Indiana’s best of the best will converge in Huntertown Saturday. Local pinball arcade Wizard’s World will host Indiana’s International Flipper Pinball Association State Championship for the first time since it opened in December 2017.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Wizard’s World owner Mike Burgess said. “We had so many people play this year that we qualified as a Super State, so instead of 16 people in the state tourney, there’s actually 24 now, and quite a few of those are from Fort Wayne. They all did a really good job throughout the year.”
In past years, arcades in Lafayette and Indianapolis have hosted the state championship, but it should come as no surprise that Wizard’s World was next on the list, considering it became the state’s largest pinball arcade the day it opened with 27 machines total. After just seven months in business, Burgess had grown the Huntertown arcade’s collection to 73 games by July 2018, making it the 10th largest pinball arcade in the world. Wizard’s World is currently packed to capacity with pinball machines, while Burgess continues to grow his collection at home.
Pinball players qualify for the state championship by scoring in the top 24 during sanctioned tournaments throughout the year, and Fort Wayne players own six of the top eight seeds this year, including the top three.
“It’s just exploded in Fort Wayne,” Burgess said. “A lot of (this year’s championship qualifiers) are new to the competitive side of it.”
Burgess himself is only relatively new to competitive pinball, having collected machines and playing as a hobbyist since the ’90s. Last year, he finished 28th in the state but was able to attend the state championship as a 15 seed due to a large number of qualifiers being unable to attend. This year, he finished third in Indiana, and he hopes to participate in Saturday’s championship as long as he has a speedy recovery from a Jan. 11 back surgery.
Before Fort Wayne’s pinball boom, a relatively small group of enthusiasts had cornered the state ranks but moving forward, Burgess expects competition to be a shakeup due to increased participation.
“We’ll have a new state champion this year because the guy who won it last year didn’t qualify for the tourney this year,” he said. “Anybody ranked in the top 50 in the state right now, any one of them at any time could probably win the state tourney. They’re just that good.”
This year’s championship field includes players from Indianapolis and Lafayette, and even as far as Chicago.