Friday, June 4, 2010

Does Small Ball Still Have A Future? (or) Rise of the Evolt

I heard a story this past weekend. It sounds like science fiction. I'm unwilling to even call it a rumor at this point so let's just say it's speculation. But I give it credence for a couple of reasons; the technology exists and it comes from the same source that gave me the original 50 cal story--which nobody believed at first--and the JT Sports for sale story--which JT denied vociferously until the deal was done.
For the VFTD record on small ball type "50 caliber" into the search box and you will get a good selection of past posts going all the way back to the original post from May 15, 2009, 'The Ultimate Paintball Conspiracy.'
With a vocal element of the paintball community suspicious months before the official release and a firestorm of competing claims and "scientific evidence" as samples of 50 cal became available the mood of the marketplace did not (and does not) appear to be particularly receptive to small ball. Add industry resistance from companies like Tippmann and what we know of real world pricing where 50 cal paint is available and it's easy to conclude the whole effort is a likely bust. But that could be a very premature assessment.
VFTD is on the record as suggesting the only market that matters is the recreational rental market. If small ball can make real inroads there the Caliber War will be on. But that too seems unlikely when a company like Tippmann won't play ball and the current economic environment isn't encouraging when it comes to refitting rental markers and carrying additional inventory for two sizes of paintballs. But even so...
Take a look at this. Do you remember what it is? It was called the Evolt. It used an 18 volt battery to generate an air pulse that fired a paintball without an air tank. A production model was never released. Probably because it was bulky and slow.
But imagine a streamlined, up-dated version of the Evolt. One that no longer has to propel a 68 caliber paintball. One that has taken advantage of advances in battery technology. One that only needs to be able to shoot a projectile a fraction of 68 caliber paintball's weight and mass. One that can be delivered to the marketplace at a price point that suits the rental market. Would a rental gun that needs no airfills grab the attention of the rental market? Would it be enough to overcome resistance to the small ball?
I don't know but we may find out sooner rather than later. Is it a hoax? Could it possibly be real? I'm told it's release may only be months away.
I know how this sounds but I'm told the Evolt project was never shelved and that the development work continued. And between the marker's potential and the significant weight & mass savings of the small ball that the combo is a reality and coming soon. If so, will it change everything or prove to be only a niche oddity?

20 comments:

sdawg said...

Is the cost of replacing 9v batteries for your fleet of evolt rental marker less than buying a couple tanks of CO2 every week? If the 9v batteries also have to replaced about every week (I'm guessing a lot of juice is necessary to generate air pressure of that magnitude), what's the cost comparison?

Moreover, can the field owners be convinced to replace their 98s or BT-4s with this new marker? New fields might consider the 50 cal option for rentals, but how many new fields are opening now compared to 2000-2005? I would guess not very many.

Reiner Schafer said...

I'd rather fill air tanks than have 150 battery chargers to deal with (or a portion and have to keep revolving chargers).

steve said...

What if the .50 cal paint companies offered to outfit fields with new .50 cal guns. Offer really attractive financing or a deal based on paint volume? Maybe a trade-in deal....

The 'ol sell the razor blades not the razor trick. :)

anonachris said...

That's a game changer. For Walmart, etc. That's why airsoft can do so well. You're not having to fill 20z tanks. We like to talk about how tournament players are such a puny market compared to the field market. Well, the field market is a puny market compared to the outlaw market. And every single outlaw player who has to drive an hour to get their bottles filled would be all over that - if it was sold at Walmart.

I'd just hope Walmart, etc. doesn't have so bad a taste in their mouth for paintball that they'd overlook this product.

anonachris said...

Steve - well then someone else would just sell them 50cal paint for cheaper since they don't have to recover all that expensive cost on freebie guns. You can't duplicate the patented blade shape of a Gillette without getting sued. You can duplicate the shape of a 50cal ball for free though.

And in case you're thinking a couple steps a head, contracts which require you to only buy consumables which have to be re-ordered from one party are illegal in the US (don't remember the case, but it went all the way to the Supreme Court in the 1900s). Of course that doesn't mean the attorney general would ever hear about it happening in paintball if someone tried.

sdawg said...

Is outlaw paintball really that big?

Reiner Schafer said...

Yeah, I wonder about anonachris' comment about outlaw play as well. I go into the local Walmart every once in a while, and there is very little paint moving on their shelves (I actually marked some boxes once to see how long they would be there). Between the fields around here, I'm sure we sell at least 30 or 40 times as much paint as all the big box stores selling paintballs. And we sell relatively few paintballs compared to fields in most areas of North America due to higher prices at fields here compared to other areas (Big box store paint is just as cheap though). There is relatively little outlaw play here, eventhough there is certainly lots of good terrain in our west coast forests.

