Pinburgh Tournament Growth Discussion

So one of the things floating in my mind is… where is the growth in pinburgh players coming from?

We have demand for over 1500 players this year. Is the same base being more motivated? Is it the player base itself growing and pinburgh matching that? Who is the player type pinburgh is attracting verse maybe other events? We all know pinburgh is a pretty big commitment, and the flood keeps coming… so who are these people compared to maybe other areas of growth in pinball.

So my dataset is the recently published pinburgh player list… slightly massaged to fill in ifpa numbers where I could… this left 23 entries with no ifpa ID. Close enough to make some generalizations… even if the data is up to 4-5% off. Next, I’m relying on the data in the ifpa player info… so keep that in mind.

So… I think an interesting way to look at that would be to say, how many repeat players are there Y2Y? That was a harder number to crunch than I was willing to do on a Sunday night… but anecdotally I would expect that number to be very high… and a good portion of the player base.

One thing we see in our region is the SURGE in new players… its really taken off in the last say… 4-5 years? Especially the under 35 crowd. So one thing to do is look at the age demographic… Here is the age histogram. Unfortunately a very high # of ifpa profiles had no age (369 out of the 979 entries) and 7 more had crap… so this data is incomplete at best.

But here it is…!

The other question I had was… are these experienced people, or less so? So I queried how many ifpa events each player had, and plotted that too…

Interesting I think… how about you?


I wish the age data was better… I think that’s an interesting question, especially if it could be tracked over now vs say… 3 years ago.

The # of events is interesting… but still trying to get a feel for what ‘less than 50’ events really feels like. The data is a bit dirty to draw conclusions from because I looked at lifetime events, and not just say… events in the last 2 years. Pros and cons there…

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The other useless metric I looked at was… I wanted to see what the distribution of IFPA IDs was… thinking maybe that would give some insight into ‘new vs old’ players too… (before I dug into ifpa data). The graph is largely un-interesting… except for look at the bucket for player IDs under 1000… and their representation vs all other buckets :slight_smile:
I guess we infer from this, that early adopters… stayed around


i’d expect this tournament in particular to skew older than a typical local tournament – it’s generally financially harder for a 20-something to travel to a different city for four days, get a hotel room, etc, than it is for someone more established / older. the data seems to bear that out: you even see more teenagers than 19-23 year olds, because teens can easily be brought by their parents.

i don’t think our league tracks any age data, but it’d be interesting to overlay the FSPA’s age breakdown with Pinburgh’s. In recent years, my sense is that we are definitely getting younger.

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Pinburgh (and PAPA) is legend. It’s as simple as that. A handful of us have been from around the world, we spend a few days having a great time, we get back, we’re talking about our Pinburgh stories and so on, it generates huge demand…


Yes, but its still one of the most expensive events to do… and yet demand is growing faster than supply still. I’m poking in the data to test theories like

  • Is pinburgh growing because pinball is?
  • Is pinburgh growing FASTER than other events? than competitive pinball as a whole?
  • Is it existing players just discovering and being willing to go (kind of in your line of suggestion)?
  • Is it new players are committing to the big tournament sooner than maybe others did before?

To see more than 1000 people RACE with their credit card in hand to a single event in the pinball world is freaking epic. I think it deserves more digging than simply “its good… people go” :slight_smile:

I know I blab about Pinburgh given any chance. And you hear ‘pinburgh’ as the answer to SO many people’s favorite event – so it makes people want to go try it.

For people that have already been, it’s such a quality event and such a good time, I keep wanting to go back. It’s so well run, the event is a spectacle just because of the sheer size of it, the facility it’s at now is great, and on and on.

I would also expect that the match-play aspect of it helps. Getting 2 days of guaranteed matches, against tons of different players - versus waiting in a queue to put up a score. I think it has more appeal to not-as-serious competitive players. I know it does for me.


That was the #1 reason for me justifying stopping my visits to PAPA after pinburgh year 1. Enjoying the format better.

