I owned and operated a route of coin operated games from 1972 to 1981, and repaired them for other operating companies until 1994.
The first pinball game we ever bought was a used Gottlieb Snow Derby. The first new game was Wildlife. I made more money with Big Indian (of which I bought five) than any other game.
I bought the original Fireball back in 1973, probably a year after its manufacture, and it was a loser. People remember it, but they didn't play it. It didn't make money for anybody.
Gottlieb once made a two ended pinball machine with a motorized playfield called Challenger. They made about 150 prototype units but decided not to produce it, and they somehow nearly all wound up in Canada. I think a Canadian distributor was so certain it would be a sleeper hit that he might have been responsible for the larger-than-normal prototype production quantity. In the mid-1970s, I arranged to have one shipped to me, but I never consummated the deal.
I went to the AMOA convention in Chicago in 1976 and saw the first digital pinball machine. It was named Spirit of '76 and was manufactured by a company called Mirco Games, which, according to Wikipedia, was an amusement games manufacturer from 1974 to 1978, but I don't know of any other products that they made.
The hit of that show was a video game called "Blockade", which proved to be a flop when released. Quite often, the hit of the show turns out to be a flop.
Gottlieb was the last company to "go digital". They hired Rockwell to design their processor system, but because they couldn't see beyond the ends of their noses, Rockwell designed a circuitboard that could only do what the electromechanical circuitry it replaced could do, meaning, their games were D-U-L-L. Their first production unit was Pyramid.
Pretty soon, no one wanted to play the electromechanical games, so I had to "cover my route" with the digital ones that cost about 40% more than the electromechanical ones had, which meant I had to borrow a ton of money, but before they ever earned enough to pay for themselves, the next video game boom kicked off, beginning with Space Invaders, followed by Asteroid and Galaxian, and then PacMan, Defender and Galaga, making my inventory of digital pinball machines nearly worthless.
A second problem created by the popularity of the video games was that the customers became more product aware. They no longer asked me to bring them a game: they wanted a specific game, and a month later, they wanted a different one, and they all wanted the same ones at the same time, so we no longer could expect a game to have a lifetime earning curve that tapered off gently over time.
The last two pinball machines I bought were Paragon and Stellar Wars. The week I installed them in an arcade across from the University of New Hampshire, they were the top two earners, but the gross of that arcade, including these two new machines, still went down by a hundred dollars from the previous week. That did not bode well for the future...
I could see that the new video games, which cost nearly $2,000 for the black and white ones and nearly $3,000 for the color ones, were never going to pay for themselves, so I merged with another operator and exited the business a year later.
Within two years, there were bankruptcy auctions held nearly every week where someone could buy these $2,000 to $3,000 games for typically a hundred dollars or so.
Gorgar was a marketing ripoff. It was the first game to utilize speech, and the manufacturer sent out "demo records" which we could play to hear the Gorgar voice, but the records contained several times as many Gorgar utterances as the actual game did.
Black Knight and Haunted House should be sold with, "Out of Order" signs on them. They were nightmares to keep running.
I always got a kick out of hearing the cops say, "He got away." "What?" "He got away." on High Speed.
The machine pictured in the first link in the first post in this thread is Gottlieb's High Hand. I missed the boat on that one. Gottlieb used to determine the exact number of machines it was going to produce before beginning a production run, and I didn't pre-order one so when it sold out, I went without. The pinball manufacturers had to commit to a certain size production run because of the time it took to make the playfields, which had to be annealed.
A year or so later, Gottlieb made an add-a-ball version of High Hand called Captain Card, for use in New York State, where free games were prohibited. I bought one and made it into a replay model by gutting out a credit wheel and other parts from some older clunker (I was a clever dude back then!). When I finally traded it back to my distributor, they said I might as well leave that circuitry in, rather than restore it to add-a-ball. I pity the guy who would have to service it without a schematic for what I had Kludged into it for a credit circuit.
I played the prototype Nip-it on a distributor's showroom floor. It had a plastic alligator to pounce on the ball, but since it didn't hold up well, the production model just had a tubular bar doing the same thing.
Do any of you remember the Gottlied single player game, Eldorado? It had the same playfield as Target Alpha/Solar Ride (Gottlieb always followed the manufacture of a 4-player electromechanical game with a two player model bearing a similar name : Orbit/Outer Space, Jungle/Wildlife, Jack in the Box/Jumping Jack, etc. The 2-player models cost about $200 less than the 4-players). They made a special production run of El Dorado called Canada Dry, to help launch some new product called Bitter Orange in (edit) France. I always thought that the drop target with the Canada Dry logo on it would be a collectible item.