Thursday, May 27, 2010

Is Tippmann Killing Paintball's Future, Phase 2

Today's post was going to be about playing dead zones (as previously promised in the WCPPL field #2 post) but there's an interesting dialogue going on in comments from yesterday and I want to pick up on that and see if we can't take it a little further. (I will still get to the dz post but it may have to wait until next week as I'm leaving later today for NPPL Chicago and a long weekend.)

Before continuing read the comments attached to yesterday's post. There is a faction (led by Faction---otherwise known as chris raehl) advocating higher per ball paint prices, at least at the local field retail level. The idea is to improve margins, provide fields with greater pricing flexibility, put a passive break on use of high ROF guns of every sort & alter the general sort of paintball played. (I was going to say intensity but that's subjective to the player.) The advocates include industry peeps from different strata as well as a field owner who purposefully uses paint prices to restrict or modify his typical customer base--and he does it in an environment where there are other paintball field choices. In effect what he is doing isn't gouging his customers on paint prices--which is the standard complaint of the must have cheapest paint possible crowd--he is using paint price to control the paintball experience available at his field. And apparently it's working, at least in his area.
Keeping in mind that nearly everyone seems to agree that the use of high ROF guns in the recreational setting (and perhaps even in some competition settings) has been, to one degree or another, responsible for driving players out of the game and also driving potential or newbie type players from the game. Under such circumstances it seems like a no-brainer to implement something like what the faction has advocated, and yet...
Companies like Tippmann don't make guns capable of 15 bps because nobody is buying them. And I continue to wonder if what works for Reiner will work anywhere. I also wonder how you put the cork back in the bottle with online stores and even manufacturers selling direct at such low prices the local pro shop & field is behind the 8-ball before the potential customer even reaches the front door. And the majority (or at least a significant percentage) of today's players don't know any different sort of paintball than the way it was played when they started in the last five years. Or what becomes of the paint companies currently selling high volume on low margins. Where do they find an acceptable equilibrium in a shift to higher price, lower volume of production? The whole developmental history of paintball has led to this place. Is it possible to backtrack? To even agree on what needs to be changed or "fixed"?

Could the next wave of industry innovation be vertical integration?


anonachris said...

You can't just force an entire industry to pay higher prices because it would theoretically good to do. Well you can, but you need a cartel where you control all the paint production. But you don't so you won't. What you'll end up with is charging players at your field a lot, and when everyone figures out they can buy paint at Walmart for half price (maybe this is a good idea in that case to keep big box stores happy) they will do that, play outlaw ball, and whine about field ripping them off.

If you want to charge a higher price you have to do innovate. I'm sure Apple would love to be just cranking out the same old ipods they originally made and all of the sudden decide to raise the price because it's for the good of the retail stores.

But eventually consumers decide to stop buying once they figure it out. And there would be just too much pressure to be the guy that's 5 bucks cheaper.

No, if you want higher prices you need to innovate. Surprisingly, this is what 50cal was doing. It has many clear benefits, a performance drawback, (just like the ipod in fact), but for some reason they wanted to charge less for it.

But to me, those people who are wishing higher prices on an industry without offering the customer anything innovative in return are petty tyrants who think they can dictate to the world (consumer) what is good for them and they have to take it. No thanks.

Reiner Schafer said...

I don't know if it would work anywhere.

How many $40/ and $50/case fields does the average Skirmish or CPX customer drive by willing to pay $100/case. Now someone is going to pipe up and say, "you can't compare Skirmish or CPX to other paintball fields".

But could they afford to be those fields at $40 or $50/case? And how many more (or less) customers would they have at $40 or $50/case? Personally I think that a field like Skirmish or CPX would have considerably MORE customers if their prices for paint were more like $35-45/500 bag. Their customer dynamics would change and they would lose some current customers, but I bet they would make up for it with a higher number of other types of customers.

And like I mentioned in another comment, high ROF guns are in demand only becasue 2 or 3 cent paintballs are available. If paint were selling for 7-10 cents/ball, high ROF marker demand would fall considerably (and high end pump sales would increase). Tippmann and any other marker manufacturer is going to give consumers what they want. Firepower will always be in demand to give players an advantage, assuming it's viable to use it. And there will always be fields around willing to supply lower priced paint to those who want to take part in a higher volume environment. Skirmish's $100/case price point has not enticed all fields to start charging $100/case. Mind you, if I were located anywhere near Skirmish, I would be building some kickass fields and charging at least $120/case (probably more).

Reiner Schafer said...

Anonachris, you are absolutely right and I don't think anyone is advocating an industry wide revolution (unlike .50 cal's original idiotic marketing scheme). Higher priced paint at recreational fields has to have the ability to stand on it's own merits. We live in a free market system. Consumers have choices. But consumers also have different styles, tastes, and comfort zones. For instance, not all restaurants are sell $3 burgers. Some sell $8 burgers and there are even a few that sell $15 burgers. each one attracts a different kind of consumer. The consumer that chooses to go to the $15 burger place is well aware that $3 burger joints exist.

Anonymous said...


I do not see how you can model something based upon people's already learned perception of what's normal to pay and try to exceed that. That may work some of the time in some places but there isn't saturated markets everywhere with constant new blood.

The only possible explanation I can see as to why Raehl wants higher paint prices is that either 1) you yourself have invested interest in selling cheaper and under cutting those who accept your propaganda, 2) you see some paintball experience relative to what people pay, which in turn will furthur segregate competitive paintball from recreational, 3) you're scheming for the hopperball idea and want to be known as the new "moneyball" gimmick 4) you believe everyone has the same amount of disposable income and more $ for less will sound exclusively appealing to them because of "the experience".

