Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is Tippmann Killing Paintball's Future?

Any takers on the over/under for irate (and possibly threatening) communication? It's gotta be in hours, right?
Are you wondering how I could even ask such a question? Am I kidding? Just trying to be provocative? (Well, yes. Partly.) But in fact if you take certain assumptions as a given it's undeniable.
The argument that crazy high ROF guns in the hands of tournament ballers is ruining the game and driving away other players is pretty much the conventional wisdom these days.
Another item of conventional wisdom is that tourney ballers are but a fraction of all paintballers, the tail wagging the dog--and a nub of a tail at that--what I've taken to calling the One Percenters.
Leaving aside the total number of high end markers sold compared to the total number of competitive players--those sorts of stats probably don't exist--a visit to virtually any rec field in the country will demonstrate that not all those guns are in the hands of tourney players. That means part of the original argument begins to break down. We still have the high ROF guns but they aren't exclusive to tournament players.
Perhaps we can modify the argument and claim the problem is high end high ROF guns in the hands of tournament ballers and emulators of tournament ballers. But if we're going to go down that road I'd like to have some idea how many high end high ROF guns are out there compared to the total of all paintball markers and players because it seems to me that if the "problem" can be that easily isolated to some small percent of players and guns it should really be easy to fix. Just quarantine that group and the problem is solved. So why hasn't it happened? Is everybody involved in paintball so dumb the obvious eludes them? Or is it something else?
For starters there are loads of non-high end high ROF guns in the marketplace, added to on a daily basis--by Tippmann, among many others. Some are tourney-type markers, many are not. A brief review of the Tippmann product line reveals 5 basic markers (discounting the pistol) all of which either come with or can be accessorized with an e-grip or reactive trigger mod advertised by Tippmann as capable of up to 15 bps. The same or something similar go for Kingman/Spyder and BT to name a couple other high volume brands. High ROF markers are ubiquitous--they are everywhere at virtually every price point.
Of course, it isn't just Tippmann. It's pretty much everybody. I only used them because they don't make competition markers and everyone routinely associates them with the recreational market, the entry market and newbie rentals. Paintball's problem, assuming there is a problem, isn't out of control tourney ballers shooting mysterious, magical super expensive high ROF markers at unsuspecting newbs. If there is a problem with high ROF markers it's PBIndustry's problem because everybody is making high ROF guns in every possible guise and selling them as fast as they can ship them out their doors. And if there is too much paint being flung too fast across fields around the country the vast majority of it is from guns and players that have nothing to do with competitive paintball.

So what's next? Either the industry is killing itself--or it isn't. If it is then blaming the the smallest segment of players won't solve it, only absolve those truly responsible.

32 comments:

anonachris said...

Oh come on, they'll still blame the high end segment as the ones who started the arms race. The peace loving people of the commonwealth, err, I mean, Tippmann were only upgrading their capabilities in response to the aggressive high-end bandits.

raehl said...

It's not the guns.

It's the paint.

Charge more for paint and people will shoot less. Charge less for paint and people will shoot more. Equipment is pretty much irrelevant.

So, the people ruining the industry are the rec fields letting their newbies shoot paint at each other at $0.02/ball. The kid with the high-end electro shooting up all the newbies at 15 bps wouldn't be a problem if he had to pay $0.10/ball to do it. He'd stop or go somewhere else, and everyone else would be much happier.

Furby said...

And what happens when fields start closing because they're not making any money on paint sales?

Anonymous said...

Or how about the ROF is not the actual problem to begin with?

Anonymous said...

Is the constant talk of our sports future and current state killing our future?

J-Bird said...

anon (2)- no. this talk is good. if the industry doesnt recognize the state it is in, something is wrong. the more talk like this the better.

Anonymous said...

If you dont want to play and shoot at a high ROF, then play at your local field with a group and have your own private session. If your mixed in with a group that has a few players that can shoot at high ROF, so long as its capped, and they are evenly distributed on the teams, whats the big deal?

