Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PSP versus AXBL

Sadly this post isn't a two-leagues-enter-one-league-exits winner take all brawl. And Master Blaster is nowhere to be found. That would be a lot more fun than what this post is really about. So proceed at your own risk of disappointment, fully aware that boredom could be just a paragraph or two away.
No, no. No! Hang on. Wait a second. Let's have none of that! Forget that boredom talk, it's defeatist rubbish. (Sorry about that. A bit of left over negativity from The Pro Team Crack-Up, I suppose.)

This post is a voyage of discovery. Yeah, that's the ticket. An opportunity to examine the PSP from a different point of view and perhaps draw new conclusions. To glean fresh insights. Or deepen long held prejudices. Be inspired. Cry havoc. And loose the dogs of war! (Okay, I got a little carried away. Again. And, no, I'm not a manic depressive–most of my doctors agree--but I appreciate your concern.)

Let's begin with some factoids about the AXBL (which, for purposes of this post, includes the MXL). Each is a closed league comprised of 3 conferences/divisions of 7 teams (for '09) that totals 42 teams between the two leagues. There is a licensing (franchise) fee to acquire a team slot and entry fee/per player fees. One league is FPO and one isn't. The season was comprised of playing the other teams within your conference once (but will apparently be altered for '09) plus a league championship. (The AXBL has played original xball matches comprised of 2 - 25 minute halves while the MXL played 20 minute halves.) The teams are drawn primarily from New England, New York and Pennsylvania along with a few outliers. The leagues' sanctioned events are played over two-day weekends at pre-existing paintball field venues. Overall, the total cost to compete (including travel and related expenses) is significantly less for the majority of the teams than it would be to compete at say, D2, in the PSP.

This is just enough information to cause trouble as it allows for lots of possible arguments for or against without being able to settle any of them–and that's not the point. Suffice to say that each league has certain drawbacks and certain benefits and different teams and players can and will have a variety of reasons to choose one over the other. For example, AXBL offers potentially more on-field minutes played versus the PSP providing greater diversity of competition. Or AXBL cost versus PSP prestige.

What interests me is what appear to be AXBL strengths are, in one measure or another, PSP weaknesses. And if that's correct, what are the lessons to be drawn? I hasten to add there is no hard data here. There is little more than appearances and the inferences that might be reasonably drawn with an open mind. There are also some similarities. The AXBL has reduced each league by three spots this season. Some prices have gone up at the same time there will be less on-field paintball in the coming season. The AXBL went to a 4 event season over last year's 5. Issues of communication and refereeing cause friction between the league and the team owners. (Just like everywhere else.)

Here then is the critical item: Despite drawing a preponderance of its teams from a much smaller geographical area the AXBL has consistently maintained a full league. This year it will be 42 teams and in previous years it was 48. The AXBL has a stability the PSP doesn't and it has a structure that produces team owners. By broad definition here team owners are individuals or groups willing and able to take on the responsibilities of organizing and operating a paintball team.

Here's where you say, sure, okay but the PSP isn't exactly chopped liver and it's routinely dealing with much larger team numbers so what's the big deal?
Where the AXBL always knows who is competing the PSP is always guessing and has come to rely on part time team commitment. (A fact that plays havoc with the Iron Laws of Tournament Logistics.) Isn't that purely a property of running a more expensive national series? Maybe so but then tell me why the CFOA looks more like the PSP and shares many of the same concerns when they are a regional series. It's not because they are an expensive national series. Is it?
And what conclusions might we draw about the PSP's struggle over years to populate various upper level divisions, regardless of title; D1, Open, Semi-Pro where in the MXL the object of team owners is to advance to the AXBL? Where the PSP struggles the AXBL is organized, orderly and upwardly mobile by the consent and desire of the competing teams.

There have to be reasons for these stark differences, don't there?


