The String Machine Game Changer

White Paper 2 of 2: Business Case for String Machines

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String machine adoption has never been greater - and for good reason: compared to free-fall machines they are easier, more reliable and less costly to operate. In our first installment of this series we looked at the major bowling industry trends driving string machine adoption. One involved the challenges with older free-fall machines, which include difficulties in finding qualified technicians, reliability, operational costs, and delivering a great on-lane experience.

In this installment we will:

  • Take a more in-depth look at the operational costs of freefall versus string machines
  • Make a strong business case for switching from older freefall machines to strings; and
  • Discuss what this means for new and existing proprietors and the game of bowling overall


In 1946, the automatic free-fall pinspotter was the engine that enabled bowling to grow and explode in popularity. However, the situation in 2020 is much different. In fact, our studies show that older free-fall machines burden bowling-based businesses and new investors with some of their biggest operational expenses. Labor, parts and electricity costs can run between $2.5 and $4.5 thousand per lane per year—and as high as $6 thousand in some cases.

Operational costs for free-fall machines can approach $6 thousand/lane/year. String machines cost a fraction of that.

The operational costs of string machines are a fraction of that. What’s more, they also cost less to purchase and install. According to a poll conducted by the publication Bowling Center Management in September 2020, proprietors chose string machines for three main reasons: personnel savings; maintenance savings; and lower up-front costs1 .

Top 3 Reasons Why Owners Prefer String Machines

 BCM POLLED a number of operators who utilize string pinsetting machines at their centers. Here are the top three reasons they selected strings over free-fall machines:

  1. Personnel savings. There is no need for a full-time mechanic or mechanics. Machine upkeep can be handled by an arcade game technician or someone with similar skills.
  2. Maintenance savings. String machines require far fewer spare parts to buy and stock.
  3. Up-front cost. String machines cost less than free-fall machines, making it easier to deal with lending institutions and/or purchase more machines.


1  “Strings in the Spotlight”, Bowling Center Management Survey, September 2020

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