If you were expecting (and are disappointed not to see) 'Return of the Pro Loser' posted today as per the schedule you haven't been hanging around VFTD for very long, have you? Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. (And, no, that isn't a dungeons & dragons reference.) I make schedules meaning to keep to them but stuff happens and this is just a wee bit more topical at the moment. 'Return of the Pro Loser' will just get bumped to next week's schedule so you can breath a sigh of relief as you now have something to look forward to. Some more. Again.
Since the first "official" announcement about the coming .50 caliber solution was posted at P8ntballer--see, ' The Revolution Begins' below for the link--much of the dialogue has focused on the paintballs themselves and the unsubstantiated performance claims sorta being made. While all that is vaguely interesting (if you're a physics geek) I think it misses the point completely. I don't think it matters a whit if the small ball does exactly as claimed or not. (What matters is whether it's profitable for the manufacturers.)
Of late the biggest concern to both the industry and competitive leagues is a stagnant and/or declining player base from the heyday of a few short years ago. The blame has generally been assigned to cost (paintball is expensive and competitive paintball is even more expensive) and out-of-control rates of fire turning the basic game's fun factor into a fear factor. (Does the decline compare to the appearance of low-priced, high-performance markers?) Part of the latest response has been to cap ROF and steadily reduce that cap in order to encourage the use of lower limits across the board.
The GIMILSIM press release states, "The new era of 50 calibre paintball means cheaper paint for the paintballer, it means hundreds more paintballs in the loader, it means thousands more balls in your pots, it means a more accurate flight path, it means it shoots further and all this with the same marking characteristics as the original 68 caliber balls." Earlier in the press release the cost of participation is mentioned as an impediment to building the player base and seeing a healthy tourney environment restored. The idea being cheaper paint necessarily makes for cheaper paintball and more affordable paintball widens the potential player pool.
Here is where my interest--and questions--begin. Isn't cheaper paint in some respects counterproductive to the whole ROF limitation idea? (I suspect the answer to that is cheaper needn't encourage the use of more paint but that's really just a dodge, isn't it? Even if it's true to some extent it's like putting a limit on ice cream sundaes and then announcing the price of ice cream is going down.)
But more than that is the claim of cheaper paint to the end user, the customer, you, the player. It doesn't necessarily follow even if production costs are reduced. Here's the dealio as it currently stands: big paint companies are struggling to make a profit in today's market. Keeping it simple there are 4 factors involved; cost (to produce & sell), price (to retailer), volume (of sales) and margin (profit per unit sold). What the manufacturers need is a margin in sufficient volume to make their current woes go away. Reduced cost would be a good start but it doesn't follow that all costs (or prices) throughout the system drop as well. Part of the answer to that would be in pinpointing where the real problem is for the manufacturers. Odds are it's a combination of the 4 factors complicated by the debt load a couple of them are carrying. What margin would be sufficiently profitable given the current volume of sales? Will the small ball provide that or more? The point is simply this: Cheaper to manufacture doesn't automatically translate into cheaper for you and I to buy.
Admittedly there is lots we don't yet know and there is no reason to pass premature judgment on the 50 cal small ball just yet but at the same time it's no time to swallow the hype either. Even if it proves to be a better paintball will Paintball's problems suddenly disappear? I doubt it.
And to close (for now) here's some additional almost-on-topic food for thought. A) Paint is as cheap as it's ever been for the average customer. B) The advent of Xball saw the volume use of paint go through the roof in competition. C) the average age of the typical Xball player is younger than ever. D) Older players have more disposable income. E) If the ROF restrictionists are correct does it really make sense to make greater volumes of paint available for less than is the current standard? (Assuming the small ball will actually be cheaper.)