Lawrence said...

the franchise system that the axbl uses, it's creating "organizations" instead of "teams" which we see a lot of in PSP play. Organizations are usually more organized (well imagine that), a little better backed and people know that they're going to stick around to play multiple seasons. Knowing exactly what teams are playing and knowing how well they do each event lets new players have the goal: "i want to play for team XYZ" and instead of them working during a season to get better, getting on the team and then the team folding, they're guaranteed a season if they make it.

Compared to the CFOA and PSP -- you dont know what teams are going to show up and you HOPE that a few will make it the entire season. This is the difference of a team vs an organization: you know an organization will produce a team, maybe two or three for your event, versus a team which can say: "Yes we'll be there" and then at the last minuet dumps. Looking at the PSP APPA page i see: CDR, PBV, Damage, CrossEeyed, RnT, Aftermath, and Fierce that have produced multiple teams and i can almost guarantee will show to every event this season. The rest are hit or miss.

raehl said...

There seems to be a couple assumptions here that are not true.

1) AXBL knows which teams will show up - expect teams drop out of AXBL mid-season too.

2) AXBL has team ownership.

It doesn't. Team ownership structure in AXBL is exactly the same as it is in PSP. The only difference is when you pay your entry fees. And if you compare PSP Pro to AXBL, that difference is even smaller now that the Pro teams have to cough up a good chunk of change at the start of the season to get a spot.

As for PSP, I think it's pretty obvious why PSP is set up differently - a huge percentage of PSP's business is teams that play the event that is closest to them. And while playing a season of PSP is more expensive than playing a season of AXBL, playing one PSP event is a hell of a lot cheaper than playing a season of anything, and most importantly, doesn't require a season of commitment.

This whole post of yours Baca misses the boat entirely. The real difference between AXBL and PSP is that all AXBL events are within diving distance of the participants. Put all 5 PSP events in Chicago and you'd see the same results in PSP.

To take two leagues, both of which are privately owned, one of which has 4 events all across the continent, the other 4 events in driving distance of each other, and allege that differences are the result of no differences in ownership structure is just plain silly.

Lawrence said...

Chris: so is the PSP is becoming more of a circuit with a traveling show (pro teams)?

Baca Loco said...

1) it's not relevant that not all teams always show up.
2) that is only the case from your perspective.

All you're doing is describing what is after the fact. The PSP didn't resolve to design a business model targeting inconsistent and uncertain participation.

I haven't missed any boats, Chris--nor did I allege the difference was in the nature of team ownership. You've simply done what you usually do which is try to dissect an argument without paying any attention to the totality of it or the point.
In fact, your observation of the difference is scope and scale is not an apples to oranges comparison it is a relevant consideration.

These are the sort of responses that give peeps room to figure you're just a PSP shill and youRe really smarter than that--you're just trying to look any deeper.

It's wht the PSP ought to be looking to become but for now I think they have a hybrid model. Hybrids being all the rage.

Baca Loco said...

Oops--in apples and oranges sentence it should read "difference in"

And in last sentence of response to Raehl it should read "just NOT trying"

I blame a tiny unfamiliar keyboard and fat fingers.

Anonymous said...

I think that the on thing comes out of this post that I had not realized: the PSP IS missing the boat on "team ownership". Think what you will about the USPL, but people like it because the people behind it are (or appear to be) a comitee of team owner, wheras the "TEAM" behind PSP appears to be Keely and Lane.

I see a relatively simple solution, that would work, EVEN if only nominally.

36 Spots as "franchise"/ "owners"... WHATEVER you want to call it, of the PSP. In reality, they don't OWN anything other then a spot in the league, and a vote in (some) matters governing the league, especially rules or format changes.

These 36 teams become D-1/Semi-Pro/Pro

The top (3?) spots and the bottom (3?) spots move up/down every year.

How much does this franchise cost? Something like 1 grand, and it only allows you the possibilty to put a team into an event. If you drop to the bottom of D-1, then you have your spot taken from you and are returned your fee, and it goes to the next guy in line (D-2 TOP 3, who are not really part of the system).

