Monday, November 9, 2009

The Monday Poll

The conventional wisdom is that competitive paintball is in trouble--or if not exactly trouble, it's stagnating. This malaise mirrors a general decline in paintball participation, or at least a quantifiable drop in overall sales of new paintball equipment compared to the early years of this decade. Theories abound as to the specific causes.

Among the favorites are the economy; it's too expensive; the decline in new players has trickled down to competitive paintball; a younger player demographic; the transition from rec to tourney has become an intimidating gap largely because of high ROF gats & a perennial fave, too many punk ass kids (which isn't the same as the younger demographic because it refers to a type of kid playing tourney ball.) All of these possible reasons have some traction. Otherwise we couldn't keep hearing them proposed as sources of the decline of tourney ball. But I've got a couple of others I want to throw into the mix--and then it will be time to vote.

If you buy into the younger demographic argument isn't the question then what caused that demographic movement toward youth? And isn't the answer to that, the xball format? Seems to me the format eliminated a bloc of players simply by being too physically and athletically demanding. Or how about this: The transition from hobby to sport has killed a lot of the fun of competing. (This one is gonna get confused with the fun of traveling around, playing & partying. What I'm talking about is just having fun playing the game.)

Now it's your turn. Time to cast your vote. Competitive paintball is in decline because--

While the polls are fun (for me, anyway) of greater interest to VFTD is what peeps in a position to influence the direction of competitive paintball think is true and what they've chosen to do about it. Consider all the possible reasons for the current state of competitive paintball and ask yourself what anybody has done and what has been the result. I'm just saying.


Reiner Schafer said...

Well Baca, since even you realize that competitive paintball participation mirrors a general paintball participation, you are obviously asking what is causing the general participation decline?

There will always be a certan percentage of players that are pulled towards competitive play at higher levels than regualar rec play. It wouldn't surprise me if that percentage stays fairly constant.

Having said that, there are some differnces that have occured over time that may change that percentage (in this case a reduction drawn to competitive arean play). First, all the technology and cheap paintball prices (including some sponsorships) are now available in recreational play. Scenario teams have sprung up and players can get their jollies shooting thousands of balls at high rates of fire without ever steping onto a competitive airball field. Heck, even "recreational paintball" facilities have airball bunkers on small fields where "recreational" players can lay into each other with all the technology the pros have. Why commit to a team with all the expenses and time commitments when you don't have to? You can be the top cock in the yard at the local rec. field.

Second, the great rush of new younger players has ended. We went from virtually all adults to half the players playing paintball these days being under 18 (not sure of that statistic, just a generalization). Therefore for a few years, we had a lot of "extra" players joining the ranks. Since it's mostly younger players taking up competitive paintball, there was a surge in competive paintball growth. That surge is now over.

theone said...

Baca, to be honest I would say that the major point of this problem is all the punk-ass kids who play paintball. Having owned two paintball teams in the AXBL. It never ceases to amaze me about the kids who want to play tournament paintball but want everything to be free or don't want to have to physically train to compete, or who don't want to travel a couple of hours and play.

I don't know if it was different before but it is the whole "I deserve everything for nothing" attitude that is effecting the game.

J-Bird said...

i got out because i got bored and frustrated. i didnt have the time or funds necessary to compete any more, and the sacrifices just arnt worth it to me anymore. I was getting up at 6 every saturday morning to drive 2.5 hours to play for my team, playing all day, followed by another 2.5 hours back. Plus an average two tourny's a month, and a required reffing day once every two sundays. Plus all the "extra" college stuff i'm required to do.

seems like a pretty strict regimine, taking the game "seriously." The division i was playing: D5.

that's your problem.

raehl said...

Serious competition requires serious effort. When I was doing high school athletics we were practicing 3 hours a night every weeknight and competing all day every Saturday. Paintball was a breeze compared to that - practice twice a week plus competition once a month or so, and we practiced twice as much as anyone else at the time.

The biggest problems we have are the experience and the expense. We let pro-level play like 15 bps become the standard at all levels of play. That's like having little league players bat against pitchers throwing 95 MPH fastballs. 15 bps at the entry level of competition just plain makes paintball not fun for new players.

On top of that, gelatin use has made competitive paintball way more expensive than it needs to be. Paintballs have material and manufacturing costs, and the more of them we shoot, the more expensive play is. That's not additional expense that helps the industry either - a paint company making $40 margins off a case they sell for $60 is just as happy as one making $10 margins off cases they sell for $30 even if they're only selling 25% as many cases because players are shooting 25% as much. And a player shooting 75% less paint at $60/case is still saving 50% over shooting what they are now at $30/case.

Hopperball really is the answer. Contrary to what agg teenagers who can't aim will tell you, paintball is not less fun at lower paint use so long as your opponent has the same limitation. And it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

And leads to better reffing, and less mess, and lower freight costs, and reduced air usage (and less expensive air systems)...

Don Saavedra said...

There was a series here on the west coast that limited the amount of paint you can take on the field (I think it was the Great Western, but don't quote me on that), and the power-house pump league (OSC) does the same.

It wasn't strictly "hopperball," but, I think, achieves the same end. And it introduced the added strategy of front players giving paint to back players (limit was per team).

I would love to see more of that.

Amish said...

Having two different formats doesn't help, not sure if its the main cause but it definitely doesn't help. When you practice for any other sport...there are only one set of rules to consider. Granted you will probably pick one format to play...but how do you pick that format? It would be much easier if there was one league, and one format to aspire to be the best at. The attraction for most serious tournament players is to become the best.