Everyone saying that ROF, or high volumes of paint are killing the sport. No, its not that, its sitting on the sides speculating that, and not just going out and enjoying it for ehat it is...fun!! that is killing the sport.

When I got into the sport, it was as a backyard baller, playin on a friends 10 acres with church groups. We had players from 7-58 playing, and noone cared what ROF we had. The parents AND the kids thought the "fully autos" were "cool" and wanted one themselves. no one complained that so-and-so was on "full auto" or had a better gun,we ALL just played and had fun!!

Stop specuating, and just play! Go out and enjoy the sport like you did when you first started, and didnt care, just had fun.

Drama Queens kill the sport, actually they kill themselves.

mick said...

Great point Baca...

It seems only a field owner can "appreciate" what ROF does and doesn't do for business. "No one complained." How many returned? No speculating here - just experience.

Fast guns scare away a few and attract more fast guns. More fast guns scare away more and before you know it all you have is fast guns, a field rep and no new players.

Yes, shame on the industry for providing rec ball players with the markers they need so they can emulate their nub of a tail idols.

Mike said...

"Is Tippman killing paintball's future?"
No. But it is creating and fulfilling a need in the market specifically scenario and rec.
If I had to choose between buying stock in Tippman,Spyder or Planet Eclipse I'd choose Tippman.
Spyder blew it going into .50 caliber unless they plan on going completly senerio.
P.E. make great markers but the market for high end guns is small.

"The argument that crazy high ROF guns in the hands of tournament ballers is ruining the game and driving away other players is pretty much the conventional wisdom these days."
I don't see that happening and it doesn't make much sense to me from what I'm seeing out their on the paintball fields.

"So what's next?"

Rather it's the cost of maintaining an Airball field and the reluctance of paintball parks to put them up that creates the problem of owning a 1200.00 dollar gun and not having any place close to play with it.The lack of Airball fields that are within driving distance kills competitive paintball.
In California I counted 107 paintball parks 66 of which had an Airball field.The parks that do have Airball fields also have scenario/rec fields creating a ratio of about 1 Airball field to about 5 scenario/rec fields that they offer.It comes down to money and making a profit.It costs $20,000 to astro turf a field that's 150 feet by 120 feet. The turf will last about two years.Then theirs the cost of the 44 Air bunkers (5000.00).Then theirs the cost of setting up the bunkers and taking them down every day as well as maintenance.On the other hand setting up a rec or scenario field is quite a bit less and easier to maintain.You strewn the place with abandoned cars,tires and hay bales and then your done with it.Nothing to tear down at the end of the day.

And then theirs this problem: Heres a review some left about a paintball park he went to.

"We paid $30 to play ($20 for admission and $10 for air) which is higher than most of the fields in Valencia. The $20 admission is standard for self equipped but the $10 for air is just retarded. What made it worse was that their fill stations would not fill a 4500 CU tank past 2500 CU. The reason we were given was that "there were a lot of people there". It really wasn't that busy.

After we pay, we get set up and go to the chrono station. Another stupid line. I've never had to wait so long to chrono. There was about 50 people in line and one person in there running the chrono. We had to wait for each person to shoot, then, if their marker was running too hot, wait for them to adjust the velocity and try again. God forbid there was something wrong with their marker. This took another 45 minutes.

So, now about 1.5 hours into our arrival there, we are now ready to play. We walk up the hill to where we are told walk ons should meet. The ref comes and announces the game. It looks like 100 people stand up to play. We ask the guy if we are seriously going to play a 50 on 50 game and he says there are no other refs. Beginner and advanced players all together. The ref starts the game, there are 5 people to every bunker. A few minutes into the game, no one is moving since each bunker is occupied. All you can do is try and nail someone from distance. Another two minutes into the game, the ref yells 30 seconds. At this point, its a 25 on 25 game. Still no where to move, the game ends. Switch sides and start the new 50 on 50 game. Only now, since you only have 2500 CU worth of air to start with, you start to run out of air.