The majority of consumers aren't stupid unfortunately.

And if it's such a good idea why hasn't it caught on? You'd figure those who would read 4x the paint prices equals 4x the profit and would jump on it. It's not like this idea of higher paint prices is anything new. Is it because retailers are skeptical of an idea that sounds too good to be true? Or do you need to encourage everyone to act in unison? You know, kinda like price fixing?

Btw I thought we were talking about paint that's why I obmitted it from higher prices. But from here on out if I don't mention it I'm refering to higher paint prices.

And lastly I hope I'm not the only one who thinks $50 for a bag is ludicrous. Beginner or not.

Reiner Schafer said...

4 x the paint price does not equal 4 x the profit, unless everyone shoots the same amount of paintballs regardless of cost. It has been shown however over they ears, that volume of paintballs shot, changes with the price paid per ball.

The player that normally shoots 1.5 cases when paintballs are $40/case, is not going to spend $240 if prices jump to $160/case.

On the flip side, a player that normally shoots 1/4 case at the $160/case price will most likely increase not stick with shooting only a 1/4 case when prices drop to $40/case.

sdawg said...

I'm sort of an unusual case, but I've come around to raehl's point of view.

Recently, all the fields in San Antonio have gone field paint only. I actually welcomed this change because people over the years have been shooting the eff out of me with paint that has essentially become rubber bullets after sitting on a store-shelf at Academy or whatever. As well as being crap to begin with.

The paint at my local field is relatively fresh and sits in an air conditioned storage room. So, I know what when I get shot by my opponents, the paint is more likely to break. Which I prefer to being pelted with rubber bullets. The prices are still in the $50 range per-case (last weekend, that was the price for RPS Premium Gold).

I also have made a habit of either playing pump or hopper ball (if I'm using a cheater-electro machine-gun). I still have as much fun shooting a bag or two over four hours as I would an entire case. In fact, I have more fun because it's more of a challenge to handicap myself than it is to be hosing down the assortment of walk-ons and experienced players that make up the other team on a given weekend.

Another anecdote from past weekend: a kid who has played PSP events (funded by the bank of Mom and Dad) chose to play with us recballers rather than practice with a local tournament team that was visiting. His reason: he couldn't afford the paint required to play with those guys (he said, as he cradled his $1500 Luxe).

Anonymous said...

Lol the 4x equals 4x was an arbitrary example leading to my opinion that more $ for less is stupid.

Reiner Schafer said...

That depends on what the "less" is. If it's less fun/entertainment value, then I would have to agree. If I were a consumer (and I am all the time, just like everyone else here), if there are several choices, all of which cost the same, I will choose the one I feel I am getting the most for my money. It's just not always as easy as getting the most of something tangible, that makes up the criteria for that decision making process. When it concerns entertainment, it is very rarely something tangible.

raehl said...

I'm not suggesting a wholesale change in the entire industry. Sell paint at wal-mart for $45/case. Sell it at tournaments at near cost. What I AM suggesting is that fields that cater to new/occasional recreational play should change their pricing structure so that players are inclined to shoot less paint. When everyone shoots less paint, most new/casual rec players will have fun, and the price to play goes down because less paint is being consumed. (And we all know paint isn't free.)

On the tournament side, charging more for paint doesn't work - you're just creating a bigger "who can afford to buy more paint to win" problem. At tournaments, we should really switch to a limited paint format. How many more teams would we have it only took 25% as much paint to win?

I know with my team our biggest problem is paying the paint bill. If we only shot 25% as much paint per tournament, I would have a much bigger pool of players willing to play on the team.

Would that bother the people who can afford to pay for the current level of paint use? I suppose... but we seem to have less and less of those people left each year.

raehl said...

Forgot to add...

...there's always a place for 15 bps markers. Paintballs are not terribly accurate - when you're at the limits of range and you see somebody running across the field, you may want to get 15 bps in the air to try and catch them on the move, and that player MIGHT get tagged by one or two paintballs that break. But when you get 10 to 30 feet away from someone, you don't need 15 bps anymore, and if paint costs you $0.10 per ball, you'll take the effort to just shoot them once - not out of any nicety, but just because you don't want to blow the extra $0.50 shooting them 5 extra times.

And for rec players, I don't think the RATE of fire is the problem, it's the SUSTAINED fire. 15 bps for a half second every 10 seconds isn't nearly as intimidating as a constant 6-8 bps. And even someone with a rental can put out 6 BPS near constantly at $0.02/ball.

And, again, more expensive paint costs the player less, because you cut out material costs and that savings gets passed on to the player (likely through greatly reduced or free entry/air/rental)

Anonymous said...

Raehl - Ok... great... as Furby said prove us wrong... you don't have any interest running a field but others do. Those especially that can't survive charging ludicrous prices like skimirsh. It's not as simple as saying charge more and everyone benefits because it's been done before and failed.

But that's a good idea, let's all adopt a paint quota. I'll call it Raehlball and everyone misguided and eager to early adopt can join. Should be as successful as .50 cal.

Schafer - Dude, really? More $ for less paint. If the true value in paintball is shooting 1 ball in 5 minutes lets all return to splatmasters and forget the past 20 years. People don't play 1 game and want to get better at playing with mediocre equipment. They want to increase their edge and that's why there's an industry built behind it. Something tangible is the definitive answer unless you buy Louis Vuitton purses (or maybe Louis Vuitton HK headbands).

