What technology can be used to improve the pinball viewing experience for the casual observer?


I don’t understand this attitude. Does every person who watches basketball, football, or golf on TV play that sport? No, but the exposure and money involved definitely attracts new players and keeps these games relevant and alive. Higher quality streams make more people want to watch, and more people watching means things like more donations, sponsors, prizes, and ultimately more players.

Pinball has gotten a huge amount of exposure through things like PAPA tv, deadflip, and other streams. Watching PAPA videos actually got me interested in finding the competitive scene in my area. I think these channels are a wonderful supplement to actually playing a real pinball machine. I have learned so much from watching and listening to the commentary. I don’t get why people wouldn’t want to support something like that and make it the best that it possibly can be.


The mistake was putting a camera over wrestlemania


Sorry, didn’t mean to be dick. I’m not a native English speaker, and my choice of words isn’t always good. I guess most people know how much I love the broacasts, which is why I care about those issues at all, but I can only say that so often.

“Angry” was definitely the wrong word, more like “annoyed”. “Botched” is an okay word, I think. I was only talking about the broadcast of the last match, and it was botched. The rest was great.

If I don’t come off well because of my opinions on this, I guess that’s fine. If it’s because of bad wording or not bolstering every criticism with the praise we all know the team rightfully deserves every time they do something like this, I apologize.


I wonder if some alternative prizes could bring in people to play. For example, make the top prizes a 10k buy-in to the World Series of Poker OR an LE Pinball Machine. Perhaps it would make some poker players feel like they have a better chance of “winning” and entry to the WSOP and therefore they’d learn the games, learn the skills, spend money at the arcade, and bring more $$ into tournaments?

Whether WSOP or some other type of prize the biggest barriers are probably awareness/advertising so people become interested… and after that is perhaps access to machines… and after that is access to training (perhaps this is a new business for competitive players… they can be hired to train on skills, train on tournament strategies, etc.)… Once past that and you have people interested I’m guessing the viewership would increase.

A benefit of WSOP is that perhaps if you did that and linked it officially you could even get it to play on ESPN or something with professional video type stuff as talked about throughout this thread…

Dreaming… but I’d love to build beyond this to a place where pinball has increased appeal to the masses… and if that is successful I think viewership would follow (as would an improved future for pinball).


I’ve never had an outfit that suave.


I think that the most important thing that needs to be displayed is the current match progress. If you tune in and it’s game three of a three game match play set (or if the broadcast is jumping from following one group to another) it’s pretty important to know how the first games have played out. The first thing anyone does when turning on a TV sporting event is they look at the score (which is always displayed). Seeing the score on the game in progress is like seeing how many points the other baseball team scored that inning… almost meaningless.

If you tune into the middle of any game (be it pinball, baseball, football, etc) and don’t know the score, it isn’t very compelling to watch. Sure, maybe player 3 is making a big comeback on ball 3, but did they come in 4th in the previous two games and are already out of contention? is this a must win game for them? if they win this game, do they win the group? if they pass player 1 and 2, will either be eliminated? That’s what makes people want to watch.

That’s the worst part of watching PAPA or Pinburgh finals live. If you’re not sitting there for the entire time (because maybe you take a break to actually go play a little pinball), when you come back, you have no idea what is going on. It basically turns a compelling pinball match into a game tutorial without any commentary. Sometimes I’ll ask the stranger sitting next to me what the match is at, but I don’t like bothering people and half the time, they don’t know, either.


I wish that we could stream all of the cameras on different channels so you could follow another group if you wanted to. Multiple twitch channels or something? PAPA-1 PAPA-2 PAPA-ocho


Is it just my feeling, or are there now more broadcasts with live online brackets than there have been in the past? I think this greatly improves any dedicated viewer’s streaming experience, and in pauses between games I find myself quite often going through the current standings and calculating possible outcomes.

