Thursday, November 5, 2009

Saving Paintball?

I can almost feel the hate already. You see, I checked out SavePaintball after seeing the Nicky interview over at ProPaintball. And instead of being uplifted by a noble effort it left me feeling vaguely suspicious. I know, I ought to be ashamed of myself but I'm just not. What can I say? About all I can promise is that no puppies and only a few kittens were harmed during the writing of this post. Well, that and I contacted the savepaintball peeps to give them an opportunity to offer their side--and they made a dent. A small dent in the soft melon I call my head. Let's say I'm not totally convinced yet but ... we'll see.

Right about now (if I were you) I'd be asking myself the rhetorical question: Who appointed this guy Guardian of Paintball and why should I care what he thinks? The simple answers are nobody and no reason why you should. Nor do I expect you to. However, this is what VFTD does, question any and everything related to competitive paintball.

Here's the thing that bothered me right away: the sum of the site as it exists now is a few pithy paragraphs of virtually substance free emotionalism wrapped around a campaign to generate email addresses. The site consists of 5 pages and those 5 pages provide 16 opportunities to sign up for the newsletter, connect via Facebook or become a fan. The home page proclaims (one of ) their purpose(s)--"a movement to educate players to grow paintball in their community" and for the slightly thick educate and grow are in bold. But I couldn't find any content that seemed directed at accomplishing either education or growth. Well, except the growth of The educate page makes unsubstantiated claims, acknowledges the numbers may be wrong but claims it's too serious a concern not to act. And how do you act? By signing up. By joining the movement. On the join page SavePaintball is about sparking conversation and providing a platform for exchanging ideas. Okay, so where is it? This platform. Is it gonna be a forum or what? At best the change page seems like a mixed message--Are we saving paintball or taking the sport of paintball to the next level? And while I'm at it how 'bout a clue as to what sort of change does anybody (somebody?) have in mind? Sign up and find out. We are the change we have been waiting for. See, I can do it, too.
Try as I might all I found was a concerted effort to convince ballers to join SavePaintball. There aren't any answers. Not even any suggestions. Or even a consistent message.

There's nothing sinister about any of that and I might be misreading it completely. One might reasonably give the project the benefit of the doubt, despite reservations, and consider it a work in progress. Where's the harm? I may not be impressed by the wrapper but that's not really all that important anyway. So that's what I'm going to do. Give the project a chance. From their emails the guys doing this have some potentially productive ideas--some concrete plans--although they don't seem to be altogether on the same page yet. Assuming the work in progress status let's wait and see what actually happens. After all, it's not what you say that matters, it's what you do.


Reiner Schafer said...

What a bunch of useless drivle. Another it's in OUR hands to make changes and fix everything bunch of crap. One day they'll post up that they have thousands of people who have joined and want to change things for the better. Then what? Wishing things to be better and things actually getting better are two totally different things.

What's the saying? Try shitting in one hand and wishing in the other and see which one fills up first. Something along that line anyway.

If players want changes in the industry, they can help by demanding it from the people they are handing their money to, the field owners. The same people that let things get to the way they are today.

And for those that don't think there is anything wrong with the way things are run these days, then all I can say is, No problem. We'll just keep thngs as they are and live with the number of people that today's version of paintball attracts.

For those that DO want more people playing this game, tell your local field owner to create something that more people will enjoy and quit concentrating on trying to sell as many paintballs as possible. He/she is the one with the power to make a difference.

Anonymous said...

Have you been to the World Paintball Union website? I think it's another guy with a self appointed mission fix paintball.

Don Saavedra said...

Can anyone accurately describe what's "wrong?" Before we go about making things better... wouldn't it be nice to know exactly what we're fixing?

Mike said...

Declining numbers of players I would name as the key issue. Not just tourney players. Rec, scenario, etc as well.

Reiner Schafer said...

That would be the only real issue. If numbers weren't declining, there would be no need for repeated discussions about fixing anything. Everybody would be happy.

Now what is causing the declining numbers? That's a much more important question to find an answer to. Once we can answer that question, we can start working on finding a solution.

Crotchety Old Fan said...

the website is registered by a person who's email address resolved to a brand development company alta costura international.

Branding a "save this or that" org? come on.

Who are these folks? How about some names. How about an agenda?

I just love "organizations" with no transparency.

vijil said...

The first thing I thought when I saw it was that it was a thinly disguised attempt to convince people that .50 cal is the future.

Hmmf. If not, telling people to "get off your arses and change the sport, it's up to *you*" doesn't do anything. It just doesn't work. You need concrete, practical plans and so far this isn't showing any. I hope, as you say, something is on the way.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't one gun manufacturer behind the whole savepaintball-bollocks?

paintball sniper said...

I am not sure if paintball is in need of saving just yet. The economy has a lot to do with it and hopefully paintball will turn around with that.