Reiner Schafer said...

Anonymous - Dude. How about the same $ for less paint, or even less $ for less paint? Or better yet, the same $ for an environment that attracts greater participation?

Who said anything about 1 ball in 5 minutes and Splatmasters? Just because we've gone to one extreme, doesn't mean we have to go back to another extreme. I play with pumps, but I don't even make my customers play with pumps. There is nothing wrong with moderation. It's the extremes (at both ends) that alienate people.

Anonymous said...

Lol I don't know why you have to keep pursuing tangent arguments but fuck it. I'll go back to being a lurk and all the industry folk can continue bickering about non relative issues and paintball can continue to suck. All I was saying was higher prices is stupid and in my opinion not the right direction.

J-Bird said...

seems like there is a new anon on the prowl. and honestly, chris doesnt have to prove anyone wrong. This is a forum for speculation and theorizing about what COULD work. hopefully a field or two will read the discussion and be convinced on way or the other. if they make the swtich, they can provide feedback.

also, if it's been done before, please show me examples. You're probably right: fields have charged high and gone out of business, but at the same time, there were probably other fields in the area that provided a better experience at a better price. This works for speedball as well. Say there are two speedball fields in your area. Number 1 charges 50$ a case, plus 10$ entry (60 for a day of practice), but they have a brand new field, just put down fresh turf, have a scoreboard and a good ref staff for practice. Field 2 charges 35$ a case plus 5$ entry but the bunkers are flat and a year old, the turf is destroyed, you have to walk a few hundred yards to get to the air station and back, and they have 1 dedicated referee for practice.

Which would you rather go to if you only played once a month, maybe ever two months. The expense of field one would off set because the facility is incredibly nice. Rec fields are like that too. While most speedball fields sell paint, the high-end fields and rec fields make money off of the experience of being there, and it's widely excepted that a new player will enjoy themselves more if they are not being shot at at high rates of fire and if they feel that the game is fair.

Heck, I can provide examples of this from some pretty nice fields.
1- Quickshot Paintball in NJ. They have two fields, a brand new speedball field and a woods field and from what I can read/tell, they do pretty well. Their pricing is: 20$, 50$ a case minimum.

2- PBC in SC/NC. They provide package deals...their top package is 300$ and that provides 3 hours of private games, admission, rentals, air, and only half a case. Nobody can convince me that that package is actually worth 300$, plus how-ever much more paint they buy (if they do), but it makes since. Oh, another tidbit -- that price is only up to 8 player. For their general pricing it's pretty expensive as well. 24$ for entry and all day air, plus 68 a case. But people still FLOCK to the PBC fields because they are the best.

3- CPX. Another top of the line field. They charge $18 entry, $15 air, plus 90$ a case of marbs, plus extra stuff like chest protectors etc... (and i bet they make a KILLING off of renting extra protective gear).

4- CPX Parks. Heck, even they are pretty pricey. 25$ entry, 35 for 1600 balls.

So, I think it's pretty proven that a high pricing structure can work if the experience at the field warrants the money.

steve said...

If attracting and retaining new players is the goal, we need to keep in mind what the other activity options are competing for the players time and money.

Going to the movies, bowling, go karts, golf, playing computer games, BMX/Skateboard park , etc. All of these options are less expensive than paintball. A day of paintball cost about what it does to go to Six Flags or a Water Park.

I think to be an option that appeals to a much broader range of people, paintball needs to be somewhere in the $25 per experience range. Maybe thats about 3-4 hours which is what you would expect from another type of activity.

Like any business, the fields need to see 40%'ish margin. That means the total cost to provide that experience should be around $15. If it were possible, I think paintball would see ridiculous growth, because it becomes a more financially viable choice.

Reball and .50cal start to look pretty good when you look at it like that. Why does it matter to a rec player if the paint is .50cal or reball?

anonachris said...

Expense in dollars is only one side of the coin. Expense in time is probably just as important if not more so. I'd suggest that if we could focus on how to make it easier to go play paintball, even if the cost remained the same more people would play than if you could just reduce the cost by an extra 15-25% or whatever.

Reiner Schafer said...

Steve, you are right. Paintball competes agains all other formms of entertainment as well. But paintball is so much more fun than most of them. You can't compare a bowling experience with a paintball experience for instance. Paintball blows it out of the water (for most people). Therefore it can certainly cost more and still win the battle when people are deciding how to spend their time.

Crotchety Old Fan said...

Reiner, beg to differ on the bowling/paintball comparison (and I'll throw hockey in there for good measure). I'd put the experience of all three on par for me personally. But then, I can probably bowl most paintballers right out of the alley (success has a lot to do with having an enjoyable experience.)

One thing that I have not really seen more than lip service paid to is the marketing/promotional aspects of this discussion.

Skirmish USA, a field I am intimately familiar with, is a case in point. Years ago I remember seeing hawkers in NYC and Philly, handing out flyers to all passersby. They advertised in local papers regularly, ran local radio spots regularly and engaged in a lot of other street-level promotion to non-players. They got those non-players in through birthday parties, bachelor parties, company outings.

They wanted the new, once-a-year special occasion customer, the rental customer, and they got them. Don't know how they're doing now (assume well) but back in the day they were doing 400 to 600 players, per day, every weekend for much of the year. Charging $100-$150 per case of paint and $30 entry fees.

The key combination being - they identified the market they wanted to go after, figured out how to reach that market and then spent the time, money and effort to get it.

Reiner - I presume you work fairly hard on marketing OUTSIDE of the core paintball community, yes?