Anyway, I get that you’re actually talking on topic about improving the experience for the casual viewer, and I’m totally with you that more on-screen information would be cool. The vertical pinball format lends itself to putting all sorts of interesting stuff on the other other 2/3 of the screen, and the IE Pinball broadcasts are already using some dedicated screen space to show live information. I’d love to see more of that.


I had a chance to talk with the guys at Play Mechanix a bit just to get their feedback on “what happened?!?!”

Last year the Big Buck stream had 12,000 views over the weekend, and this year the stream had over 200,000 views over the weekend. ‘We’ were also able to bring in $150K in sponsors including Moosehead Lager, Old Wisconsin (they make beef sticks like Slim Jims).

The answer I got from them was just pounding the pavement on social media and PR. Whether it’s 50,000 likes on Facebook and continuing to pound those people with crap like crazy, or pushing out press releases through the pipeline and partnering with sponsors who can then reach out to their own group of people, etc.

The problem is of course this isn’t cheap :smile:

We rented out the Hard Rock in downtown Chicago for 2 days, hung 50 ft. banners on the outside of the building all lit up, spent the money on professional broadcasting people (MC was a popular sports radio host in Chicago), etc.

George Petro who runs Play Mechanix was joking with me that we really had to pretend we ‘already made it’ in order to get people really hooked on watching the product. NOW we’re hoping to build enough money through sponsorship dollars to be able to pay back alot of the costs we’ve put into building the brand over the last 6 or whatever years.

Not to throw the pinball manufacturers under the bus (because I sincerely appreciate the support they all give IFPA to keep us chugging along with what we’re doing), but this is what happens when you realllllllllllly have industry support behind making something happen. There’s only so much you can do with everyone volunteering their time and money to make things happen (streaming, world rankings, organizing events, etc).

Back in the day the IFPA got $20K per year per manufacturer to ‘promote and grow competitive pinball’. To know what the old IFPA did with that cash while my dad and Epstein got 1/10th of that industry support to run PAPA it’s a real shame.

I don’t know where else I’m going with this . . . but it felt like a good rant! :smile:

edit - forgot to add that the one thing lacking on the Big Buck side is actually getting those player-volunteers to help (something we have loads of in the pinball community). Their promo teaser at this year’s World Championship was the announcement of their Game Warden program trying to pull those players out of just being players doing MORE to promote the game to the world. Here’s the link:


Start at 16:30 and watch the promo video for our Game Warden program. It’s about 2 minutes long.


I totally agree. I’m not a casual viewer, but I’m sort of a casual player. It’s hard to follow a match on an unknown game without having lots of explanation, which is why I started collecting videos just for myself in the first place, so I could actually understand what’s going on on a rewatch.

If all the things I’ve been trying to figure out about what’s going on in a match after the fact would be conveyed in the live stream itself, that would make it a really awesome watch (and I suppose for a much broader audience, too). Silly example, but “player just qualified for mode x, this should be good” – okay, but how did they do it, where do I see that it’s qualified, how do they start it, and what does it mean?

For me, that’s where the video quality issue that @jay mentioned also comes into play – the better you see, the better you understand, the better you enjoy.


First and last time I will ever read an instruction card at an IFPA event :wink:


I’m kinda old. The last thing I want to happen to pinball is for it to become a spectator sport. Among the ‘bar sports’, pinball is by far the most friendly to new players. There’s no reason to create a huge audience of spectators. Everyone should play. Everyone.

Also, to some of us older dudes, video games are evil. We try to get kids away from video games and get them playing pinball. The thought of pinball luring people into watching hours of video on the couch makes no sense at all. The idea is to get them off the damb couch!

The talk about bringing more sponsors and money into the hobby doesn’t sound good to me either. Pinball has always been for all classes of people. Now it’s leaning more towards collectors with middle class and up incomes. Do you want to be part of a hobby that might be considered elitist? I sure don’t.

I’m old enough that I’ve seen pinball make a comeback more than once. The reasons were a little different each time, but it’s always been the players that brought the hobby raging back. I hope I can see it happen again and I’m doing my part to increase the odds of it happening.