Reiner Schafer said...

Are you sure the economy has a lot to do with it. According to bigger manufacturers, sales droppesd dramtically long before the recession started, actually during times of very low unemployment and a booming economy. If sales of paint and gear were sliding, it most likely meant more people were leaving than joining. Retention of players was probably the biggest concern, as those people who start coming regularly are the ones that buy gear obviously.

The economy will affect those that play the most and have the highest expeditures in the sport the most. This will be tourney or wannabe tourney players. Some (relatively inexpensive) recreational activities increase during recessions. We have not seen overall drop-offs of players during the recession (slight increase this year) at our field and from other field owners I have spoken to that cater to the less extreme experience, I hear similar stories. We are seeing less of our "regular players" but are making up for it with first time and players who play infrequently. That fits into the theory that those who have the highest expenditures are affected the most during the recession.

I think what we are seeing in tourney attendances throughout North America and the slide in sales of manufactured goods is indicative of the problems we as an indutry have with attraction, but most importantly, retention of players. If we as an industry are having problems retaining the people who are trying the game, that will cause much long term problems.

So although some of us may be unaffected (like myself), as a whole, we need to figure out why people are choosing to stay away from paintball, otherwise, we will continue to have poor showings at tourneys around the country, and manufacturers will continue to have suppressed sales. So I guess we only need saving if you feel having less players is a problem.

Don Saavedra said...

I am absolutely sure the economy is the reason I haven't played paintball in months. And the sole reason.

Baca Loco said...

Two of the three guys I know of behind the savepaintball project front the "branding" company and their ties to paintball go way back.
My question would be is that a coincidence or is savepaintball a bought and paid for project?

Anonymous said...

My name is Tommy O'Donnell, and I am one of the people behind Yes I own a brand management agency with another guy involved with this project. That's how we eat and pay our bills. Our skill sets have also allowed us to get the ball rolling on the Save Paintball project for a lot less money than someone stepping in and subcontracting everything through different companies. This is a positive when you're setting up a non-profit with no major donors behind you.
I will agree that the site is broad and vague right now, and that we need to provide an action plan for those wanting to get involved. This is something that has been a work in progress, and it's difficult to post up the blue print to increasing player retention and boosting new player attendance over night. I can assure you however that we do have a plan in mind, and we will be further expanding the website in the weeks to come. Save Paintball as you all see it now is simply a set of landing pages we're using to hopefully motivate people to get involved.
I must say I've been pretty shocked by the negativity that has sprung up since we posted Nicky's interview on Back at World Cup, we kicked this project off and asked several pro players and industry leaders to do an interview with us at our hotel. Nicky was the first one to show up, and he was 100% down with the cause. He made it very clear that he was willing to help wherever he could.
It appears that about 1/3 of the comments below his interview on are people bashing on him. I don't really get it. Why are we hating on someone trying to lend a helping hand? Why are we shitting on someone who's trying to get involved and make an impact? If no one steps up, then nothing gets done.
Just within the comments on this particular VFTD article, people are sounding off that there's a problem and offering their solutions. So why is it then that we're all bad guys now because we've decided to spark and establish a movement to hopefully help turn things around? I guess that's what boggles my mind here.
We're all on the same team here when it comes to this game. We can either all pitch in and try to turn things around, or we can all continue standing around and watching paintball as we know it regress. That's why we've started the site. We're trying to get the people paying the money to play paintball talking and collaborating on making things better. The people who pay for paintball are the customers in this industry. The customer's money is what the executives cut checks with. Now if we could just get everyone to quit bickering we could possibly make a little headway.
As for the skeptical mailing list commentary, hell yes we want you to sign up and join our movement. We want you to sign up for our newsletter so we can spread our message to as many people as possible. Hell yes we want you to sign up for our Facebook. We need maximum participation and involvement in order to make a difference.
Is this is a scam? That my friends is hilarious. The day you start receiving Save Paintball messages requesting you to send money orders to Malaysia is the day you should start worrying about this being a scam.
Everyone involved in this project has been around paintball for far too long to even think about tarnishing their credibility by associating themselves with any sort of paintball scam. We've all associated ourselves with this project because we believe in it. Paintball is a far too important component of my life for me to put my name on something that is not 100% authentic. Save Paintball is a good thing. All I ask is that you give it a chance. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Anonymous said...

Your site has been broad and vague as long as it has been up, over half year?

I think you are a fake. Why do you concentrate so much one the short interview you did? Oh thats because you have not done anything else ever on that site.

You talk about involvement and maxing out impact but you mention nothing in terms of how, when or what. Nor do you point out what your movements idea is about "wrong in paintball" in the the first place. Only kids and dolts sign up for something that vague.