This was pretty much the story at CPP. Get charged too much to play too little. There's nothing appealing about the place and I suggest going to other fields if you want to have a good time. "

I personally haven't had that experience yet but after reading that review I could see how that insanity could kill paintball.

Reiner Schafer said...

Good post Baca. I've certainly never singled out tourney players as the problem the industry is facing.

Furby, is it better for a field (profit wise) to make a $40 sale at 10 cents/ball or a $40 sale at 2 cents/ball?

Raehl is right of course. The rec field owners are the most to blame for the situation the industry is in. Having said that, most of them were unknowing participants in price wars that resulted in creating that environment. They just weren't very smart business people and didn't have the sense to figure out what was happening.

As far as the manufacturers being blamed for producing the high ROF markers. Hogwash. They are just giving consumers what they want. When paintballs are available at 2 or 3 cents per ball, firepower becomes a big equalizer. Players are going to want it (not just tournament players). As soon as ONE company is willing to supply that technology to the players, the other companies have no choice but to follow suit, or they face future bankrupcy (short of a few smaller companies serving niche markets like CCM and PPS for instance).

raehl said...

Furby...

Are you kidding me?

Fields are going to go out of business from all the money they LOSE selling paint for 4x as much?

Selling a player 500 rounds of paint for $50 is way, way, way more profitable than selling a player 2,000 rounds of paint for $50.

Coincidentally, it's also more fun for the majority of recreational players. More customers who you make more money from.


That's part of the problem with paintball - all the people who should know better who still think fields make MORE money by selling each player MORE paint, and they are dead wrong.

Mike said...

About Paint.
Parks make their money from private parties not the regulars that show up every week.If you over charge private parties for paint they'll stop coming.If parks over charge for paint the occasional player won't buy it, they'll just bring their own.Their are enough parks and stores in Southern California that the price of paint remains competitive.Tourney players bring their own paint mainly because the paint most parks sell isn't brittle enough.Parks generally don't sell tournament grade paint because if you try shooting it through a Tippman and you'll have a flame thrower.Keep in mind teams pool their money and buy paint in bulk to save money.Paint sells from 40.00 to 60.00 a case depending on quality in Southern California.

Pinky said...

Ever stop to think that its the experience level and maturity of the player...not the marker that is the issue.

Reiner Schafer said...

Pinky, immature people come in all shapes, sizes and ages. They seem to get more immature when you put a loaded paintslinger in their hands. Are we going to fold because we can't control them? You are never going stop them from participating.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Raehl has this magic answer about diminishing returns and he's delusional enough to believe it. Makes me question his character and everything else he rants about.

HIGHER PRICES + RETAILER PRICE FIXING! great answer... pfffft.

Maybe you guys should enter into your equation 4x the price minus 4x loss of players.

info said...

Hi,

if you need statistics, here some from Russia:
tournament players ~1500;
600-700 out of them use hi-end guns like Egos, DMs, Marq etc;
Big Paintball Maneuvers scenario game 3384 players;
300-400 out of them use hi-end guns;
intersection between those tournament/scenario players are within 20 people.
So, here tournamens employ twice more hi-end guns than scenarios.

raehl said...

Anonymous,

I didn't say higher prices. I said higher paint prices. It's not the same thing.

Let's say a field currently charges $30 for entry/air/rental and $50 for a case of paint. After buying the paint they have to give to the player, the field clears $50.

Let's say another field charges $10 for entry/rental/air and $50 for a bag of paint. After paying for the paint the field has to give to the player, the field clears $52.50.

Did you see what happened there? The player SAVED $20. The field made a bit more money. And the player had MORE FUN (which is what they were paying for).

Paint is a cost. The last thing you want to do is sell more of it. All a field is doing by trying to sell more paint to their players is increasing the costs to play while making paintball less fun. More money for less fun = fail.

Missy Q said...

I'm with Raehl, it isn't a magic answer, it's just business sense.

Tyler said...

Raehl,

How can you say that the player had more fun shooting less paint?

Unless there is a significant shift in the way paintball is actually played, all your plan is going to do is cause players to pay more to play less.

