Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Williams (gaming company)
Williams is a long-standing electronic gaming and amusement company based in Chicago, Illinois. Williams was founded as the Williams Manufacturing Company in 1946 by Harry Williams. Williams initially was a manufacturer only of pinball tables. In the early 1970s, Williams branched out into the fledgling coin-operated arcade video game market, where it was successful for many years.
In 1946, Harry Williams founded Williams Manufacturing Company in Chicago. The first known original amusement device made by Williams was an early-era pinball machine called Suspense in 1946. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Williams continued to make pinball machines and the occasional bat-and-ball game. In 1950, Williams produced Lucky Inning, their first pinball table to have its bottom flippers facing inward in the modern manner. In late 1958, Williams Manufacturing became known as Williams Electronic Manufacturing Company. In 1960, company founder Harry Williams designed his last pinball table as a full-time designer, the horse racing-themed Nags.
In 1962, 3 Coin became the first Williams table to sell over 1,000 units (1,100, specifically). One year later, Skill Pool sold 2,250 units. The 1966 pinball table A-Go-Go, with its avant-garde 60s theme, sold a staggering 5,100 units. Early Williams pinball tables often included innnovative features and pinball firsts, such as mechanical reel scoring and the "add-a-ball" feature for locations that didn't allow game replays. By 1967, Williams once agains changed its name, this time to Williams Electronics, Inc.
By 1967, pinball was in the middle of its so-called "golden age", and the number of pinball units that sold began to increase dramatically. Popular Williams pinballs included Shangri-La (1967), Apollo (1967), Smart Set (1969), Gold Rush (1971), and Space Mission (1976).
Arcade Videogaming and Solid-state Pinball
In 1973, Williams decided to enter the fledgling coin-operated arcade videogame industry. Their first arcade videogame was Paddle-Ball. Williams was moderately successful in this new arena but their big breakthrough was the release of 1980's Defender, whose space alien theme and scrolling feature made it an instant classic. Williams' other notable arcade hits were 1982's Joust and Robotron: 2084.
At the same time, Williams would enter the era of solid-state electronic pinball and come to dominate the entire pinball industry. Williams' first solid-state machine was Hot Tip (1976), which had originally been released with electromechanical reel scoring. The updated machine outsold its predecessor by nearly four to one. As the 1970s became the 1980s, Williams would release numerous innovative pinballs, such as Firepower (1980), Black Knight (1980), Space Shuttle (1984), Comet (1985), Pin*bot (1986), F-14 Tomcat (1987), and Cyclone (1988).
By 1983, the entire arcade amusement industry went into a major decline. In spite of this, Williams managed to weather the poor economic conditions better than most. In 1985, Williams once again changed its name, this time to WMS Industries, Inc. In 1988, WMS Industries acquired Bally Midway Manufacturing Company, which was the result of the merger of Bally and Midway in 1983. Williams continued to use the Bally brand name while calling its associated division "Midway Manufacturing". Williams Electronics formed a separate division within WMS Industries. In 1992, the Bally Midway division produced the licensed Addams Family pinball table (based on the movie of that era). Addams Family sold a record 20,270 units, which still stands to this day. In 1993, Bally Midway produced Twilight Zone, which sold an impressive 15,235 units as well.
But the writing was on the wall. After 1993, Williams never came close to matching the sales numbers of Addams Family or Twilight Zone. In 1999, Williams made one last attempt to revitalize pinball sales with its "Pinball 2000" machines that integrated pinball with computer graphics on embedded raster-scan displays. The innovation didn't pay off and that same year, Williams left the pinball industry to focus on slot machine development as WMS Gaming. In late March of 2005, http://www.pinballnews.com reported that Williams had exclusively licensed the intellectual properties and the rights to re-manufacture former Bally/Williams games in the field of mechanical pinball (including traditional pinball and Pinball 2000 style machines) to Wayne Gillard - Mr Pinball Australia.
Overall, Williams was one of the major forces in arcade amusement history. During the "Golden Age" of pinball, Williams was one of the three major manufacturers and also had success making coin-op arcade video games. For much of the later history of pinball, Williams simply dominated the industry even as pinball began to decline in popularity.
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