Anonymous said...

or even better yet... you only have the grand returned to you, -50% for every year that you played in the "franchise" part of the league.

Between this system, and bumping prized for D-3 down and D-2 UP, you should lose all/most of the complaints about classification, and in reality you now only have 3 classifications: D-3, D-2, and Open, since it would be really unfair to tell a player he is TOO GOOD to be on a D-1 team, and yet his D-1 Team sucks to bad (with him on it) to be semi pro

raehl said...

I still don't see what exactly the difference is between AXBL and PSP, except:

- AXBL doesn't let you play unless you pay for the full season up-front, and
- AXBL is regional and PSP is national.

The only other difference is format.

Baca, you said:

"Here then is the critical item: Despite drawing a preponderance of its teams from a much smaller geographical area the AXBL has consistently maintained a full league."

What do you mean, DESPITE? That's half the reason the league is "consistent"! That's like saying "Despite being round, the ball rolled down the hill surprisingly well!"

AXBL has a more "consistent" league for primarily two reasons:

1) The smaller geographical area
2) They simply don't let anyone play who isn't going to play the whole season.

PSP can be every bit as stable as AXBL, as long as they cut their events down to three fields, two days, and don't let anyone play unless they pay for the full season up front.

You're right, dissecting an argument is what I always do, because if your argument is crap, you don't have a point, you have a fantasy. You start with information that isn't true, apply logic that is bunk, and reach a conclusion that is, obviously, disconnected from reality.

And before you try and bust out that ad-hominem "psp shill" retort in defense of your non-point again, remember that the NCPA has pretty much exactly the same league structure as AXBL, and had it first, so I'm obviously a fan. I don't think I said anything bad about AXBL; I said that your conclusion as to why AXBL was more consistent was mistaken.

Anonymous said...

But some people in the PSP can/should/do commit to the entire season (D1-Pro)

There are not enough D-1 teams in D-1 because the structure doesn't cut them the break they need, after having scratched and clawed thier way up there.

Baca Loco said...

Will respond tomorrow. Haven't read your reply yet and it's been a long day.

Anonymous said...

Let me put a little more thought into it:

There is no suprise there is a huge lack of D-1 teams; there is little to no incentive for teams to be at that level. Most if not all of them are very close to the Semi-Pro level, and most play the entire season.

The structure needs to *reward* those players having scratched and clawed thier way up. It goes hand in hand with what someone was saying over on the nation about new players playing more; just like rentals pay 60$ twice a year for 500 rounds of paint, alot of D-3 players only play once every year.

Also, the players who commit for the season (and the franchises that support them) deserve a voice, opionon, vote in the league; its thier money and time that keep it a-flot

All in all, forget about the financials; its just plain fun to think about your team "owning" a D-1 through Pro franchise. Just in the name change you could hear players say "hey, I want to play on the bushwackers D-2 team, they Own a prospot so I could likely go somewhere.

Or the prospective team starter who recruits a bunch of D-2 guys has the "goal" of earning a spot to buy a D-1 franchise. THe bad D-1 players are fighting with each other to not get relegated out of thier spot.

This brings me to a new point: change the prize structure to encourage this even more:

D-3 - tiny, every event
D-2- decent, every event
D-1, season prize+ prize for winning Cup.
Semi-pro Same
Pro Same

Anonymous said...

^^there shouldnt really be a season winner for D-3; if you have the financial stability to fly 10 guys to 4 different events and use that much paint, and pay that much entry, and hotels ETC. you should be able to practice more then the 50% of teams who are locals coming out for a good time.

Baca Loco said...

Regarding prizes and package structures you aren't the only one thinking that way. There is a lot of sympathy for something along those lines but I don't think anyone has figured out a way they are comfortable with for changing the status quo largely because it will be seen as taking away from one group to give to another.

raehl said...

It's all Strange's fault.