Most other fields - especially the ones with a couple of speedball courts and regularly attending teams - I don't see them marketing to anyone but paintballers. (In fact, I don't see most of them marketing period, relying on the so-called word-of-mouth response.

Reiner Schafer said...

Crotch...the bowling comparison was weak and even when I was writing it I knew there was a problem with it. But it does apply to the majoprity in a certain demographic; the demographic that paintball traditionally appeals most to. You are not going to get too many 18 year old males that are going to say thye prefer bowling over paintball, and most of them will easily pay more for a paintball outing than they would for a trip to the bowling alley.

I assum in your Hawkers example that was a few years back, back when a dollar was worth more than it is today. Yet the $100 to $150/case *which woul dprobably equate to closer to $200/case in 2010 dollars) along with the $30 entries didn't seem to keep people away.

Paintball was growing at phenominal rates then (fastest growing extreme sposrt in North America is what the statistics kept telling us). Of course there weren't as many people playing in 1995 as there are today, because we had many years of good growth after that. Paintball hadn't been discovered by a good portion of the population yet.

Advertising is always beneficial. But most commercial advertising is expensive and unless a fiedl has some excess cashflow, it's difficult to justify the expense as the returns are not usually immediate. Other marketing such as handing out flyers and such, can be worthwhile and I agree that we as an industry don't do much of it. We have done little marketing, but not much. We have not really done any at all for over a year now as we are trying to built up some cash reserves. People are still coming. Word of mouth is still affective, but any other marketing a field can do will aid in the speed of growth.

Of course word of mouth also works against you just as well as it can work for you, if your customers are telling their friends how much fun they DIDN'T have. Marketing can get them to the field, but then it's up to the field to provide them with a product that entertains them and gets them excited to want to come back. Are thoese first time players having as much fun being shot at by high volumes of 2 cent paintballs? That's the debate in a nutshell.

PinkPaint said...

Brilliant discussion in both articles, everyone. I think everything mentioned is an extremely important key to the livlihood of paintball.

To sum up my opinion, being a fairly new player, in a small area with only a few local fields, here's my two cents:

1. High ROF or any functionality aspects of any marker isn't the demise of paintball. People do like variety, and the market tailors itself to supply and demand. The locals here follow the spectrum from one end to the other. Because there's not much opportunity for true speedball in my area, that might have something to do with the types of markers used and playstyle. Tippmann is king here, as the fields use them as their rentals and individual marker-owning players most often choose Tippmann as their brand of choice. Affordability, availability, and functionality may have something to do with all that.

2. Paint is the bigger factor, and in the cost-speaking sense. I have three "local" fields (within 1 hr. away), all Mom & Pops. They require for "safety reasons" field-only paint, and even though the income from paint alone isn't that much, I honestly don't think they'd survive without it. From the player's perspective, cost of paint is key. A lot of private-land players buy the cheap paint from Wal-Mart and such, and won't step on a field because of the price difference. (Field paint averages $50-60/case here.) If theoretically the price of paint jumped to the 7-10 cent/ball range, THAT would be grabbing the shovel to dig the grave. (And I know bigger, badass fields have to have higher prices--us countryfolk know when we go to the city for anything, it's going to be better quality, more well-done, and more expensive.)

3. Tying in paint prices and overall useage--the player population around here, smallest to largest is: a few with high-end, high ROF markers, more with not-so-expensive high ROF, and the bulk are players with average ROF. (I've yet to see a pump! *frown*) And, their conservation and useage of paint depends on how much more they can afford to buy during an outing. Usually on the field, people make a day of it and spend between $75-100 total between field cover, air, rentals if needed, etc. From hearing from locals, overall cost is the determining factor for all ages, male and female, veteran, newbie, and yet-to-try-it players.

4. Yo, big companies--you've got it all wrong! Sure, tournaments is where it's at, or so they think. That's where the money is to be made, the masses follow, and the glory comes out. Like I said--that's what they think. How many fields exist all over total? How many players total, on and off fields? Where's the advertising? Where are they sinking their dollars the most? If they switch their marketing machines to focus more on small-time fields and players, I think they'd find that there's a HUGE untapped population out there just begging for a little push. If they want to boost the industry, they better start spreading their wings a little more.

Again, FABULOUS discussions here, all very important. Great to hear from players and field owners alike.

Reiner Schafer said...

Pink...reading between the lines. Paint in your area is $50 to $60/case. Players spend an average of $70-$100 (didn't actually have to read between the lines for those points. From that, I can summarize that the average player shoots a case of paint or more. If overall cost is the determining factor, first, why are they spending more than the average paintball player in North America spends per day, and second, why are they buying so much paint, if cost is a concern?

I can guess that they are buying a case of paint, because everyone else is buying a case of paint and stepping on the field with 1/4 the amount of paint as everyone else will be a major handicap.

There was a time, and there are still many places today, where people do not feel the need to buy a case of paint, or anywhere near it. Why are they doing it now? Because they can, and everyone else is doing it.

As far as backyard fields go, they seem to more prevelant in areas where the commercial fields are inexpensive. Where the commercial fields can't afford to build infrastructures that are significantly better than Uncle Bob's back 40. Those areas also tend to have a lower ratio of new/occassional players to regualr players AND tend to have a fairly low overall paintball participation rate in general.

