My final entry on upgrading my World Cup Soccer pinball machine is my most dramatic. I really like the look of LEDs in modern pinball machines, and I think many older machines look great with them too. WCS is one of those themes where I think the LEDs just “fit.” There are some really bold colors in the artwork and the machine is just a bit too dark with stock bulbs. I’ve been looking at different LED styles and kits for a couple years and I decided to try out the “World Cup Soccer Ultimate LED Lighting Kit” developed by Pinballbulbs.com. There are several great LED vendors on the Internet but I was amazed by the before and after photo on Pinballbulbs.com. They had several “extras” as part of the kit which really enhanced the way WCS looks with LEDs. First, they use LED strips under the backbox and inside the apron. Second, they add a couple spotlight kits. Both of these extras go a long way in eliminating the dark areas on the playfield and brightening it up. It’s common to put together your own LED “kit” by trying different styles of bulbs until you come up with a design you like. It’s possible to save a lot of money doing this. Sometimes saving more than half the cost of a kit. But I decided to go the kit route because the price of their kit was very reasonable, it came with the extras to add value to the kit, and the bulb selections they chose looked great!
The kit came in a box with separate baggies for each set of bulbs (GI, Backbox, and Inserts). The light strip and spotlight kits came wrapped individually as well. There was a slip of paper with a web URL for instructions for each of the extras kits, and a printed spreadsheet listing the pinball bulbs and which LED goes in their place. The bulbs each had a base color indicating the color of the LED. Since both cool white and warm white bulbs had white bases, the warm white bulbs were segregated in their own marked baggies. Each bulb also had a dome over the LED, either clear or frosted. So far I really liked how this was all presented.
I’m actually one of those few people who like to read the instructions before starting to put together anything. This is where I was a little disappointed with the kit. It really would have been nice to have a printed set of instructions, not just a bulb listing and some URLs. The instructions online for the extras kits were really good, with excellent details and photos. I still would have preferred to have a written copy to thumb through so I didn’t have to keep going back to my laptop between steps. The bulbs only came with a spreadsheet listing of what to swap out. Even though the list was comprehensive, it wasn’t clear at first specifically what the LEDs were that they were suggesting. There were several called “supers” that I later realized indicated the bulbs that needed their domes removed. Also, there was no list for the backbox. I had to play around with what bulb went where to make it look decent. It would have been nice to have a “map” of the bulbs and their locations. As a matter of fact that would have been helpful for the playfield GI and Inserts too. Although it wasn’t a huge deal, these kits are pretty large and the extra help would have made things go a lot smoother.
I started with the backbox since it had the least amount of bulbs. It was also easier to install because I didn’t actually have to take anything apart like I would have to do with the playfield. It took me a while to come up with what I thought would be the best bulb arrangement to enhance the artwork on the translite. Basically when putting in an LED kit, you match the LED color with the artwork that will be covering it to get the best look out of the artwork. For example, warm whites look great behind orange and cool whites make blues and greens look the best. After swapping bulbs around, I got it to look pretty good. The one thing I didn’t like as much was how there was a strong purple glow around the game title. I decided to change the kit up and replaced the bulbs behind the words with cool whites that I already had. It ended up toning down the purple to a level that I think looked great.
The tough part of the kit was replacing the bulbs in the GI and under the inserts. Basically you have to tear down the entire playfield to get to all of the bulbs. I did this part of the kit when I “shopped” the playfield and replaced all the plastics.. I wouldn’t suggest trying to do an LED kit unless you are shopping the playfield because many of the GI bulbs are buried under plastics and ramps. I won’t go into too much detail about the process in this post.
Here are some bulbs under the Kickback inserts. They looked a little dull to me when I looked from above the playfield. This was the point I realized that “super” meant to remove the frosted dome from the bulbs. I had to go back and remove domes from all the supers in the list I installed up to this point. Oops!
Once I had the playfield all back together, I installed the LED Strip kits. The kits each came with an LED strip soldered to a long wire run meant to plug into the GI circuits on the power driver board in the backbox. The strip that went under the apron was a little tricky when running the wires through the holes to pass them under the playfield. I had to carefully pass the wires between the apron and the metal the strip was mounted on. The WCS didn’t have any slots I could use to feed the wires through the metal. I went around the end of the metal for the safest place to run them that wouldn’t get too pinched. The wires soldered to the LED strip made it all the way back to the PCB in the backbox, but I really would have liked if they were long enough to run through the wire hose that the rest of the harness ran through. It would make dropping the backbox easier if the wires were bundled in that tube instead of being by themselves and not protected. Plugging the wire into the board was easy. There was a pair of connectors, one to plug into the board and the other to plug the wire connector that was originally plugged into the board. Basically a splitter.
The backbox strip was even easier. Just had to line it up centered under the backbox, and feed the wiring up into the backbox. Since the playfield could rub against the wiring when lifted out, the kit comes with some black Gorilla Tape to use to tape the wire against the inside of the cabinet. It hid the wire and did a nice job of protecting it. I would have to admit one change I made with this strip. After running the game with the backbox strip in place for a couple weeks, I decided to block out half of the LEDs with some black duct tape. The lighting was just a little too much. I think it really helped even out the lighting without being overbearing.
The spotlight kits were also pretty easy to install. They really made the kit easy to do without having to solder or cut any wires. The kit includes a couple spotlights on a threaded post, with wires soldered to them that end in a pair of alligator clips. There is one set of connectors in the wire close to the alligator clips that allows you to unplug the ends with the clips to be able to feed through the playfield holes. Basically you screw the post on top of one of the playfield posts, run the wire under plastics through a hole to the underside of the playfield, then clip the alligator clips to the leads of a GI bulb to pull power. The hardest part to all of this was finding the right direction to spread the spotlights for the best coverage. I think the wires were a little too heavy. A smaller wire gauge would have made routing the wiring easier. I like the wire gauge used by the Cointaker Lit Button kit I reviewed previously. It would have been a better wire to use for this kit. However that is a VERY minor complaint because the wire still worked fine being a little heavier gauge. I really liked the little connector built into the wiring that allowed me to separate the length with the alligator clips. Made it much easier to install and plug in. The only real difficulty I ran into was one of the wires popped off of the spotlight socket when I was routing the wire through the playfield. It was an easy solder fix so no big deal.
Overall I was really happy with this kit. The kit had a lot of added value with the extras it included. I was really happy with the final product. Overall I only made a few changes to what the company originally planned out for the bulb assignments. That’s a good sign that a kit was well designed! I was able to take this machine to the Louisville Arcade Expo in March. I received so many compliments! I was pretty proud of how this looked and was happy to show it off. I even got a really nice shout out on the latest Gameroom Junkies podcast that covered the expo. Thanks guys! I highly recommend checking out the kits that PinballBulbs.com offers. You won’t be disappointed.
Here are a few shots of the completed game:
Here’s my favorite shot…The before and after!
- Excellent build quality
- Super bright LEDs
- Final product looks amazing compared to stock WCS. LEDs “fit” the look of WCS.
- “Extras” upgrade the overall presentation beyond just LED replacement bulbs
- Apron Strip LED Kit wiring not long enough to bundle with cabinet harness
- Not enough detail in instructions
- Domes often difficult to remove