You can play virtual pinball on everything from your smartphone to your tablet to your laptop. But the best experience is, oddly enough, on an actual standup pinball machine with a giant screen replacing the mechanical guts. These usually offer a simulated pinball experience at a cheaper price point than the real deal requires, but the Skillshot FX Digital Pinball trades affordability for a giant 55-inch screen as the playfield.
Companies like Arcade1Up offer digital pinball machines at a smaller scale with price tags below $US1,000 ($1,388) (believe it or not that’s much cheaper than companies like Stern Pinball who still sell mechanical pinball machines for well over $US6,000 ($8,329)). But the smaller footprint of Arcade1Up’s machines limits gameplay to a 24-inch screen. There’s a good chance the computer screen on your desk is larger than that, and to really enjoy all the incredible details that can be packed into a digitally rendered pinball game, you have to go bigger — both in screen size and budget.
At a buck short of $US9,000 ($12,494), the Skillshot FX Digital Pinball is more expensive than most of the real pinball machines that Stern Pinball still sells, but for that price, you get access to 96 different virtual pinball machines courtesy of Zen Studios’ Pinball FX3 software. Choosing which one to play might actually be harder than setting a new high score, but whichever option you choose will be displayed on a massive 55-inch LCD screen safely located beneath a protective glass covering (you need somewhere to put your soda cup) that’s paired with a 32-inch display on the machine’s vertical backbox displaying matching animations and a digital scoreboard.
Yes, it’s a little disappointing that the 55-inch playfield screen is limited to HD resolutions — bumping that up to 4K would make the virtual tables look even more lifelike — but at least it’s paired with an “arcade-quality sound system” and mechanical flipper haptic feedback that also creates vibrations you can feel as the ball bounces off obstacles. The whole machine runs on Windows 10 and features wifi built-in to facilitate online competitions and IRL multiplayer as well as make updating software easier and potentially add new virtual tables in the future.
Just keep in mind that while the playfield is virtual this pinball machine still weighs 122 kg and measures over five feet in length so you’ll want to make sure you have enough room and enough help to get it into your game room.