Good games / Bad games for streaming

After watching some of the BKSOR Perpetual…errr, Premium…Edition streaming from Expo this weekend, the ole gears started turning about what makes a good streaming game. I’d like to see organizers put a little more thought into this, especially for high-profile events, so we might get to see more interesting games. We can never guarantee high drama or intrigue, or that a matchup isn’t going to be narcoleptic, but I think we can at least set the stage for better action.

Just off the top of my head,

I’d say elements of a good streaming game could be:
Relatively easy to follow
Different ways to play
Makes players make different shots throughout the game
Not that easily exploitable / repeatable elements for good players
Long, blow up games are an exception, not a rule

A bad streaming game:
repeatable shots that are easy, safe, and lucrative
only one way to play in tournaments, ball after ball, player after play, the same thing
endless shots up the middle
too easy/long playing
PLungathon games - while games like Jackbot and Ghostbusters have many elements that might make them a good streaming game, endless plunging and playfield validation fun can get really tiring really quick.

The above are just general guidelines that resonate with me. I’d rather this not get into a minutea of whether or not my own list of games jibes exactly with what I wrote above, but I’d be interested in YOUR picks of good streaming games, or what you think makes a good streaming game.

A quick list off the top of my head:

Walking Dead
Stern Rolling Stones
Iron Man
Target Pool
Dialed In
Wizard of Oz
Mousin Around
Black Knight Pro
Iron Maiden

Black Knight Premium
Break Shot
Independence Day (though maybe it’s saved by a fairly intreresting multiball?)
Congo (every game seems to unfold the same way and way too many video modes + dumb monkey game)
NBA Fast Break
Houdini (game is just a hot mess)


Doodle Bug is also great to watch

Gotta disagree with you on Maiden though. I skip that game every time it comes up on a stream. Lots of repeated center shooting, every one goes for the same strategy, endless shots up the middle, plays too long unless brutalized. Hits all your boxes for a bad streaming game


White Water is one of the greatest games…until you see the top players shoot the center shot endlessly.

BK3K Premium - wow did today’s stream show why that game should never be in a big competition! Endless game with very little risk for the best players.

NASCAR - woof

For a stream I’d much prefer to watch a game from the 70’s-80’s, easier to follow the scoring and shorter ball times. I’ll take Harlem Globetrotters, Ali, Frontier, Stars, Centaur, Meteor, Flash Gordon, Argosy, Nitro Groundshaker, etc…


We might see the day where we end up on ESPN. I think games with easily explained rules should be a priority if we’re ever in front of a general audience. If it’s just pinball players watching then the weirder the game the better. I’d rather see Raymond and Cayle on Dolly Parton or Hoops than any modern Stern.


pinball has a long way to go and a huge amount of growth still to do before its on local TV let alone ESPN. At current rate of growth its probably around 50 years before ESPN would be interested.

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It doesn’t come up very often, but play-field validation non-sense is right near the top of my “things I hate about competitive pinball” list . Yes yes, knowledge of the machine is important, and skill shots are important, but I wouldn’t mind it being more like a tennis thing where if you can validate a play field in 3 plunges you get a fault and you lose the ball. I know a lot of folks thinks it’s ok or just another part of the game, and I’m sure it’s a skill within itself, but it’s a skill I have no interest in watching or competing against.


Along the same lines, I try to avoid bringing in machines with an overly valuable soft plunge with no consequences for plunging too short and returning to the shooter lane. Even if the machine is otherwise really good (e.g., Jack-Bot, Whitewater), I’d still prefer not to use them. A couple examples: Old Chicago (50% of the time), Target Alpha (and its many clones).

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I remember talking once with @TOpinhead about one of the problems with a lot of machines is that the major moments are not obvious, and there is no time to take in the accomplishment. As a result, audiences don’t cheer the major moments, they cheer the end of ball, which feels like celebrating the mistakes.

I think Addams Family is a great example of a game were the moments are clear. Light show, sound and DMD make the moments clear. The game pauses for many of the major moments, giving you a chance to clap and cheer. It brings the audience into the game. Those stop and go moments are great for the stream. Having jackpots be limited and be a moment helps.

Compared to say a WOZ with 3 multiballs stacked on top of each other, and 2 other modes running and everything lit (or maybe not if lights out). People can do highly strategic things and it is hard to notice. There are few moments. Someone could be collecting items for emerald city, but in the stack it is not relevant.

