on the plastic ramp: on the original Capcom game these work on 24v while the reproductions use 12v.
Each of the games have a plaque on the playfield apron with its number and a custom description, selected when the deposit was done.