Porn and Punching Bags...The Collapse of Capcom Pinball

This afternoon I heard that the former home of Gene Cunningham recently went back up for sale. For those of you who aren't familiar with Gene's story, the Polygon article on the subject below is an amazing must-read. The Cliff's Notes version is he bankrupted himself by going through the effort to remake the very rare Capcom pinball machine Big Bang Bar.


The news of this listing reminded me of a post that I wrote on why Capcom Pinball failed on the Knapp Arcade Facebook page all the way back in 2018, waaaay before the new site existed. It's a fascinating story. The following is a re-post of a post of that piece.


"...That got me thinking about Capcom. There was a lot of potential there, I like some of the games that they came out with, or almost came out with. The list of games that Capcom produced includes (from best to worse, IMHO):


- Pinball Magic (1995, 1,200 produced): PM actually came out before Theatre of Magic. The game is still loved by many to this day.


- Big Bang Bar (1996, 14 produced): Only 14 BBB were produced before Capcom pulled the plug on it. The game was remade by Gene Cunningham years later, which itself is a fascinating story that can be read about here:


When pigs flew: The strange history of Capcom's Big Bang Bar

A story of passion, creativity, bankruptcy and pinball’s downfall


https://www.polygon.com/features/2017/3/21/14937540/history-of-big-bang-bar-pinball


- Kingpin (1996): Designed by Mark Ritchie of Indiana Jones and Fish Tales fame, KP was basically never produced. A company called Circus Maximus is currently in the process of attempting to make the game and bring it out.


- Airborne (1996, 1,350 produced): I've always thought that Airborne looked like a really cool game, but I have not had the pleasure of playing one yet.


- Breakshot (1996, 1,000 produced): Another in a long line of pool-themed pinball machines.


- Flipper Football (1996, 750 produced): One of the main reasons for Capcom pinball's demise. Designed by Brian Hansen and the famed pinball artist Python Anghelo.


- Zingy Bingy (1997, 1 prototype produced): Yes, you read that name right. Again designed by Brian Hansen and Python Anghelo.


So why did Capcom pinball fail? In short, the designers and management at Capcom decided not to create the typical 10 to 15 machine prototype run with Flipper Football, instead jumping right into production. As a result, the company ran into numerous, costly design problems that needed to be corrected on the fly. When all was said and done, Capcom was forced to throw out literally millions of dollars of flawed parts for the game. As an added bonus, despite warnings from operators about the feature Capcom decided to place a life-sized soccer ball on the backbox of Flipper Pinball, which bar patrons decided made for a great punching bag.


Flipper Football was a complete disaster, but the straw that may have broken Capcom pinball's back may actually have been another game which Python Anghelo named "Zingy Bingy," a term that he coined while at Williams which essentially meant to go out drinking. OK, so a drinking-themed pin probably wouldn't be so bad, right? Well, that's not what Zingy Bingy was. It actually was basically a porn-themed game, featuring a naked man and women on the playfield. The flippers were modeled after male parts, and the bumpers and outholes were modeled after female parts. Why Anghelo thought this game would sell is anyone's guess, but unsurprisingly Capcom's Japanese parent company was horrified by the idea and not thrilled by the fact that thousands of dollars was spent on building prototype machines without approval.


Shortly after Flipper Football and Zingy Bingy, Capcom pulled the plug on its pinball division, with games like Big Bang Bar and Kingpin just sitting there waiting to be produced. Who knows what would have happened if the pinball division had decided to produce those two instead of the two failures, a downturn that even took down the pinball behemoth Williams was right around the corner, but maybe the division would have survived if it had played its cards differently.


This is what happened at Capcom according to research that I did on the web. Not all of the details may be correct. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on Capcom games and or information on the company itself. It may have produced some games that I missed and I'm sure that there's lots of interesting stories / history that I am not aware of or facts that the Internet got wrong."

Stan Fukuoka's Big Bang Bar Concept Art

Stan Fukuoka's Big Bang Bar Concept Art

Stan Fukuoka's Big Bang Bar Concept Art

Stan Fukuoka's Big Bang Bar Concept Art

Stan Fukuoka's Big Bang Bar Concept Art


A picture of Gene Cunningham's recently re-listed house https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1409-Butchers-Ln-Bloomington-IL-61701/105639708_zpid/?

Big Bang Bars being assembled at a warehouse in Bloomington.

Big Bang Bar machines waiting to be picked up from Cunningham

1996 Capcom Kingpin

1996 Capcom Airborne

1996 Capcom Breakshot

1996 Capcom Flipper Football

1995 Capcom Pinball Magic

1997 Capcom Zingy Bingy


1,428 views0 comments