Tournament styles that emphasize head to head play, not 4 player?

I haven’t been playing as much pinball this year, because Street Fighter V came out, and I’ve been sucked back into the fighting game scene. As such I’ve been watching a lot of SFV tournament streams, and I’ve been wondering if there’s anything from that world that would be applicable to competitive pinball.

Obviously pinball and fighting games are two different beasts. But part of the enjoyment from watching Street Fighter is about two players, with their own styles and approaches, being placed head to head. The personalities come out, there are rivalries and histories, the announcers bring all of that into the match, and it just feels more compelling to watch. There’s a winner and a loser, it’s more binary, it’s easier to understand.

I feel like pinball has the personalities, and people definitely play with their own approaches and styles. But it gets lost in the 4 player format somehwat. Zach vs Josh is the Sharpe brother showdown! That story isn’t as interesting if Bowen and Elwin are playing too.

And if I’m totally honest I think 4 player play is just more boring to watch. It drags on longer, the stakes for each player don’t feel as high, it’s just missing some of that tension that head to head play brings. It’s just not as digestible.

I’m curious, since there’s such a wealth of tournament experience here, has anyone attempted to emphasize that kind of one on one play more in tournaments? I feel like it would be more accessible to a wider audience on streams at least, if such a goal interested the people running the tournament.


We call that “dinner time” just about every night when we were kids :wink:

The playoffs of the IFPA WC, SCS and Nationals are all head-2-head on purpose for many of the reasons you mentioned. The biggest reason for us in with respect to media outreach. Everyone understands common sports playoffs, so it’s been much easier for us to explain how our playoffs work to a random reporter doing a story on competitive pinball.


At least in my area, all the monthly tournaments are head to head. It’s the bigger , annual events that use four player (and non-direct play qualifying).

Hmm apparently I’m watching the wrong streams, I feel like I almost always end up seeing 4 player games. Good to know there’s more head to head out there.

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Funny, I think I’d much rather see that four player group. If fact, if I had to pick the ultimate four player group to watch, it might be those four guys. Zach has won most of the brother battles in the last few years. We’ve all been there, seen that. Bowen and KME, not so much ownage there.

I see where you’re going, but if you look at the numbers and the personalities, that’s a damb fine four player group.

I agree that head-to-head match-ups would be more compelling to the casual viewer.

I prefer to see 4-player finals groups, though. They offer more potential for drama, and a greater likelihood that the best players will advance. Streams could be enhanced by the addition of an on-screen scoreboard showing the standings within a group, as was done at INDISC: this made the action much easier to follow.

The 2x TGP bonus for 4-player games - which i think is way too generous - has definitely led to more TDs using this style for finals.

I’m really thinking about the casual viewer I guess. eSports and Twitch and all of that is growing so fast now, it would be cool if pinball could get a little foothold there. That’s how the next generation is being exposed to things.

The ingredients are all there, I was a PAPA.TV backer, and love what came out of that. It just seems like if you’re not already part of the faithful that 4 player games are a bit of a drag.

Anyways, just musing, not like I’m going to be organizing any of this. :slight_smile:

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I prefer 4 player groups over head-to-head. Both from watching and playing. Especially playing!

Agreed on this. I too have been drawn back into the Street Fighter (and MK actually) competitions, purely as a spectator, simply because it’s so interesting to watch. Due to this, I’ve also been pondering how that excitement of head to head play can be reproduced in pinball. I love watching high stakes pinball play, but the issue with pinball is that, as you mentioned, it’s not very compelling until it’s super high stakes - a 4 player game of Bowen, Keith, Jorian and Daniele for example is amazing to watch. Watching 4 players that aren’t at that ridiculous level, which in turn does not bring about the high tension, just isn’t as interesting.

As you mentioned also, a 4 player pinball game is very drawn out and confusing for the casual viewer.

How would we reproduce the head to head play? No idea! I get the feeling it can’t really be done, simply because pinball is more like golf than say, mixed martial arts. You’re watching one guy walk up and swing away at a ball for a while, not two people ducking and weaving.

If someone can come up with a good head to head format though, I’d love to hear about it.

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At our last league meet Jay Brand had two Trons set up.

The Gem shot tilted the ball of the other game being played.

It was … Awesome! :slight_smile:


Are Joust/Alvin G’s soccer/etc. legit games for head-to-head stages of endorsed tournaments?

Absolutely . . . not :slight_smile:

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I think the “first to multiball” format that @FunWithBonus was talking about on WWOP sounds like it would be fun to watch for the casual and experienced viewer alike, though I’ve never watched or played this format.