Now of course the newness has kind of worn off to the format… but I still tell people the price is worth it because of the format vs pump-n-dump styles, etc. Plus, none of that endless waiting in queues.


But it also leads to a question… why having other events mimic’d it more to tap into that success?

It’s common now for events to use ‘banks’ - i’m surprised some of the larger venues haven’t copied the formula more closely honestly.

Success breeds success.

Getting tickets is now an event in itself.

VIP tickets are like Willy Wonka golden tickets!

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@flynnibus I think if you want to evaluate the demand at pinburgh you have to look at both the player list and the wait list. The player list is not necessarily indicative of the total population: couldn’t the bell curve skewing young be a result of a more tech savvy/familiar demographic? Younger people also have better reflexes, maybe they were just able to click the drop down and cart buttons sooner. That’s just one example of how player list sampling might differ from the population of demand.

The other question to ask is what was total demand in years past? How many players on the waitlist in 2018 and prior years?

Some more data points that may be valuable from the IFPA is how many years active, do they have a previous pinburgh in their history. but again, it’s not meaningful unless you look at player+waitlist

Something you may or may not know about IFPA player ids…

When they assigned the initial ids, it was based on the rankings at the time. That’s why KME is id #1…not because he was the first to register at the first tournament ever, but because he was the best in the world when they moved to ids.


Actually, I thought it was done manually in order of the tournaments they entered. Keith was the winner of the first tournament they entered, so he was #1.


That’s an interesting point… and I can make that modification and see if it makes any difference.

I’m going on spitball numbers… without doing any real research… but I thought the waitlist last year was on the order of like 300 or something. Going back further than that… would take some googling. I know papa had most of the stuff on the website prior, but has had some redesigns lately… so might take some sleuthing.

I could do more digging… but part of it was limiting my initial investment if it’s not a topic people were interesting in analyzing. I think it’s an interesting topic to understand your demographics and what your success is really coming from (and theorizing on whats driving it) instead of just saying “yup, its working!” and leaving it at that :slight_smile:

I’m with Greg - I think it was based on the data entry at the time. We didn’t do ‘signups’ when ifpa started… it was based on you being in a result set that was entered into the system.

Plus, how do you get ‘rankings’ if you don’t have data to compute the rankings with? I don’t recall any discussion of WPRR rankings based on paper or alt calculations preceding the actual wprr rankings. Of course there were other tracking systems at the time… but nothing leading to people having a consensus on ‘world rankings’ that I recall.

Forget about the IFPA ID’s.
The key conclusions from the histograms:
Age: there’s very few people younger than 27 that are participating (and those in the youngest category are likely “hitched” to an older player who is their parent – I know that two in the youngest grouping are my sons).

Tourney history: I’m very encouraged that there are over 100 players that have played in 10 or less tourneys that are choosing to participate. That’s great news. And nearly 200 with less than 20.

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Catalysts for Pinball Growth:
Generation Xers are in their prime earning years. There has been innovations such as pinball arcade on mobile phones, lcd screens and nostalgic themes on modern pins

Catalyst for Pinburgh:
Best Pinball Tournament


That’s still how the WPPR system works. :slight_smile:

Only tangentially related: The WPPR system was seeded with a collection of whatever data IFPA could get a hold of. KME’s oldest result is from 1994: – that tournament had more than three players. The results aren’t available anywhere, but someone could remember the top 3 finishers so the results were included.

There was also PARS, but it appears the website finally went away :confused:

Pinball is growing, pinball events are growing, pinball sales are growing, pinball competions are growing.

They are growing at different rates though - here in the UK the growth is much much slower pace.

I want to play in big tournaments against the best players and enjoy it so Pinburgh is a no brainer but so is TPF, NYCPC and Expo which I’m going to also - hoping to get to INDISC next year! One thing I can say about the US situation is that you are super lucky I wish we had the things you have!


Pittsburgh is a great place for a convention. Downtown is scenic and clean. It’s a nice way to spend a weekend in a city center without the anxiety of visiting a place like New York. Of course the tournament is great, but I believe the overall scene helps people from getting ‘over it’.