Check out Jack White’s gaming policy for his kids. Smart dude.


I disagree with every single part of this.

First, a large audience of spectators does not prevent anybody from playing pinball. Is there a single sport where more spectators meant less players? Have you seen youth soccer lately? Ultimate frisbee? Golf? League of Legends? The player base continues to grow in all of these sports, and they are becoming more accessible. Athletics have also provided young people opportunities to get into college.

As for your class argument, I’ve heard of this thing called arcades where older people talk about hanging out in when they were young. Spending $5-20 a week practicing pinball in an arcade is going to be much cheaper than buying any decent DMD game for home use. Arcades didn’t die because video games existed, but because they were so much better on consoles that it made no sense to play arcade games when you can shoot your friends in the face in Halo from the comfort of your couch.

In general, old people screaming about kids not going outside is absolutely garbage. Here’s me as a child: “Hmm, do I want to ask my mom to call Johnny’s mom and invite him over to play outside for exactly 2 hours before he has to go to soccer practice, or do I want to text him to get on Xbox so we can talk to each other and play the new halloween maps in XYZ game.” Choice is pretty obvious, imo. Jack White’s distinction between mechanical and electronic toys is completely arbitrary and useless. If I could have gone, on my own, to an arcade in my free time whenever I wanted to as a kid, and I wasn’t going to be grounded when I got home for being someplace with “strangers” where “I could have been killed” I would have done so every day. It’s not a reality for kids anymore.

Today, the only place young people can have unstructured fun is within a video game. Find a kid between age 7-12 and ask them about minecraft. If anything, contextualizing pinball as anything other than a ‘bar sport’ is probably the best way to promote it.


This is where resources and volunteer time have limited things so far. To accommodate all viewers, we’d need something like the set of status boxes used for the World Series: current match score (series 1-1); live game score (live score is usually not displayed on the game anyway, but maybe the score after the last completed ball could be shown); things “on base,” e.g. progress towards multiball, modes, etc; player stats similar to ERA or batting average; some kind of pop-up windows for users to ask about machine rules (which someone would have to load); … you get the idea. Just watch a baseball playoff game and think about what the pinball parallels would be. Then ask who’s gonna do all that? It’s all doable, yes, but it ain’t easy.

The other thing to remember is that most sports / games on TV are now designed to be on TV. Poker has card-cams, has programmed in each hand’s odds as play progresses (which I’m guessing they do after the fact, not live), and keeps meticulous track of everyone’s stack count at all times. Pinball is run with the competition as the priority and TV as an “if it works out” afterthought. I’m sure there’s a lot of New Yorkers who don’t like the “TV needs dictate things” mindset that led to game 1 not ending until 1:20 in the morning eastern time. I don’t want pinball at major events to get to the stage where TV needs alter the way the competition is done unless it’s really worth our while (seriously big $$).


These are all fantastic ideas and are what I would like to see implemented.

I feel televised competitive pinball is very important when it comes to the growth of pinball in general. That said, it needs to mimic what is seen on TV as much as possible to hook the average/casual onlooker. That includes the commentary, something I feel needs to be tightened up. There’s some great stuff there already, but then there’s also a lot of inside jokes, general banter and chuckling and I don’t think that’s going to hook people that aren’t already insiders. It’s one thing when it’s a PAPAtv Live show, but for a serious competitive event, maybe mimicking golf actually is the way to go. (Or maybe billiards, that was always more interesting to me live than golf… but I digress).


I’d like to see pinball broadcast on the moon.



I want a dollar a point televised pinball tournament. “I’ll choose AFM Kevin”


The number one thing from my perspective is figuring out how to have game and player sound in the broadcast. Pinball without sound is boring unless you’re a pinball nerd like us, and surely we’d like hearing the games too. I get that we need commentators, but surely there’s a way to get the game sound in there a bit too.


Can’t you just have the speaker wires output to the audio input of the camera instead of the speakers?