Steve Epstein

Words below courtesy of Roger Sharpe:

For over 40 years, Steven Epstein made an indelible impact on the entire coin-operated amusement game industry. His influence on game design, game operations, marketing and promotion remain unequalled and played an integral role in shaping the direction of how business was done. In many ways, what he achieved and innovated endures to this day.


As the owner of New York City’s Broadway Arcade, it was Steve who made this celebrated venue ‘world famous’. In the heart of the theater district at 52nd and Broadway, he created an amusement machine haven for celebrities, musicians, business people and thousands upon thousands of game playing patrons who were looking for a brief escape from the outside world. He welcomed regulars and strangers alike with open arms whether they were taking breaks from their performances on nearby stages, music studios or the surrounding office buildings.


As a second generation member of the coin-operated amusement game industry, his legacy took shape following in his father’s footsteps. Dave Epstein had been the manager and co-owner of a New Jersey arcade. But it was when the business moved into Manhattan that Steve stepped out of the shadows to carve out his own unique vision of what his entertainment venue could be in the middle of one of the most celebrated and thriving metropolitan centers in the world. He brought a new way of thinking to how The Broadway Arcade would set itself apart from the other nearby amusement arcades.  What he achieved was a true ‘neighborhood’ sensibility that made everyone who entered feel as if they were home. And it was Steve’s home when he met you at the door.


The Broadway Arcade became one of the foremost test locations in the world for video games and pinball machines. Manufacturers would endeavor to get their upcoming attractions to Steve and his audience in order to get invaluable feedback which, often, would result in those very same machines getting reworked and tweaked in order to maximize their appeal and earnings. In fact, the benchmark became if a game performed well at the Arcade, it would be successful anywhere in the world. And it was a testament to the important role that Steve provided for many, many years and literally hundreds of machines. It was his personal care and attention to detail which stood out from one game to the next.


If his career had only been defined by The Broadway Arcade, Steve Epstein’s legacy would have been enough to be remembered for all those singularly memorable accomplishments. But it proved to be the launching pad for more achievements that enriched his legend and all he came in contact with.


Steve’s life transcended any single definition as evidenced by becoming a game designer himself. The result, working with Roger Sharpe, was a game that still captivates players over 40 years since it was introduced. Barracora proved to be a timeless creation with a balanced playfield layout and a deep rule set which took full advantage of the existing programming capabilities back in the early 1980s.  And if that weren’t enough to solidify his intuitive sense of what makes a game compelling, Steve even proved his talents with multiple video game concepts which, although they never came to life, were exemplified by a host of many successful derivative efforts which graced the screen.


These were some of the building blocks as Steve, a world class player himself, shared a vision with Roger Sharpe to embark on a mutually held ambitious dream. Together they established a foundational platform to support and encourage competitive pinball. Their efforts included a scoring system which could be used to equalize the results of different games from any era. This was the core of The Professional and Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA) when it was born and set the stage for the very first organized pinball leagues and the resulting national pinball tournaments which followed.


Just a few decades later, Steve found himself again in an instrumental role to help resurrect a long dormant International Flipper Pinball Association. As one of the Co-Directors of the IFPA, he helped to spearhead a surge in expanding pinball leagues and tournaments across the globe. And this life’s work has been paid tribute to by the staging of The Epstein Cup. This annual international competition brings together the best players from the United States vying for honors against the best European players.


But Steve’s life’s journey went far beyond his achievements on behalf of pinball and the coin-operated amusement game industry. Integral throughout was the need to contribute to numerous community causes and charitable organizations. This never wavered and during the last few years of his life, he dedicated all of his energies and passion to help support and expand the initiatives of Project Pinball. It was an effort that brought him a true sense of pride and fulfillment as to what were the limitless possibilities of what could be accomplished to benefit so many in need.


Steve Epstein endures, all the lives that he touched. How his influences live on to never be forgotten and how fortunate the world is for having him be such a formidable individual with a legacy that has enriched us all. We pay tribute to this man and are better for all his efforts and deeds.