I think the stop and go machines with moments are better viewing in general and bring the audience in, I expect the same holds on the stream.

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Not really talking about the mythical ESPN beast.

Pinball IS on tv - it’s being streamed all the time, and thousands of people are tuning in depending on the tournament. These people deserve to be entertained just as much as an espn audience!

I like the suggestions so far. It‘s true classics games make for the easiest presentation but you gotta sprinkle new stuff in there as well, for players and viewers.

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Add to the bad list all games with horrible fonts / colour contrast for scores. I’m looking at you Aerosmith.


I think there is definitely some virtue in finding games that are enjoyable to watch but more important to me is the variety of games being streamed at an event. When only quarterfinals onward is being streamed and it’s a bank or two of 4 games, it’s going to be repetitive. Players are being given a choice of machines and most of them prefer the same games as one another.

I think there’s also a question of good tournament or finals formats to stream. I think a ladder format would be very interesting. Let’s say a 32 player ladder, at a larger venue, lots of machines. Seed 1 picks the game they’ll compete on, and so on down to seed 29, machines can be chosen only once if there are 30 machines, twice if there’s 15-30 machines, thrice is theres 10-15 etc. . Seeds 29-32 start on the machine seed 29 picked, then a player is eliminated, seed 28 joins the fray, playing on the machine seed 28 picked. the tournament is easy to follow (if you get last, you’re elminated), and maximizes the number of different machines streamed, without viewers missing any action. (yes i understand that this tournament would take a long time, but every round is high stakes. you could simply lower the number of players in the ladder).

I agree Levi - if you are going to stream do it properly. But forget ESPN and major TV franchises and the reality is that its more like hundreds of people not thousands; and when you look at who is watching tends to be the same group of people.

If we want better tournaments and streaming with them we also need more folks/volunteers to help run them also.

Honestly I wish we’d see the stream-ability/watch-ability considered less.

Pick games for your event because they are good competitive choices. If good pinball competition isn’t fun to watch, so be it. If a game happens to be great on stream and is great for competition, then win-win. … But don’t sacrifice your event, or the quality of the competition for viewers.

I actually quite enjoyed watching BK3. Food for thought.


Curious. What does repeatedly shooting up the middle net you?


Everyone is trying to get bullseye champ on stream, right?


Agree completely. I too enjoyed watching that kid destroy BK3. Especially when he had two balls cradled on each lower flipper and was playing the upper playfield with a fifth ball. Amazing skills. For those that missed it, you really should watch the replay.

Catering tournament game picks to streaming friendly games is putting the cart ahead of the horse. The hobby has to grow larger before streaming will really catch on. The Expo stream never had more than 150 viewers. More people than that actually went to the show and competed.

I would also say that the same thing that makes a good tournament game generally makes it a good streaming game. If I’m picking tournament games, I’m going for games that are both competitive and fun. In an ideal world, every game game in the lineup would be both fun and competitive. It the real world, sometimes all Stern has available is premiums. I have no doubt Trent was aware the premium could run long. He went with what he was given, like most all of us do.

Expo is arguably the biggest show in the hobby. A manufacturer supplied all the games, yet it still wasn’t ideal. The hobby has to grow if you want ideal lineups. Streaming alone will not grow the hobby to where it needs to be. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but we ain’t there yet.

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A few people found the Shatzing on Centaur recently frustrating, but I thought it was good pinball to watch though

Also, nobody was really doing that to BKSOR until the final rounds, and then only it was Alek, Escher, and looks like Keith had a good qualifying score. Always had low queue times, and removing would have slowed the event. I too found it interesting to watch, Alek’s play was next next level.

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The stream rig seemed to follow Alek who was able to pick BK3 every round and destroy it. For the viewer i think we just suffered from BK3 viewing fatigue.

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While watching Alek crush, I was wanting a flipper button cam on the right flipper button to see how he was stagging the flippers. Would’ve been even more entertaining that way. Somebody please come up with a way to rig a flipper button cam. Both of KME’s games lend themselves well to staging.

Mainly thinking about the play at IFPA this year. Seemed like many players were shooting up the middle to progress modes, then either taking shots at the captive ball or drops as it came down, or just dead bouncing. Seemed pretty easy to grind out modes and get some locks without playing the rest of the playfield at all, until after 2-3 modes when the middle unlights. Once that happens it still seems like most players find one other shot (usually left ramp or right spinner) and shoot that more to just grind out modes. Plus add a ball and shards up there too.