Why is tournament paintball in decline? Is it really in decline? Is rec play down? In raw numbers? Dollars spent? Or both? Is the impact uniform across the country or does it have any regional variations? Are scenarios and Big Games as strong as ever? If so, why? Are they playing with restricted ROF or paint limitations? Is tourney ball seeing a decline because the game is too expensive? Or because fewer new players are entering paintball of any sort? (Meaning we're losing the raw material of future tourney ballers.) Or because high volumes of paint are scaring away those same new players and perhaps keeping some number of would be players away as well?
There sure are a lot of questions. And not a lot of answers. Or so it seems. Wouldn't it be nice to know what's really going on? Other than the fact tournament paintball is at the mercy of an industry that seems incapable of finding its backside with both hands. What the hell is industry doing other than trying to find more efficient ways for the haves to sell to the remaining retail outlets while trying to marginalize the have nots? Here's an idea. How about a model field program that all the Big Boys participate in. If you want to know what's happening at the grass roots try getting down there and see. The basic idea is to operate say, three, fields in diverse markets and see what's working and/or experiment with different ideas and try to find ways to make things work better--for everybody. (I know, I know.) Find answers to some of the questions currently plaguing the game. If everyone in industry participates nobody gets an advantage and everyone gets the benefits of any advances while sharing the cost of making the effort. Make it a PSTA project. If the PSTA could develop a package based on real life experience with proven methods to help make the local field(s) a success it would have actually accomplished something.
Not too keen on that idea? I didn't think so.
Fortuitously Jeff Perlmutter of PMI fame is looking into a variation of the concept. He wants to acquire and then operate as model parks a number of local paintball fields around the country. (See the interview over at the Big Bullet.) His idea is to find a system that produces a positive paintball experience and reproduce it at all his parks. (And perhaps spin if off as a franchise or something similar?) Jeff and his folks could do the work for the industry. Who knows, a little industry support now might reap real dividends in relatively short order.
Still not too keen on the idea? Here's a simpler version that might be worthwhile.
A field owners questionnaire aimed at discovering what's working in different places around the country (or even the world.) I hesitate to even suggest this on the basis that somebody must already be doing something similar, mustn't they? If for no other reason than marketing and sales need some sense of what's happening on the retail front in order to do their job effectively. Right? (For those of you who are field owners [Reiner, Mick] have any of your suppliers ever done anything similar?) Combine the answers from the questionnaire with a sales history and there may be enough data there, when combined with potentially hundreds of others, to begin to understand some of the the things happening in the paintball market, and why.
Of course it isn't as easy as suggesting it ought to be done--even generating a truly effective questionnaire would be a challenge--but maybe it's a place to start thinking about the challenges in a different way. Or not.