Heads-Up Pinball Championship . . . 2018? 2019?

Wanted to create a separate thread for this as we explore the style of play and the execution of production for streaming this style of play.

I know with Stern’s help we’re hoping to play around with the concept more. I know that the PAPA crew also has the ability to explore this with the games they have multiple copies of at PAPA HQ.

My goal is for this to be approachable, understandable and digestible for the most casual viewer, but also exciting for the players participating to be challenged in a way they haven’t been before.

We’ll see where it goes . . .


I’d like to see this format continue and grow for a number of reasons:

  1. It allows for another group of people to rise to the top of the activity. This format being quite different from the typical “high score wins” play will be attractive to a group who aren’t particularly adept at stacking multiple modes and lighting a bunch of multipliers. Of course, players who are skilled enough to win high score comps will have the ability excel in this format. However, the added pressure of H2H play will change the dynamic and self-select some players out of the format.

  2. It’s a digestible format recognizable to the general public. H2H play immediately makes sense. The objectives system can be quickly explained.

  3. It’s expandable to 3 or 4 player play; there is potential for 2v2 team play even. Logistics of having 4 identical games make this challenging, but it can certainly be overcome with planning. 2v2 team play has multiple possibilities for scoring even: both players complete and that team wins; or a 4 2 1 0 scoring system etc.

There’s a lot to like with this format. Of course, it’s fraught with logistical challenges and needs some polish, but I believe that it has real promise.


Tell stern to program it into their games. Stat tracking and goals (maybe even user-configurable). Something like achievements could be the next big(gish?) thing, particularly if players can load their and carry their user profiles.

Anyway, if the game can timestamp the moment you blow up the death star, or display how many flips it took you to do it, that would do wonders for the format both from a competitive and spectator standpoint.


Great point. Clearer on-screen indications will be important.

I find this interesting for many reasons. The following is a bunch of disjoint random thoughts.

  • P3 heads up shows that this can be built right into the software. P3 should be flexible enough to easily be a great platform to develop this quickly.
  • “None shall pass” did qualifying like this, curious if there is anything to learn.
  • Wasn’t this kind of race-to-multiball considered an exploit and non-endorsed direct play format.
  • Pinball FX3 is focused on multiplayer. Curious if they will innovate here.
  • Pinball Arcade already runs timed tournaments. Again, possibly a good platform explore ideas if farsight is interested.
  • I found watching 2 games too difficult. I would rather see one game at a time, unless they actually interact with each other
  • Could joust, soccer (are their others) actually be good games. Only played them a couple times and didn’t seem balanced, but maybe it could be fixed.

I didn’t see the allure of this format from the video trial run.

/data point


Yup. Game TWD. Goal, start Walker mb before your opponent.

For any streaming guys/gals interested in testing out to play mechanic of this style of “challenge” play, I’d be curious to see the difference between the challenges being done serially.

Perhaps you trade out a little of the excitement of the challenge happening live at that moment but you gain not having that overwhelming visual action with 2 games going on in parallel? I’m sure there would be some pressure in knowing I had to pull off my Walker MB start in 37 seconds or I lose before stepping up to the game.

If anyone is interested shoot me an email and I can help craft a list of challenges that I think would work well for various titles.

Going that route would allow for some low budget enhancements like a large digital countdown clock and loud buzzer when it his 0:00


Also remove one item of clothing for each challenge lost

You must be watching different pinball players than I.


I’ve never watched simultaneous play, but I would think it would be hard for non-pinball players to follow the action…and for commentary to keep up.

Lots of people watch the olympics. Some sports are played simultaneously (like swimming), but others are individual time trials like downhill skiing.

I could imagine a goal of “Well Walker MB”, and having like 10 people run through that serially…with commentary for each player. On the side is a list of the players who have already finished, along with their qualifying times. That could be interesting. Announcers can talk about different play styles as they come up, etc.

Well Walker MB might be a bad example because it will just be a flail fest. If we’re talking Walking Dead, what about “Score a mode triggered Multi-kill”?

Maybe there are multiple events, and we see the same set of players play through all of them. Or each round could be different objectives on the same game. In some sports (like ski jumping), people get multiple attempts…so maybe that is a thing. Or perhaps you get X number of re-attempts spread across all objectives, and can use your re-tries as you see fit?

If live broadcasting is important, then picking short objectives, perhaps even with a time cap, would be good. After 4 minutes (or whatever), you get a DNF, and can use a re-try when it gets back around to your turn.

Also, live broadcasting might be a reason to do different objectives on the same game (to reduce switching time). Imagine Tron, where there are 4 rounds…each one is to complete (light solidly) the designated mode: Clu, Zuse, Quorra, Light Cycle (I picked these four because doing all 9 modes might take a little too long, and some of them won’t be that exciting…like qualifying disc, or shooting Tron targets over and over). I imagine this might take about an hour for four people to do.


We’re going to be doing something like this next week at POP with @unclecarmie. It will probably not be nearly as formal, but it will be head-to-head-but-serial. Stay tuned for details!


We’re working on doing these type of events serially as well. We’ll keep everyone posted.

@bkerins and I have discussed what an American Ninja Warrior style pinball competition could look like…a “course” of obstacles/machine objectives that must be completed in sequence as well as a timer running (which could act as a tie breaker if multiple people complete the same number of obstacles or complete the course), with each player’s run broadcast and commentated on serially.


@GApinball setup a course and streamed it and i really enjoyed watching it.

Here is one the videos:


YEEEEESSSSS! Bring back the post-Pinburgh / post-PAPA pinball race course. Only problem with that is having a building big enough with space in between pins that requires the Pinball Warrior to run distances between pins.

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thanks ZT! I just wanted to try something different and woke up that morning made up those objectives and started streaming :slight_smile:

@pinwizj … for any of this Heads Up Challenge, or serial Speed Run courses, if we want to hold them as IFPA events, presumably each pin’s challenge would be counted as 33% value of 1 game played toward TGP, correct? (because each challenge is possible to complete in one ball)

IFPA Start Sparky World Champion!