What if, all that is wrong in paintball is people like you? You appear exactly same as pb companies who operate so that they can't even get a press release right and sell upgrades to customers that don't do anything or just bluntly suck. Unfinnished, unprofessional and shady.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks for commenting, Tommy. AS I posted I'm more than willing to wait and see what y'all do so please don't take the following as additional criticism.
I don't think it's really a matter of most critics objecting to your intentions but rather that the initial efforts lack substance and lots of peeps are tired (and wary)of more talk.
The unsupported claim to desiring to help make things better, to effect some nebulous change, ends up being empty and, worse, banal. And the use of politcized language doesn't help either. Or the fact that your apparent priority wasn't rallying peole around your plan but signing them up sight unseen.
Fairly or unfairly people will pass judgment on the information at hand and you guys are ultimately repsonsible for what we know or don't know about SavePaintball. It's not enough to claim good intentions.

Looking forward to what comes next.

raehl said...

Actually, the overall paintball numbers are not off by much. The two big problems facing paintball are:

1) A DRAMATIC decline in *FREQUENT* participation - off 25% or more. Losing a player who plays 15+ times a year is a much bigger deal than losing a player who plays once a year.

2) Paintball equipment is cheap. People keep telling me that "sales are down", and I keep thinking "Well, duh, you're charging half as much as you used to, of COURSE your sales numebrs are down!" Even if participation numbers were the same, and even if everyone was buying the same number of guns/masks/tanks/loaders/pants/etc, sales would be down simply because all of those things cost less.

Paintball had a big problem 5 years ago: We solved all the technology problems. That meant both that people were getting shot too much, not having fun, and not taking up the sport as frequent participants, and that there was no longer a price premium for the latest and greatest stuff. It's very hard to charge a price premium on something that is pretty much the same as the equipment available the year before. That's much different than the way paintball was the 20 years before that, where each year brought out drastic technological improvements.

Paintball companies used to killer margins on products that were leaps and bounds above the previous year's products are having to adjust into companies that are moving pretty much commodity product at lower margin. There is not room for as many companies in that kind of business environment, which has pushed margins even lower as the many try not to be the last company to fold.

I think in a year or two, we'll be down to 3 major players and a handful of niche companies and prices will start to go up again. Those higher margins will lead to more sponsor dollars.

*IF* we can fix the participation problem, and the only way we get our frequent participants back is dialing down the paint use. Gelatin use just makes paintball more expensive.

So we just need to wait out the industry consolidation, and if we really want to fix participation, cancel '' in favor of ''.

J-Bird said...

has anybody thought that maybe the reason why sales are down so much is because the current generation already has their paintball fix? i dont think i know a guy from my former HS who didnt at least have a tippmann. There is always some talk about how the pb industry was like the skateboard...well honestly, their industry blew up, now everybody and their brother has a skate board. they had to find another outlet- shoes and clothing, etc...

Also, the savepaintball website is total crap imo. Honestly, why not market it to why new players should join..not some "paintball is our life" crap. The only reason why Nicky and Co. jumped on so fast is because they've signed their life away to this sport. Without it, they have nothing. You want to get outside peoples interest? Get regular kids to talk about how pb got them off the streets or something, not a high profile pro who is "living the dream."

Another thing -- on the "education" page, it talks specifically to ballers who actually are in the "know" paintball wise...not the people you need to be talking to: your rec and every other weekend kids.

the entire "movement" screams unprofessionalism and immature from an outsiders view. People need to understand, the field owners run this sport. Not a "professional" or a manufacture, and the field owners need to step up and make something happen. Quit running mom and pop store "for player by player" crap and start making money; actually ADVERTISING your place...just be a real professional.

there are too many paintball fields. we've saturated areas way to much and that's where the undercutting started. Start buying each other out. Please.

Reiner Schafer said...

J-Bird, I think you are right in that there have been and still are too paintball fields and that is the main reason we ended up with prices and margins we have.

As a field owner, I could consider buying others out, or, I could just let them go belly-up. If I buy them out and start raising prices, others will see this and think it might be a good time to get into the paintball market, and then I'm back to having another competitor, with fresh capital in his pockets to fund more price wars. On the other hand, if I let them go belly-up on their own, others will see this and might understand that another competitor in the market cannot survive.

A free marketplace is an interesting thing. A natural equilibrium does establish itself eventually. Sometimes it just takes time. With less customers now and possibly in the near future, it will take even more time.

Don Saavedra said...

Seriously... our sport is not in trouble. Do you think there will be a time when it won't be fun to go out in to the woods with your buddies and shoot each other? Do you think there won't be someone providing the paint and gear needed to do that? Do you think there won't be some teams who want to test their mettle against other teams?

The only thing in need of "saving" in this sport are the bloated industry leaders who seem to be more concerned with gaining a monopoly via the courts than be successful using sound business practices.

