One of the claims for the 50 cal paintball is that the availability of lower priced paint will help reinvigorate paintball. Another claim, unrelated to the small ball, is that the problem with paintball is too much paint in the air propelled by guns with ridiculous rates of fire. Can both of those things be true? And if they aren't both correct, then what? Does small ball actually make things worse? Or is all that ROF hand-wringing nonsense?
There is little doubt that cheaper to the consumer paint would be great for the existing competitive paintball crowd. But then the question arises–again–of why has there been a recent drop off in new tournament-oriented players entering the game? If this is a real phenomenon has it occurred because paint cost too much or for some other reason? Clearly there is a line of thinking that associates high ROF and volume of paint with a decline in participation but is it the cost or the resulting sort of game you get with high ROF that's the problem? Or, is something else at the root of this problem?
Over in the UK there is a fairly strict dividing line separating the kind(s) of paintball available by site. The largest face of paintball is recreational rental play with most of the players being first timers and the once or twice a year sort. Many of the fields that cater to that customer do not want even regular rec players. At one time it was widely accepted (among the tourney types) that such practices were severely inhibiting the development of the tourney scene by having a huge disconnect between entry level paintball and tournament style paintball. If the majority of the occasional players don't even know tourney ball existed they weren't likely to seek it out, much less play. In the U.S. there appears, at least on a regional basis, to be a lot more interaction between the levels and types of players as lots of fields offer both woods and airball and welcome the regular repeat customer. And yet, if the claims of decline are correct (and they seem to be) we're both experiencing similar results. (Of related interest is the fact that many of the UK sites targeting new and very occasional players have consistently done very good business so there was little or no reason for them to change. Draw your own conclusion. Everybody's doing it.)
Maybe it is both high ROF and cost with each "cause" affecting a different part of the market. And both discouraging some percentage of potential tourney players from getting more involved. I don't know but it doesn't seem unreasonable. Of course, if true, does the small ball help more than it hurts? (Pun intended.) Right now there are a lot more questions than there are answers and that isn't going to change anytime soon. (It's hard to come up with definitive answers when everyone is mostly guessing at both the problems and the causes. The tourney concerns are partly raw numbers and partly anecdotal and the declining playership claim is based almost exclusively on product sales figures which do not necessarily equate to player numbers.) It would seem that we're going to get small ball regardless. (Unless all the claims being made for it turn out to be bogus.) Small ball probably isn't the answer but it could be an answer.