Even if you make it to the top of one league, you are only considered the best in that format........right? You are not really a "Pro Paintballer" you are now just a "Pro Xball player" or a "Pro 7man player" unless you are lucky enough to be on one of the few teams that play both. I won't get into how I think one format and one league would greatly help the chances of outside sponsors.

houdini said...

I was just thinking the other day if 50 cal eventually became the standard someone better put a limit on how many pods are brought on to the field by each player or it's going to be paintball madness! Whatever $ savings are made from purchasing 50 cal paint will be lost because players will end up bring more onto the field.

Missy Q said...

Chris - are we really expected to believce that you did Athletics at school?

Reiner Schafer said...

Houdin, it's interesting to hear some of the tournament players starting to say this.

Rival Industries said...

I think this discussion is hard pressed to find an answer. The main problem is that we have no central governing body. The guys who play hockey, football, baseball, etc. don't bitch about the cost or how good the pros are compared to them or the which league they are going to play in. Why? because it is recognized that there is the NFL, NHL, or MLB.

It is unfair to say that moving to x-ball eliminated part of the competitive population of the sport due to the athletic requirements. Of course it eliminated part of the population - at the higher levels. If that's the case, I should start bitching because I am only 5'9" 160lbs.. why can't I play tight end for the Broncos?? Why didn't I get drafted because I want to play football at that level? No, it takes more than that.

In any sport, there are different levels of play. We have ours broken up into many, many different levels. We have multiple divisions at local, regional, and national levels. We all know that your lowest division local tournament is a joke compared to the lowest level at a national tournament, but if that's where you are comfortable, all the better for you!

I think the conclusion that I usually come to is that we need a centralized league. We need there to be an elite class of athletes that no one can compete with. We need the equivalent of minor leagues all the way down to your weekly co-ed softball game. If you want to compete at the highest level, it costs money, skills, or luck (just like NFL, NHL, or MLB). The rest of us can fill in below where we fit.

Baca Loco said...

I'm guessing Chris did cross country and chess club.

You need to stop reading my posts as personal validation. I did not put forth a personal opinion--I desribed the conventional wisdom. Is there an overall decline in participants or is it really a decline in how often a player plays? The aggregate data is sales although the experiences of some percentage of local fields indicates some sort of decline.
And the rec/scenario player has always had access to the same gear, ROF, etc. as high end tourney player so I don't understand that argument at all.

J-Bird said...

rival- the problem is is that once i play a season of the level im comfortable at, then im forced to move up, even if i dont have the ability, or funds to do so.

Reiner Schafer said...

My apologies Baca, I jumped to the conclusion that you were in agreement with the conventional wisdom. I should know different.

Yes, the technology was always available to rec players but traditionally rec players did not spend the same amount of money on the latest and greatest gear to get the high tech performance as the tourney players seemed to need or want. It wasn't until the technology came down in price to a very affordable level that the technology (ability to shoot extremely high volumes) became common place at rec fields. Once it was commonly seen and easily available, the need to "advance" to tourney ball to get higher levels of adrenaline flowing wasn't (and still isn't) necessary. Play at rec fields became similar to tourney fields without the competition and commitment.

Now a new player can get his 15 bps (or more) high at virtually any rec field in North America as it's the norm at those fields. That's really a big part of what attracts most new players to that level of paintball in the first place; getting that adrenaline high by shooting and getting shot at by high volumes of paintballs.

raehl said...

Baca, you are so far off - I ran track too. (I also did baseball and soccer pre-high school and a brief stint on the high school football team, but apparently I suck at anything that requires catching or kicking a ball.) Cross country was where the real hardasses went anyway - no officials on a 3-mile course in the woods and everybody has half-inch metal spikes in their shoes.

I think the reason you see more expense in the scenario market is it is a place someone who wants to spend a lot of money on paintball can go and play and not have goose-eggs posted on the scoreboard every time they walk on the field. You can suck in complete anonymity in the woods. Hell, there are people at scenario events who don't really even play at all! (And sometimes, that's me!)

There would be room for four times as many Pro team paint sponsorships if Pros played hopperball. You could even get away with raising or maybe even eliminating the ROF cap if all you have is the hopper.

raehl said...

And I forgot the part about more expense now, as a lot of the people who used to dump piles of money into the tournament market can no longer do so without being overwhelmed by the athletic folks who were very rare on the paintball field in the late 90's.

Baca Loco said...

I was halfway kidding. No apologies necessary and while I sometimes disagree with you I always appreciate the comments.

What? No chess club? Come on. 'Fess up.

raehl said...

We were talking about sports. I also was on the Chess Team, Math Team, Scholastic Bowl team, and JETS (basically general academic team; I did Math/Chem).

And Student Council to round things out.

J-Bird said...

did anybody else just realize that rahel is "that guy" in HS that "everybody" "hated."

Reiner Schafer said...

We said we hated that guy, but in reality, we were jealous. Damn high achievers!

Baca Loco said...

Don't know what kind of HS y'all attended but Chris was the kid we tossed out of the boys locker room into the halls naked.

raehl said...

I didn't realize the topic was "Chris Raehl: The High School Years" but I was pretty middle-of-the-road socially in high school. There wasn't a line of girls begging to be my prom date, but I wasn't subject to any locker room or other shenanigans either.

Then again, Baca would have been too slow to catch me, so maybe that's it.