Tommy's post above is still lacking substance. Still vague about what's "wrong" and exactly how we're going to "save" anything.

Tommy said, "The day you start receiving Save Paintball messages requesting you to send money orders to Malaysia is the day you should start worrying about this being a scam." Uh... no. That's the day I will KNOW it's a scam. Today is the day I worry about who I give my email address to. Sorry, but if you want us to think any different, offer something more than empty, ethereal platitudes.

Reiner Schafer said...

Don, it's a matter of perspective. I agree more or less that one could think there is nothing wrong. The industry is going through an adjustment period. The sport has changed over the years due to changes in technology and lowering of paintball prices. The "product" has changed and obviously when a product changes the demographics of the consumers may change and the overall number of consumers may change.

Is that a problem? Like I said, it's a mater of perspective. If you are running a manufacturing company ramping out X number of products and then demand drops, you might consider it to be a problem. If you are a league organizer who has based his profit/loss spreadsheet on X number of players and now there are less, than you might consider it a problem.

But in the end, like you said, there will always be people wanting to shoot each other in the woods and in the arenas. Adjustment will just take place within the industry to supply products that are currently in demand. That probably means less manufactures (or scaled down manufacturers) and less fields and stores. It will mean tournament organizers are going to have to change the way they do business. But it's certainly not the end of the world and paintball will never disappear completely. Virtually all industries go through scale backs during some time or another. It's just that paintball has never been there before.

Those that provide the products that are popular at the right price will still prosper and those that do not will fade away. Not a problem, unless you happen to be one of the ones that fades away. But then again, it's survival of the fittest. If you are a business person in the paintball indusrty, and if you want to stick around, you need to figure out what what is in demand, ad then figure out how you can provide it.

Baca Loco said...

J Bird makes some excellent points. It's funny too as I was talking last night with a VFTD correspondent who reminded me of an old idea that's still a really really good idea that hasn't been done right yet. The resulting post will go up on Monday and the topic will be a PB Field Owners Association.

Doesn't the way you run your field undercut the too many fields claim? You aren't competing by price but by the sort of experience your field offers.

While I don't doubt the possibility of a glut in some areas the idea that there can be or already is too many fields generally suggests there is a limit to the number of players too, doesn't it?

Reiner Schafer said...

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by the way we run our field. We are definitely not immune to competition.

The number of players in any area is more or less dictated by what product is offered in that area. For instance, an area that supplies both a lower volume environment field such as ours and also a higher volume alternative, will have more overall players than if only one or the other was offered.

The problem is that over the years, virtually all fields changed their product from a lower volume environment (when paint prices were higher) to a high volume environment that low paint prices encourage. That changed the demographics of the consumers and th eoverall number of consumers that were willing to take part and leave their money with us. It was a change in product that was offered so there is no doubt that there will also be a change in the type and numberof consumers. Adjustments are therefore in the works to rectify the economic imbalance.

So paintball is not broken, it's just adjusting to the change we've created.

Gene said...

It all starts with you, the player:

Reiner Schafer said...

Gene, there is nothing wrong with promoting good citizenship. I think that goes without saying. But I don't think you are going to turn douchebags into non-douchebags by asking them to or by setting a good example. Much more effective would be if fieldowners would stop tolerating douchebaggery and send the douchebags home.

raehl said...

And if you start sending the douchebags home, the douchebags will notice and make an effort to stop being douchebags. (Well, some will, but the others are still at home, so win-win.)

Reiner Schafer said...

Raehl, exactly.

Or a field owner has the choice to sell the douchebags cases and cases of paint and be happy for the profits. That seems to be the short term thinking that has been prevelant at many fields.

I really, honestly put most of the blame on field owners. They may not have realized the damage they were doing, but nevertheless, let the damage occur. They were/are the ones that had/have the power to make some meaningful change.

Don Saavedra said...

What you do is create a "douchebags only" division at your field. Don't let them interact with anybody else and you can still make money off of them.

2 birds, one stone.

Reiner Schafer said...

Yep, you could do that, but it's really hard to not have the Douchebags interact at all with the other players. You would have to have a totally seperate field out of sight and earshot of everyone else? Easier just to send them away. Then some other field can deal with them if they want to; a field that specializes in douchebag paintball.

raehl said...

Even better is you ban them from your field, then they go to your competitor and tell the customers there how they are not allowed to play at your field. It's basically free advertising towards all the people who want to play where the douchebag isn't!

Don Saavedra said...

There's gotta be some way to make money off the douchebags without enabling their behavior. C'mon, guys! Don't give up! Real success takes vision!

Reiner Schafer said...

Don. I have a feeling that would be expending too much energy. I'd rather just give up trying to figure that one out, send them home, and then make more money cause more people will come to my field without the douchebags.