Breathing New Life into Old Games

AMI jukebox to Touchtunes conversion

Do you have a game that needs some TLC? Or maybe you have wondered how older pinball machines and other video games go through the process to make them playable despite decades since it’s been manufactured. There are different considerations for refurbishing games to become playable again. We’re passionate about this work and we thought you’d enjoy getting a peek behind the curtain to see how we give these games a new chance to entertain and amuse.

If you’ve ever been to an arcade, bar, or restaurant, you’ll see that there are a variety of options for games. We work on many different types and take a similar approach to each. Some examples of games we’ve worked on include pinball, jukebox, slot machines, video games, trade stimulators, and electro-mechanical gun games. If it takes money, there is a chance we’ve worked on something like it. This gives us the ability to transfer knowledge and skills from one machine to another which helps us understand and better solve problems.

Phases of Game Restoration

When we take a machine in, we try and spend some time with the customer to look over the machine together. If there are any trouble spots that we can pick up on immediately, we try to point those out and give options for service and what that would look like. After that, we discuss how far the customer wants to go as far as cosmetic work and upgrades are concerned. Together with the owner/customer, we set guidelines and expectations for the project. After we’re in agreement, it’s time to dig in.

There are stages to refurbishing  old machines and it varies not just on the machine, but on what the machine owner has in mind. When first examining the game, we take a look at how the game’s systems are interconnected and work on root issues first. These issues would include the motherboard, wiring, circuit boards, or other issues that will make it non-functional. Replacing bulbs would take place after the power supply that impacts the wiring is tested first. For solid-state pinball machines, that means going through circuit boards and running tests on each. If it is a mechanical game, we check the function such as the bumpers, magnets, and switches.

Bally Evil Knievel playfield

We then disassemble, clean, and adjust each system of the game to ensure that it wasn’t impacting the functioning before moving on to repairs. Because some parts we need can no longer be made, we have to get creative when finding replacements. We repair broken parts, fabricate our own replacements when possible, or track them down on the Internet. When the machine is all back together, it gets an inspection with a fresh set of eyes to ensure that nothing is missed.

We playtest the machine for a bit afterward so that no new problems arise after we repair the initial issue. In our experience, the tendency is that if something is going to break, it usually happens in the first few days after reassembly. We want that to happen here in our facility where we can easily fix any related issues rather than in a customer’s home.

Finishing Touches on Machines

We’ve learned the hard way over the years to get things to a functional point before doing anything cosmetic. One of the main ways we improve the playability and appearance of machines is by upgrading the lighting. An example of this is when we’ve made custom dimmable LED lights to replace fluorescent tubes in slot machines, jukeboxes, and pinball machines. Removing the fluorescent tubes lowers power usage, cuts down on heat, and helps eliminate potential fire hazards. Many old magnetic ballasts leak and get hot to the point that they discolor the cabinet where they are bolted down or the heat from the fluorescent lights can melt parts or cause the playfield to change. Adding the LED lights also improves the appearance. Slot machine belly glass, for example, tends to look better with bright, even lighting.

Repairing Historical Games

We have a long history here at KD Game Room Supply, so it becomes a special treat when we get to work on machines with history. We’ve done a memorable game restoration on an O.D. Jennings’ 1934 Sportsman “payout” flipperless pinball machine. What’s remarkable about this particular machine is that it originally ran on six 1.5 volt dry cell batteries. That’s completely unheard of in a modern machine, which made it an interesting challenge.

OD Jennings 1934 Sportsman "payout" flipperless pinball machine

Some of the issues we repaired were the payout assembly had corrosion that needed to be remediated and the wiring was in disarray. We also installed a modern power supply in the cabinet so that the machine could be plugged in, rather than run off of batteries. There are probably not many machines from this era still around which makes it one of our most historically significant projects.

Interested in Learning More?

Do you have a game that needs an upgrade or is no longer working? You can contact us and we can do in-house calls in central Iowa so we can take a look together to see the extent of repairs and if they can be performed on-site at your home/place of business or if it needs to come back with us for more extensive service. Keep your eyes peeled on our social media as we share some of our before and after pictures with you all.

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