Zen Studios is an Hungarian video game developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software with headquarters in Budapest, Hungary and offices in the United States. It is known for its game franchises, Pinball FX and Zen Pinball, as well as CastleStorm, a tower defense hybrid which received the Apple Store's Editor’s Choice award. The company is considered "synonymous with licensed pinball tables," having produced dozens of tables with characters and themes from the Star Wars and Marvel universes, films like Guardians of the Galaxy, TV series like Archer, South Park, Family Guy and Bob's Burgers, and video game franchises such as Plants vs. Zombies, Portal, Street Fighter, and The Walking Dead.
|Independent video game developer|
|Headquarters||Ganz u. 16.,|
|Zsolt Kigyossy (founder and CEO)|
Number of employees
The company's games have been released for various game platforms, including Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Steam, Amazon, and Android. Zen Studios was ranked second on Metacritic's list of mid-size game publishers in 2015, ahead of publishers like Capcom and Microsoft.
Zen Studios was founded in Budapest in 2003 by a team of four people. It started as a technology and work for hire studio, doing game engine development, middleware tools, and ports for other games. The company name is based on the team's belief in Zen as a creed to follow in their work and lives, specifically with employees and fans. By the time PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade arrived, the studio had gained knowledge and experience with console platforms and gaming handhelds. The company CEO Zsolt Kigyossy, a pinball fan, decided to try to make the best pinball simulation video game on the market.
Its first pinball game was Pinball FX, released for Xbox 360 in 2007. It would sell more than 100,000 copies per year until 2010. Because Pinball FX was published by Microsoft, it could not appear on Sony’s PlayStation 3, leading to the development of Zen Pinball for the PS3 in 2008 (and later for iOS, the Wii U, and Android). Zen Pinball was the top-selling PSN game in May and September 2009.
The company made the first of its three departures from pinball when it released The Punisher: No Mercy in 2009. This first-person shooter in the style of the Punisher MAX franchise was released for Playstation 3. The company embarked on what would become its biggest media franchise cooperation yet when they teamed up with Marvel Comics and released Marvel Pinball in December 2010. The cooperation has resulted in twenty-one different pinball tables based on the Marvel Universe, with more anticipated in the future. Another big franchise used for Zen Studios tables is Lucasfilm's and Disney's Star Wars. In 2012, the company debuted Star Wars Pinball, the first pack to feature officially licensed digital Star Wars pinball tables.
In 2013, Zen Studios released two non-pinball games. The company tackled the tower defense genre with CastleStorm for XBLA, a hybrid of traditional tower defense with real-time physics-based Angry Birds-esque catapult combat and resource management. CastleStorm would go on to become a successful franchise, earning the Editor’s Choice award in the US Apple App Store, as well as an Editor’s Choice distinction from Google Play. Rhythm-based martial arts game KickBeat debuted on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3. On the pinball side, Zen Studios released Super League Football in 2014, where players competed by siding with their favorite European football clubs and famous players. The game was seen as a modern version of the famous pinball machine World Cup Soccer from 1994. The same year saw the release of a Guardians of the Galaxy table.
The company partnered with Valve in mid-2015 to create digital pinball tables based on Valve's games, most notably the Portal table. That year, Zen Studios' licensed tables included a table based on Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead and another one based on the TV show South Park. The new Iron & Steel collection consisted of a table based on CastleStorm and the studio's first wholly original table in three years, Wild West Rampage.
In early 2016, Zen Studios teamed up with Oculus Rift to create pinball tables in virtual reality. Pinball FX2 VR, which features three original table designs from the Zen Studios development team, was released on the Oculus Rift’s launch day, March 28, 2016.
In 2017, Zen Studios released Pinball FX 3, a joint sequel to Pinball FX 2 and Zen Pinball 2 that bridged a prior divide between Microsoft and non-Microsoft platforms that existed between the first two Pinball FX games and the Zen Pinball sub-series, encouraging cross-platform play. This sequel features most tables from its two predecessors, as well as new original and licensed tables. A year after FX 3 was released, Zen Studios announced that it has recently acquired the rights to develop digital conversions of real-life Bally and Williams pinball tables, a first for the company. Zen then went on to release digital Williams pinball tables as premium add-on content for FX 3 in waves, as well as a stand-alone free-to-play app on mobile devices that contained a compilation of such tables.
Zen Studios' pinball style has been called "cinematic". In order to capture the mood of a game or franchise, its tables include spoken lines, animations and deep references from movies, TV or animated shows they are based on, weaving those references into the action in a fun and interesting way. Each table is a separately designed game, with distinct layouts and graphical styles. One of the Star Wars-themed tables, for example, "feels inextricable from the universe, its elements combining into something truly evocative," while the Ant-Man-based table "faithfully recreates the aesthetic of the film and makes good use of the notable elements in the table design." In Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: Season One pinball adaptation, the playfield is shaped and surrounded by scale representations of the most memorable set pieces from each of the five episodes in that game.