I actually considered quitting paintball when the NPPL shut down and I would have been forced to play at 10.5 in the PSP. Faster guns make the game more fun, flat out.

Anonymous said...

Paintball is expensive, the economy isn't great....case closed.

Crotchety Old Fan said...

Raehl's argument is a good one, but here is the vulnerability: that field down the road that isn't upping his paint prices. In fact, all the regulars from the field following Chris' advice have now migrated over there. And every time those guys see their old field advertising and promoting to some potential new customers, they pipe up with "that field charges too much - we pay 20 per case of paint - you're crazy if you go over there, they'll rip you off".

Old field owner has now taken a BIG hit in his steady cash flow (minimal as it may be, it was still steady income that could be relied on when making plans) and faces the prospect of increased expenses for the additional marketing and advertising he now has to do. Double whammy before he gets a chance to test the theory and see if it works.

Most field owners would be happy to quadruple paint prices. They'd be happy to restrict field usage by skill level and experience. They'd be more than happy to turn around to the billboards and say 'you guys can pay regular prices and behave or take a hike' - but most of them will not risk what they have right now UNLESS there is some kind of support for them from elsewhere - like maybe the paint manufacturers/distributors who stand to make a larger margin.

This is not a single problem issue and it does not have a single answer solution.

Crotchety Old Fan said...

follow-on to the proceeding; here's another solution that would work, given the will to implement across a wide enough portion of the market: make players get a player card (issued nationally) and require a minimum of one year playing rec, in the woods with splatmasters, and a year playing on any field with mechanical semis only before they are allowed to use a high ROF.

Think about it: fields could charge more to newbies - build it right into the system by giving the field a portion of the card fee. We could make players take an annual safety course, etc., etc., etc.

You know - we've been running UNregulated for years now and it doesn't seem to be working out, so how about having Congress create an oversite office and imposing some performance regulations...?

(Joke for those who do not comprehend sarcasm)

Reiner Schafer said...

Crotch...If a field's prices are only slightly higher than the competing fans, I would agree with your assumption that many of the players will flock to the cheaper field. There would be very little the slightly higher paint priced field would have to offer. The environment would not be much different between the two, so why pay more for one than the other, assuming all else is equal (ie. equal levels of service).

Our customers come our my field, although we have the highest paint prices, because our field is the most fun to play (for those that choose to come to our field). Those that choose to go to other field, where paint prices are cheaper (and more paint is sold/shot), because they like that environment more and find it more entertaining. Different strokes for different folks. Variety of choices for consumers is always a good thing.

Paintball has always been predominantly advertised (if that's the right word) by word of mouth. We are the most popular field in the region by a fairly wide margin, although we are the newest field. When someone plays at our field, they go home (or to work or school) and tell people about their experience. The topic of paint prices probably rarely comes up. People talk about how much fun they had and they might mention what the overal cost of their experience was.

The only people who will be overly concerned about the price of paintballs will be those who play regualry and feel the need to shoot a higher volume of paintballs to enjoy themselves. So yes, we probably lose some of those potential customers. But because we lose those customers, it means that our goal of having a lower paintball environment is that much easier to accomplish meaning the people who enjoy that type of environment will enjoy themselves that much more. It's a win/win situation for everyone involved.

Crotchety Old Fan said...

Reiner,

agreed - if the field owner manages things properly, knows what the target market is and promotes to that, you can sell "a better experience" competitively against "lower prices".

I was, though not clearly, trying to articulate two basic things: the issue is not a one problem/one solution issue and if there is going to be a fundamental change (as Raehl suggests and which I hope I'm on record now as saying is a workable solution) it is going to require action and participation by more than just field owners.

I know of at least one state in the US where, in the past, prices for entry and paint were underwritten by a supplier in order to drive competing fields (that purchased from other distributors) out of business. And this during a time when participation was still GROWING at those fabled 30% per year levels.

I've long been an advocate of paintball companies finding something other than price to compete on - some few have managed, but most end up just trying to undercut the other guy. In the long run, competing on price alone is a lot easier, simpler and has more immediate impact on a consumer than just about anything else.