People that aren't hardcore paintball players want clean commercial fields with good service and great fields. They also don't want an "extreme" experience. What we would consider a low paintball, low extreme paintball outing is plenty extreme enough for them. they also don't care h9ow much paintballs cost. They care about how much the overall experience will cost and how much fun they have participating. Once they become "regulars", then sometimes they will choose to opt for lower quality (fields) but more quantity (paintballs). And that's fine. But we need them to become regulars first. And that's where the lower volume, higher price scenario works better.

PinkPaint said...

I did some more thinking and re-reading of everything and have come to the conclusion that, simply, I'm an idiot, lol. I made a critical error in my reporting in the comment I made.

When I quoted dollars spent, I failed to take something rather important into consideration. I said we buy/go through a case of paint each fun-filled day-long outing, which is true, but "we" is the key word. "We" refers to my husband and I. That's two people, duh. We buy one case of paint and share it, so we each go through roughly 1/2 a case all day and spend around $50. And, also a factor in clouding my judgement, a lot of the guys on the field buy a case of paint, but they go in on it w/a buddy, so they're splitting the case as well. So with the refigured calculation, (I swear, I'm not a blonde, lol), we probably fit more into the average spending nationally now, and maybe even below. However, there are a few guys who are in the hardcore speedballers crowd who do go through a case/day individually. They're younger guys who might generally be loose with their money, though.

As for the lower volume/higher price scenario, I see the pros and cons of both sides of that argument. I think of it like a hiarchy of priorities and ultimate goals, though, and they all end at the very same connecting point: like Reiner said, getting more people as regular players.

It might be a little sacrefice in the beginning, but in the end, it will improve everything as a whole.

raehl said...

I was at a BBQ with some friends from my home town last night and was chatting with a friend who had gone out and tried it about a year ago. His feedback was "I can see the attraction," but he had no plans to play again, saying "I got owned." He played in the general group with a couple friends at one of the "top" (in terms of traffic) fields in the area, and he said everyone shot about a case. I talked to him about how when I got started everyone shot about a bag of paint in the day and he said he couldn't even imagine it as he was getting hit 8 times at once.

Just one more player who has decided paintball is not for him because he went and didn't have fun. No idea that he probably would have had fun if only 500 paintballs had been shot at him instead of 2,000+.

Paintball players need to get out of their immediate paintball sphere (other people who play paintball the same way they do) and talk to their non-paintball friends. Ask them if they've tried paintball. If they have not, ask why not. If they have, ask what they thought. I just keep running into too many people whose feedback is it was just "too much" or they have a friend who told them it was just "too much" (and I'm not talking about the price).

Reiner Schafer said...

That's just it, isn't it? The price matters not, if the entertainment (fun) value isn't there. You can make paintball absolutely free but if people aren't having fun, what's the point? People aren't going to want to take part. At least the majority of people.

And that's the direction we've been heading for a while. If you think of the earliest days of paintball when paintballs were 25 cents each as one end of the spectrum and free paintballs at the other end, 2 cent paintballs are way down there on the scale.

If we think few people would take part in recreational paintball at 25 cents/ball and few people would take part at the other end of the spectrum (free paintballs), doesn't it make sense that we want to be somewhere in the middle, rather than hugging one of the extremes, so we can maximize participation?

I know that's the way I look at it and it works for me and seems to work just about everywhere it's done like that.

houdini said...

Wouldn't it be good if an 'organized' paintball body actually bothered to conduct some proper research on the 2010 global paintball market. We can lay blame everywhere and try and come up with a 'one solution' solves everything answer to the perceived* stagnation of paintball but at the end of the day without facts and stats, proper long term solutions cannot be created and debated.

*I say perceived stagnation because being the globe trotter that I am, although the States may be suffering with declining participation numbers, I can see first-hand the growth in Asia and other developing countries and companies like Dye, Eclipse and KEE have been quick to tap into these markets. While this sort of global marketing by the big boys doesn't help the local American field struggling to make a buck, it at least helps maintain the profile of paintball as an evolving sport worldwide.

p.s. Well done Tampa Bay Damage - from what I did see before the storm screwed the webcast the boys were playing great.

Reiner Schafer said...

houdini, I agre that concise data would be awesome. I also I agree there is no one solution to the "perceived problem". That is why I have always advocated variety and choices. That's why, even though I run a recreatioanl "woodsball" facility, I promote tournament play when I can.

Paintball is going to have a Demand Curve of some sort, no matter in what form it is offered. The overall Demand Curve will shift of course, depending on what is offered. On top of the overall Demand Curve, we have seperate Demand Curves for the various types of offering (ie. speedball, high volume recreataional play, low volume recreational play, etc.). Asia, as well as some other parts of the world have lagged behind the States in paintball. Paintball is still more in the "discovery stage" in Asia. Once paintball is commonly known about in every household (as it more or less is in North America), growth will halt and be exactly where economics dictate it should be, for what is being offered. For now, enjoy the fact that you are in a growing market. Chances are next week there will be more people/teams at the field then the week before (I'm sure the manufacturers are happy about this too). But it won't continue for ever.

Growth in any industry stops eventually. Infinite growth is an illusion. However, as an industry, just like any other industry, we should position ourselves, so we maximize participation. Hence, why we should offer products (paintball games/facilities) of different varieties and intensity levels. Offering only high intensity paintball (1.5 - 2 cent paintball level) limits the participation and potential growth of the industry. We don't need an "organized" paintball body to come to that common sense conclusion.

Steve said...

There are several ways to make rec ball more fun for the beginner player. You can turn down velocity; you can reduce BPS on rentals and refs can enforce lower BPS when beginners are mixed with novice players; enforced player separation distances; provide padding and chest protectors.

