The History of Skee-Ball Machines
Other Alley Games
Skee-Ball's popularity led to many other alley games, designed by Skee-Ball as well as other 3rd-Party companies. These alley games aren't quite as popular as the original Skee-Ball scoring-ring style machines, but they captured another part of the market looking for a little bit of variation in gameplay and are very fun and challenging in their own right.
Photo: Bug Bash Alley Game by Baytek
Bug Bash (by Bay Tek) is an alley game where the player rolls a ball up the ramp to try to knock down 9 bug targets.
Image: Alley Hoops Alley Game
Image credits unknown
Alley Hoops (by Skee Ball, Inc.) is an alley game where the player rolls a ball up the ramp into one of 9 mini basketball hoops to score points.
Alley Cats (by Skee Ball, Inc.) is similar to Bug Bash, only the player tries to knock down various cat targets.
Image: Base Hits Alley Game
Image credits unknown
Base Hits Alley is a baseball-themed alley where the scoring holes are arranged like a baseball field. Players can roll the ball into scoring pockets to advance the runners around the abses on the display.
Skee-Ball for Phones
In December 2010, Gameloft, a worldwide leader in developing and publishing downloadable video games, partnered with Skee-Ball, Inc. to release a Skee-Ball game for mobile phones. It featured rich graphics, three modes and tournament play. Players can unlock new modes and content by winning championships. Battle mode allows up to 4 players to compete against eachother on the same device. The game was available for download in Janauary 2011.
Image: Skee-Ball for Phones
Image credits unknown
Imitation Skee-Ball Machines
There were many manufacturers that have produced alleys similar to Skee-Ball machines. At this time, it's unknown how many imitation alleys were made over the last century, but the alley concept was seen as a huge opportunity and a lot of manufacturers jumped on board. It's likely a portion of these alleys infringed on Skee-Ball's patents and copyrights. Some may have been licensed through Skee-Ball directly, but the large majority likely changed enough in the design, engineering and gameplay to not infringe on what Skee-Ball had patented.
Think of it in terms of pinball machines. You can patent the mechanical design of various components, you can copyright the artwork and layout, circuit boards and software being ran. That doesn't stop someone from creating their own design, artwork, and circuit boards to create something that no longer infringes on the original patent. This goes for anything, be it arcade games, coffee makers, cars or basketball hoops. It's what creates competition and many times allows better products to be created.
Smart Ball (Smart Industries) - These alleys are actually really
cool, at least the later models with a 192x64 gas plasma display. The
electronics were made by Smart Industries, Inc. which is still in the
arcade business today (though not producing Smart Ball alleys). The
Smart Ball alleys featured digital stereo sound effects using the
BSMT2000 audio IC (used in the Battle Toads arcade game as well as a
handful of Data East pinball machines during the '90s). The alleys were
either 10ft or 13ft and featured a similar layout as the Skee-Ball
machines, only instead of the point values being 10-50pts with 100pt
pockets.. they were 100-500pts with 1000pt pockets. Maybe that was just
one of the ways of getting around one of Skee-Ball's patents? In any
case, these machines are unique in that they feature display animations
while you play, great island-themed background music and digital sound
effects. There was even a MATCH feature at the end of a game, similar
to pinball, where if the last 2 digits of your score matched a random
number, you won a free game. There were also Smart Balls with LED
segment displays (both 1-player and 4-player versions). I'm not sure
exactly what years these were produced and if they came before the dot
matrix Smart Ball or if all came out around the same time and these were
just less expensive models.
Photo: Smart Ball Alley Games. Traditional alley (left) and dot-matrix alley (right)
Image from Smart Industries' flyers
Fire Ball (Bay Tek)
References & Other Information
RePlay Magazine Article on History of Skee-Ball
Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc.
Skee-Ball, Inc. About Page - Timeline
2009 Interview with Joe Sladek
2011 Interview with Joe Sladek
http://gameroomantiques.com/ArcadeSalesList.HTMpage1 page2 page3 page4 page5
|Origin of Skee Ball Machine
|Posted 03/17/12 3:37AM by Anonymous Techdoser
|I KNOW where the name "Skee Ball" came from....do you know where it came from?