Last weekend I had the chance to play in the most... unique... of the annual tournaments on offer in Japan: Pinball! Pinball! Pinball! at Neverland, Toyoda, Tokyo prefecture, Japan.
Grand prize: A pinball. I'm not sure why. There appears to be a funny story somewhere here, but it's in Japanese.
Format Rules: Head-to-head match play on few enough machines that there's at least a player or two waiting at all times: I think the ideal number is ceil(N/2)-1.
At the end of each game, the winner gets one point. The loser stays at the game unless they've lost twice in a row, in which case the winner stays. The guy staying on the game plays in the same position (1up/2up) as they were already. First guy from the queue comes and plays that player, the guy that left the game goes to the back of the line and records the win and loss on a master list.
At the end of 3h, no more games may start. Most wins wins, ties broken by fewest losses.
Format discussion: Super fun. Use short-playing games for maximum turnover; people will tend to not wait around for tilt bobs to settle and so on because they understand the opportunity cost of doing so. I played 29 games in 3h: I'm admittedly a bit crap, but still. Note that the format means that if you walk up to a machine and lose, you always get a chance at redemption against someone just walking up to the machine. You also tend to play games you're bad at more often than ones you're good at, which is interesting.
Wait times in the queue were generally about long enough to grab a drink from the vending machine, but not much longer than that.
You basically play 2p games nonstop for 3h, with just enough time off to have a brief chat with friends. Also, I think that (per a discussion with @pinwizj a while ago, this will grade out quite well under WPPRs: we got craptons of games in.
Bally Old Chicago
Bally Mata Hari (EM)
A good choice for this format: these games all play pretty fast. The EMs at Neverland are always on 3-ball. Catacomb, with the backbox game, had the lowest plays at the end of the day, at about 20. Old Chicago played tough, with about 40 games over 3 hours, closely followed by Wizard! Radical! of course suffers from lock-stealing, but people around here are savvy enough to tilt out the lock strategically which greatly cuts down on the total number of multiballs.
My tournament report: It turns out that I'm absolutely dreadful at the skillshot on Old Chicago, which on a tough-playing 3-ball EM is a big deal. I think I went a combined 8-13 on Old Chicago and Wizard: at least I lost fast. When I did get a chance to play Radical! I did much better: I put up a couple of 10M+ games on a tough-playing Radical!, and eked out a couple of scores in the lower-single-millions by being better at the top ramp than most.
By luck of the draw I never played Catacomb, and didn't play Mata Hari until about 2-1/2 hours into the tournament. After blowing the game up a few times in warmups I was obviously getting tired, and put up about 15k on my first game. Given the chance at redemption I put up...40k. Sigh. Thankfully, my opponent put up 35k or so, so I'll take it. (He was pissed.)
All told, I went 12-17 (lose fast!) good for 5th/12.
This is my 2nd time playing this tournament. Last year's bank had a few longer-playing games that were a bit unfortunate (AC/DC, Star Trek, and BDK, I think), but it was still good fun. This year, I hated Old Chicago by about 2h in, but in the best possible way.
I would tell you how other people did, but I was too busy playing to notice. Horiguchi Masaya様 ("Harry", the Japan country director) won on tiebreaks from Naruke Totsunori様, one of the two really good Japanese players (and @Coast2CoastPinball's pick for IFPA worlds).
Edit: Wow, this is longer than I expected. I'm happy to answer questions about the format or the Japanese scene as far as I understand it.