I think making paint more expensive is short sighted. You make more margin now, but paintball becomes a once a year (birthday) activity. We want paintball to be a twice a month activity. We want to increase volume and grow.

I think the VFTDB poll above hits the nail on the head. This sport is expensive and until we get the cost down it will remain a niche, birthdays and bachlor parties kind of activity.

Get them on the field first. There are plenty of opportunities to sell concessions, equipment, etc. later. Look at the lifetime value of the customer not just what can be made right now.

raehl said...


You're still missing a basic fact here.

More expensive paintballs make paintball LESS EXPENSIVE.

Less expensive paintballs make paintball COST MORE.

You can't understand everything else until you understand that cheaper paintballs make playing paintball more expensive.

Anonymous said...

You always need to remember that there are the kids out there that can barely afford $50 a case. if you were to price paintball at $100 aa case there would be no more(or very few) new players, and you could kill paintball by doing that.

Steve said...

Chris I get what you are saying and it's a theory and not a fact. And I disagree with the theory.

If the high ROF's are driving new players out of the game, why not go directly to the problem and reduce the ROF!

If you attempt to do it with pricing you still end up with rich kids and "that guy that always has new shit" :) still shooting at high ROFs. The problem still exists.

Plus there is another factor, what about players that enjoy the fast, extreme nature of the current "tournament" game. You risk losing those players with raising paint costs.

Reiner Schafer said...

Steve, first you have to remember we are talking about recreational play aimed at new and occasional players and getting them to stick around to become regualr players. This isn't aimed at high intensity regualr players, although it is aimed at keepig them in check should they be playing alongside the newer players. New players don't like getting shot at high ROF, for sure, but for a first time player, 6 bps, shot at a sustained rate, is too much. Lowering the ROF from 15 to 10 or to 8 bps, doesn't do much at all, if you don't reduce the overall amount of paint shot.

As far as rich kids go, it's not a big enough problem to even mention. They are so rare, that they can easily be dealt with on an individual basis.

YOur last paragraph makes no sense at all. This has nothing at all to do with tournament play. As a matter of fact, participation in tournament play would most likely go up, if paint prices at the average recreatioanl field were higher and thereby the game not nearly as intense. There will always be players wanting the more intense experience. Having recreational fields provide them with that exhileration, means they don't need to seek out tournament play. In my opinion, that's one contributor to less participation in tournemnt play in recent years.

raehl said...


It's not a theory. It's provable, basic math.

Your problem is you are entirely missing that the cost of paintballs IS NOT the cost to play paintball. A player that can afford $50/case can ALSO afford $50/bag. They just have to miss 1500 fewer times.

At the recreational level, if you charge $200/case and players shoot 500 paintballs a day, a field can charge $50/player/day and make $42.50 per player after paint costs.

If you charge $50/case, most players will shoot 2,000 rounds a day, and the field has to charge the player $82.50 to make the same amount of money after paying for paint (read: provide the same facilities).

The cheaper the paint is at retail, the more of it the field has to buy per player, which drives up costs. Period. End of story. Lower paint prices means more paint shot means more expensive paintball.

No one is suggesting that you take $50 cases and just charge $200/case instead. Raising the paint prices is only HALF of the change. In addition to raising the paint prices, you also cut or eliminate admission and rental prices, making the OVERALL cost lower because the cost of paint per player goes down.

Free entry and $50/bag is cheaper than $30 entry and $50/case.

It also happens that players shooting (and being shot by) a bag of paint a day have more fun than players shooting (and being shot by) a case of paint a day. So in addition to lowering the cost of paintball, you also INCREASE the fun of paintball, doubling your value gain.

On the competitive front, if everyone played hopperball, paint costs would go down 75% from where they are now. Imagine how many more people could afford to play tournaments then.

Steve said...

Chris, what you are saying makes sense, but it has a butterfly effect. It changes more than just recreational play and I'm not convinced it acheives the goal.

The simple truth is that field owners need to step up and take responsibility for ensuring the new players are having a good time. Not all fields are like this, but everytime I go to my local field, the beginners and novice players are mixed together and the refs/staff do little to ensure the beginners are having a good time. Lambs to the slaughter. Changing the ROF and/or paint prices isn't going to change some 16 year old "agg" kid from bunkering or overshooting a beginner.

Another issue. There is no way in the world tournament players would play "hopper ball". That idea is ridiculous. You might get them to play at reduced ROFs (10-12 bps), but at some point you are changing the nature of the game. Don't take my word for it, do a poll on the Nation.

There are pump divisions at some events. They get a few teams, but not anywhere near as many as other formats. Players have a choice. The tournament players that are leaving paintball due to costs could switch to pump and keep playing at reduced costs, but they don't.

Paintball has evolved the world over and the formats and BPS's people choose to play is what we have today. This didn't happen through some sort of manipulation, it happened naturally.

You risk an awful lot with this theory. You change the nature of the game, risk alienating a huge portion of the player population and don't address the real problem of recreational players having a good time.

raehl said...

$0.10 per ball will cut down on overshooting new players by the 16-year-old agg kid. He just won't want to pay for it anymore.

As for changing tournament paintball, maybe CURRENT tournament players would not support the change, but isn't the whole problem how few tournament players appear to be left? Say what you will about how many players may not play hopperball, but it seems we've proven most players won't play the way we currently play either. So if we know the current way isn't working, how about we try something else?

People fear change, but I think a lot of people would like a tournament format where buying more paint than your opponent isn't a significant portion of the strategy.

Baca Loco said...