(Not to mention orchestrated online attacks that CAN and do filter out to the playing community that isn't necessarily part of the regular crowd.)

I think that a lot of fields are in a seeming catch-22 scenario: they want to change things up, but feel that the risk still out-weighs the benefits.

What I'd like to see are companies in the industry that have the lions share of the dollars pick up some of the burden in support of fields (and incidentally PUBLICLY give voice to the things they are paying lip service to behind the scenes) - even if it's only in the form of some kind of coordinated national ad campaign (play paintball, it's safe and it's fun for the whole family)! they could take out some google ad words to do that on-line for gosh sake.

As a former field owner, I know that I would respond well to a paint supplier (for example) saying to me: we'd like you to raise your retail prices and we'd be willing to help you out with some promotional support if you do. At least I'd know I wasn't hanging my anatomy out there in the breeze to get chopped off by the next opportunist to come down the pike.

Reiner Schafer said...

I understand the catch-22 predicament. I know a lot of field owners that agree with the philosophy we use at our field, but are afraid to make the jump to try it out. Basically, choosing to all of a sudden cater to a low volume (higher paintball price) crowd would be like starting a brand new business, at least as far as the marketing aspect goes. Many of your current repeat customers would be gone and you would have, when you start at least, zero people out there spreading the word for you how much more fun a lower volume paintball experience can be. it would be tough for an existing field to convert to.

It would also be difficult for a traditional start-up field to try to do. By traditional I mean the guy buying a set of markers, masks, some netting and cursory items and hanging a shigle at the gate. With higher priced balls/ lower volume comes an expectation (at least in my mind) that the field needs to be very professional and cater to the "average person", rather than the hardcore, "I don't care where I play, just give me some cover and some opponants" types. So a new field, with a bit of capital to build a decent, above average infrasturcture, would be the type of field that would make this scenario work. It might be noteworthy to think of this type of field (professional, good infrastructure) as where we should be heading anyway as an indusrty. I think over time, there will be more and more "professional" fields starting up, with higher paint prices, and we'll continue to see less and less of the low infrastructure, low priced pain/high volume fields around. Of course low priced alternatives will never completely disappear, and that's probably a good thing for everyone involved.

Furby said...

Raehl: I'm serious. Your idea in my opinion is ludicrous. Go prove me wrong.

raehl said...

I would, except I have determined that running a paintball field is too much real work.


I'm not saying that EVERYONE prefers lower paint volume. But I am convinced that the vast majority of NEW and CASUAL players do.


Regardless, a field that charges a customer $60 and only needs to buy $7.50 in paint per customer has a much better business plan than a field that charges $80 and has to buy $30 in paint per customer.

Missy Q said...

WDP's field in the UK chatged $160 for a case of paint. It is the busiest field in the UK (by some distance)
Bigfoot paintball in canada charge around $175 (and up) for a case of paint. They are thye busiest field in Canada, by a great distrance.

These are also the best fields I have ever been to.
Selling paint cheap at a fieeld is a failing business practice. There are many examples of more expensive fields being the better business model.

Anonymous said...

Price fixing is a violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Doesn't seem like a proper solution.

Reiner Schafer said...

Who said anything about price fixing?

Anonymous said...

I really dont think that lowering or raising the paint prices will do anything. I think wha we are witnessing is the evolution of the sport from a backyard pick up game of a handful of friends to a professional sport. It is much like the differences in other sports such as baseball vs softball they are essentially the same game just played a little different.

Also you cant say that high ROF markers are ruining the sport, if anything they have pushed it to the sport we see now. Paintball is growing and with more popularity you see better technology and faster quicker types of playing and players. I know it does kinda stink when you are playing woodsball and some guy brings in a high end marker, but you have to remember that its not the gun or the volume of paint someone is shooting at the end of the day its skill that is the ultimate winner.

raehl said...

Uh, anonymous, newsflash:

Paintball is *NOT* growing.