On the other hand, its tables have been praised for their "realism", which means that they try to create the illusion that "you're at an arcade or in your basement with your eyes peeled to the table in front", and that the ball physics make "predicting angles and opportune flipper timing as natural as possible".
As a company that seeks to deliver a family-friendly pinball experience, Zen Studios designs its tables such that they include no material that would be deemed unsuitable for older children (such as sexual content, graphic violence, profanity and substance abuse). To ensure that all of their pinball titles earn a mid-low rating across all major video game content rating systems, such as the ESRB's Everyone 10+ rating, the developers will even go so far as to incorporate censorship into tables based on media franchises that are aimed at adults (such as Bethesda video games and the Family Guy animated television series), as well as certain digital conversions of real-life Williams pinball tables.
The company's first game, Pinball FX, introduced microtransactions in the world of pinball gaming, since additional tables were available for purchase. At the launches of Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2, pinball tables could be exported for free from the previous games into the sequels. Upon release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2 respectively were ported over, and allowed owners of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions (via Cross-Buy) to import their purchased tables onto the new platform when available at no additional cost. Tables are available for purchase either individually or as part of themed packs.
|2007||Pinball FX||Xbox 360 (XBLA)|
|Flipper Critters||Nintendo DS|
|2008||Rocky and Bullwinkle||Xbox 360 (XBLA)|
|Zen Pinball||iOS, PlayStation 3 (PSN), Nintendo 3DS (eShop), Android|
|2009||Ghostbusters: The Video Game||Nintendo DS|
|The Punisher: No Mercy||PlayStation 3 (PSN)|
|2010||Planet Minigolf||PlayStation 3 (PSN)|
|Pinball FX 2||Xbox 360 (XBLA), Windows, Xbox One, Steam|
|Marvel Pinball||Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN), Android, 3DS (eShop), iOS, Vita (PSN), Wii U (eShop), Windows|
|2012||3D Solitaire||3DS (eShop)|
|Zen Pinball 2||PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), Wii U (eShop), PlayStation 4 (PSN)|
|KickBeat||PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), Windows, PlayStation 4 (PSN), Xbox One, Wii U (eShop)|
|2013||Star Wars Pinball||PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), PlayStation 4 (PSN), Wii U (eShop), Nintendo 3DS (eShop), Android, iOS, Xbox 360, Xbox One|
|CastleStorm||Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN), Steam, Wii U (eShop), PlayStation Vita (PSN), PlayStation 4 (PSN), Xbox One, iOS|
|2014||Super League Football||PlayStation 3 (PSN), PlayStation Vita (PSN), PlayStation 4 (PSN), iTunes, Google Play, Nintendo 3DS (eShop), Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, Amazon|
|Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: Season One Pinball||PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U|
|2015||Balls of Glory: themed on four animated TV shows: Family Guy, American Dad!, Bob's Burgers, Archer||PSN, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows 10, Steam, Mac, Google Play, Amazon, iOS|
|Portal Pinball||PSN, Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Steam, Android, iOS, Amazon|
|South Park Pinball||PS4, PS3, Vita, Xbox One, Steam, iOS, Android, Amazon, Wii U|
|Secrets of the Deep, Epic Quest, Mars||Oculus Rift|
|Iron & Steel Pack||PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Steam, Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon|
|2016||Pinball FX2 VR||Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR|
|Aliens vs. Pinball
(announced with Fox Digital Entertainment)
|iTunes, Google Play, PSN, XBLA, Steam|
|2017||Infinite Minigolf||Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam|
|Pinball FX 3||Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, Windows 10|
|2019||Williams Pinball||iOS, Android|
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- Sammy Barker (5 September 2013). "Interview: Kickin' Back with KickBeat Developer Zen Studios". Push Square. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- Mike Mason (1 October 2012). "Review: Zen Pinball 2". Push Square. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "Pinball FX Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "Flipper Critters Official Website". Retrieved 2012-08-14.
- "Zen Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "Planet Minigolf Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "Pinball FX Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "Marvel Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- "3D Solitaire Available on Nintendo 3DS™ eShop August 2nd!". Zen Studios Blog. Zen Studios. Retrieved 2012-08-14.
- "Zen Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 2012-08-14.
- "KickBeat Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- Loertscher, Bobby. "Star Wars Pinball (Standalone) Hits PSN Next Week". Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- Joe White (30 May 2015). "Zen Studios launches a new, Portal-themed pinball game on the App Store". App Advice. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
- "South Park Pinball Official Website". Zen Studios. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- Ethan Anderton (1 April 2016). "'Alien' Day Is Coming in April with Official Reeboks, Movie Screenings, Collectibles & More". Slash Film. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
- "Infinite Minigolf is now available! – Zen Studios". Zen Studios. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
- "Pinball FX3 is the BIGGEST, most COMMUNITY focused pinball game ever created. – Zen Studios". Zen Studios. Retrieved 28 June 2017.