Very good general discussion. Thank you all. A couple of comments and one O/T request.
The O/T request first: PinkPaint, how did you find your way to VFTD?

Nobody picked up on the vertical integration idea but who is in a better position to experiement with develop some universal operating principles for local fields than the giants of teh industry?

It's one thing to have a theory, right or wrong, and another to somehow engage the local field operator to make changes that will be in thier best interest long term. I don't think anybody disagrees with the notion that the critical place to make changes is on the front lines at the grassroots. And all the concepts in the world alone won't make that happen.

While I think there's a place for Hopperball you really ought to stay away from asserting various and sundry about competitive paintball because it just undermines your credibility in other areas.

PinkPaint said...

1) /gasp teh Baca called me out! Does that make me famous? (j/k, I'm a loon; don't ask, I was just born that way.)

I stumbled upon VFTD months ago, just by doing some Googlethons I often do to educate myself in the world of paintball. As before said, ima noob, but I'm trying. There's a lot to learn, and I'm especially clueless in the pro and not-so-pro tournament sector of the industry. (It's on the to-do list, but later.)

Since competitive paintball is your forte, I admit that I don't always make it a priority to get my daily dose, but it's bookmarked and I drop in periodically. This is the first time I've come out of the shadows to enter any comments.

2) I agree that big companies need to invest into some research and number crunching. I'm sure they do it already in some ways, but I still wish they took a different approach at looking at the situation. I think there are probably plenty of hard-working, good-intending field owners who just can't afford to provide the paintball experience they want to.

3) By interviewing players abroad, even I've noticed that the big dogs are expanding more into an internat'l paintball market. That's a good thing, though, 'cause everyone deserves a lil paintball in their lives.

4) On the topic of regulation...raehl mentioned many comments back how in tournaments, some teams can't afford to have as much paint as others. Would they ever require each player to use the exact same marker?

There will always be Richie Rich and Guns a-Blazin' Bob on the field somewhere. Remember--"rich" and "more" are relative terms.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks, PP
I was just curious.

Tourney ball is relatively paint intensive but the notion bigger wallets win events is nonsense. The issue is competence. Oftentimes lower division and generally mediocre players rely on volumes of paint because they don't know any better or simply don't have the knowledge or skills to play any other way.

raehl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
raehl said...


I really hate self-promotion, but I hate dodging an argument with a personal assault even more.

I've spent the past 10 years running a national league whose purpose is to get kids who don't play paintball to play paintball, and kids who don't play competitive paintball to play competitive paintball. I've signed a few TV contracts, produced 6 TV shows that I've been told stand up to the best paintball has had to offer on a fraction of the budget, secured a few big-name out-of-industry sponsors, and gotten a few thousand people who would not have otherwise played to do so. I also talk to pretty much every major tournament league promoter on a regular basis, plus a pretty hefty selection of field owners.

I have no business telling a Pro player what he should do on the field. But let's give me a little credit here. There's a lot more to competitive paintball than coming up with the best breakout plans for the latest layout.

Does the biggest wallet always win? Of course not. But you can't tell me TBD would be competitive if someone told you you only had 25% as much paint to shoot. The team that didn't have that restriction would win.

So yes, step 1 to winning is being able to afford enough paint to play. And if everyone only needed 25% as much paint to play, a lot more people could play. And I think the number of people who won't play if they can't spend a bunch of money shooting 1,000 rounds a game is far outweighed by the number of people who can't play because they can't buy 1,000 rounds of paint a game at all.

Now maybe you have some insight as to why that is not the case, but how about this time you actually say it instead of dismissing the idea based on "You don't know anything about competitive paintball".

Mike said...

Steve Said
"The tournament players that are leaving paintball due to costs could switch to pump and keep playing at reduced costs, but they don't".
All the pump players I know all used to do Airball tourney's before getting into pump.Some because of cost but most because they like that type of game.("Why do you do pump" might make an interesting poll). Pump in gaining poularity in Southeren California and the numer of pump teams seem to be increasing.
All the tournaments I've attended make it a point to sell tournament grade paint at a reduced cost so all teams will have enough paint to compete.
If you wanted to reduce the amount of paint shot at a game the way to do that would be to limit the number of pods each player could bring to the field.Some Young Gun tournaments already do that limiting the players to two pods and a hopper.
Steve said,
"The simple truth is that field owners need to step up and take responsibility for ensuring the new players are having a good time."
I agree and think that a person new to paintball will return and play more if his experience at a paintball field was fun.The way to insure that is to put newbies with beginners and keep them separate from those with experience and the high end markers.Some fields do their best to "balance" the teams so the fire power is even.I know some Airball fields where you have to be a team in order to get on and play.Teams want to play other teams because part of the fun is real competition which you wouldn't get if you allowed walkons who had never played Airball before.
If you want to limit the amount of paint used in a game limit the number of pods a player brings onto the field.That will have more impact then raising the price of paint.

Baca Loco said...

Don't know about any personal attacks unless that's the post you deleted.
All your accomplishments are impressive but irrelevant to the point of debate. Just because you're the CEO of GM doesn't mean you're capable of engineering the next generation Corvette.
You are mistaking an effect for the cause. Some divisional teams may gain some measure of success by shooting buxkets of paint but it isn't because buckets of paint are essential, it's because it's the easiest solution when the competitors don't know any better. (Which is why I'm not opposed to Hopperball in an appropriate venue, argued in favor of lower ROF for lower divisional play and routinely advocated greater diversity in the types of competitive paintball options available.)

Reiner Schafer said...

So Baca, are you saying that your team could have accomplished what it did in Chicago with 1/4 of the paint? You've said it yourself in a previous post, "paint is control" and I'm sure that is just as important at the top level of play as it is in lower divisional levels. Paint has always and will always help control the game. It is paintball afterall; a game centered around marking other players with paint. Those that argue that the volume of paintball doesn't dramtically change the game, are not being realisatic. And it changes it at all levels, whether it's a bunch of first time players playing recball or two top tiered tournament teams. It changes everything. The questions becomes, "How does it change it?", and "Is the change good ot bad?"

68caliber said...

In re competition and paint: in the raw competition department, which requires more skill to use effectively: an unlimited budget for paint that supports unlimited fire support or a limited budget for paint that forces teams/players to make on-field tactical decisions regarding when and if to shoot?

I'd submit that the latter not only requires more skill on the field but engenders the learning or more skill.

Ben said...

interesting discussion. Though I'd chime in with thoughts from across the pond as it might relate to the 'field creating different experiences' for a diverse player-base.

The field here in Sweden has designed weekends/prices to cater to different groups and experiences.

-Standard bookings. Fixed price. Fixed packages. Average about $40 and up for rental and 500 rounds. they charge more for a bag of 500 than a case. Any day of the week from 8am-7pm (longer days in the summer, shorter in the winter).

-First and third Sunday of every month, free walk-on. No field fee, just pay for paint, which (largely due to socialized healthcare and no need to pay high insurance premiums) doesn't get marked up very high (50-75 a case depending on the grade). Less advertised. Simple format games. anywhere from 20-50 players.

-Second Sunday of every month. Beginner day. Free rental for utter newbs, same price for paint. no high end ROF allowed. Home sponsored team puts 2-3 players on each team to act as player-refs/positive introduction to the sport. Super easy games. Focus is on taking the new people and showing them a good time. Typically 30-50 newbies with a high rate of return.

-Last Sunday of every month, BIG Walk On. All welcome, no field fee, paint sales only, any skill level, any ROF welcome. more complex missions/longer mission blocks. typically 60 players +/-

-Various weekends, BIG GAME. 2 days. small field fee, small hike in the price of paint (still cheaper by the case than by the bag), all skill level welcome, all ROF allowed. Complex missions. full field use. Think standard US scenario with 150-200 players.

The field has been growing from 10 players in the woods 5 years ago to one of the largest in Sweden, now looking to build an airball field and an indoor facility for the winter*. The sport in general, in Europe is exploding. This is a good discussion for all the small fields over here to consider when figuring out how they want to set up future of the sport, since they can learn from what the USA has done and adjust while the sport is still growing by leaps and bounds instead of .... stagnating?

*Should add that they also offer laser-tag with modified A5's for those persons hesitant to try paintball and have a successful webstore, a partnership with the only airball field in town, and several other ventures keeping them comfortably afloat. And again, they are NOT saddled with the same insurance premiums as US fields.

Just an example of the field using price controls/their home team and specific scheduling to create a variety of experiences. The newbs can come on newb day, if they have a good time (which is the job of the home sponsored team to facilitate), then they can work their way up through the other levels of gameplay until they are comfortable and enjoying the large scenario games. The high end ROF paintslingers are also welcome on days they want to bring the pain.

Wego said...

After Reading both pages, I am completely appalled at what I am hearing. After reading both blogs on this I have decided that I am not in favor of the proposed price for paint increase. I for one do not think it will work at your typical rec ball field. It may work for a few “higher-end” fields but that is not what we are really talking about. The majority of the market is the rec ball players. You are not going to “fix” the sport by “fixing” the “higher-end” fields. I honestly think that the biggest reason for the decline in participation right now is the economy. Paintball is an extra in most households and everyone is cutting as much as they can to get by. With that said, I think we are talking about 2 separate issues.

One: Introducing and retaining new players.
I think we can best do this by properly introducing new players into paintball. Handing them a rental gun and sticking them on the field to get shot up is not the way to do so. No matter what equipment I may be using, I am going to out play a new player 9 times out of 10. It’s just a matter of skill and experience. I think the answer to gaining and retaining new players is to do what Ben mentioned and introduce them with other new players. When you go skiing for the first time you don’t hop on the double black diamond slopes and think you can ski. I think that field owners need to make a conscious effort to have a separate area or times where new players can play without the intimidation for the experienced. Also, not everyone is going to be good or interested in the sport, we need to be able to accept the fact that not everyone will love the sport we all find so addicting.

Two: Keeping existing players involved in the game.
I know a lot of players who have recently quit playing because they have lost their jobs or need to focus their funds on necessities. In the US we have a huge “economic downturn” or whatever you want to call it and paintball is suffering because of this. I would be willing to bet it is the same with other activities that like paintball is cost heavy. Right now is not the time to increase the cost to play, you will lose an even larger number of current players who are already finding it hard to play and pay bills. If shooting less paint was the answer, the players that can’t afford a case would simply by 500 rounds and make it last. This is not the case though, they can’t even afford that. I know most of them will be back when funds are available but who knows how long that will be!

I honestly do not think that the big corporations are killing paintball, we are! We are so excited to get people into the sport that we have not taken the time to introduce them slowly. Just like everything else, baby steps! We all started out as newbies, it took time to gain the skill and experience to be where we all are now. This is the only sport I know of where a newbie can actually jump on the field and try to play with a “pro” AND try to be competitive about it.

Just my 2 cents though!

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Nathalie Uy said...

Good vibes. Everyday, all day. God Bless :)