What's the allure of outlaw play in areas where field paint is much closer in price to box stroe paint prices?

anonachris said...

I've played with at least 50 people who have never seen a paintball field.

I don't know about you guys, but my first experience was in an urban area, where outlaw wasn't really an option, but after that I spent 2 years only playing outlaw ball with another set of guys before developing a relationship with a field. That was years ago... but just recently I encountered a bunch of people (that 50) that only play outlaw. They either buy their paint from walmart, Sports Authority, or other big box shops. Some order it online. They're only vaguely aware of tournaments. If I could randomly drop into one town in the west and find that I'd be pretty shocked to not see it else where. Perhaps I just hit the unplugged & outlaw jackpot. But I'd guess there are a huge amount of paintballers who don't play at or have a connection to fields. And getting air was always an issue for them. If you guys don't think getting C02 fills ("what's this compressed air" they ask) is an issue for a huge amount of players you're being as myopic as everyone likes to say tourney players are.

Baca Loco said...

I know for a fact one of the urban pro shop/fields in my area routinely has players come in just to get air fills--and Florida has lots of rec field options. 7 within an hour of me that I know about.

J-Bird said...

yeah; around here outlaw ball is a pretty big thing -- local pro shop gets tons of traffic on back yard players asking for cheap paint, fills, etc... granted, there's only one field around here and the prices they run are INCREDIBLY high.

papa chad said...

"We like to talk about how tournament players are such a puny market compared to the field market. Well, the field market is a puny market compared to the outlaw market."

this hits the spot!

I wrote not too long ago on how fields really need to try harder to sell an "experience" to the woodsball market, else people will just go into their/their friend's woods to play.

woodsballers, for being the "overwhelming majority," get practically no cool fields to go play at. Most of the time around here, a field owner will throw some spools in a field and call it the alternative to speedball.

build a few forts, a castle, or some sort of battleground that people would actually rather come to than play in the back yard.

if it's such a big market, treat it like one?

anonachris said...

papa - I'm told the guys that brew their own moonshine know about Jack Daniels. Maybe we need some redneck to confirm it...

But my hunch is, they'd rather save the money, and have the fun of building their own field. I've worked on at least a dozen outlaw fields in my time...it's a lot of fun and "free" to play on! I can't be the only one that when walking around in the forest somewhere thinks, "this would be a great place to..."

papa chad said...

maybe I'm tired to hear field owners complain about paint sales and all that. If you build a fully fledged woodsball battlezone, I bet you could make the biz work. but I'm getting in too deep here.

anonchris- I totally agree, and I've been trying to draw a map of one of our old outlaw fields. place was great. some woods, some field, pathways built into the thick brush so you practically had to take them. little bunker hills, a bulldozed trench, oh man. oh, and the lack of a velocity limit meant getting shot was...more like getting shot ;) so the game was basically mega-intense. you never knew when someone would start pumping paint out of their tippmann at you at 450fps. or whatever it is with the velocity screw taken out. crazy intense.

raehl said...

I would say 80% of the people I run into in western WI who have paintball experience have it from playing outlaw ball. But, the people I talk to when I'm visiting "home" in the western Chicago burbs or in the Minneapolis burbs I'd say nearly all who have paintball experience have it at a commercial field. Just comes down to habits and availability - people who live on farms are used to 'do it yourself' and have the land available and people who live in the city are used to 'pay someone who knows what they are doing' and don't have the land for it.

(I would expect a survey of whether you change your oil yourself/have a buddy do it or take the car into the shop for an oil change would yield similar results.)

Reiner Schafer said...

papa chad, I think you've hit the nail on the head. I think renegade (outlaw) play is more prevelant in areas where there are either every little "woodsball" fields or where the "woodsball" fields aren't very good. Why would anyone pay to go to a commercial field if they don't have anything special to offer? What would be worse would be if the commercial fields are not fun to play at. If refs aren't doing their jobs for instance and overshooting is a constant problem, it just takes one bad taste in one's mouth to say, "To hell with this. I might as well play on Johnny's farm with a few friends that I know will play with honour."

I think the reason we have relatively few renegade players around our area is because we have better than average fields, in both infratructure and service, from what I've seen during my limited travels. Players have a good time and can't wait to come back again for another good time.

Baca, of course there are renegade players everywhere, including Florida. But how many airfills and paintballs are being sold to renegade players compared to being sold at commercial fields (or sold to players using them at commercial fields if they are BYOP)?

Baca Loco said...

Reiner
The actual question is does a commercially viable Evolt make small ball a legit option and begin to make inroads into 68 cal.

There's renegade players in Florida? *slaps forehead* Golly.

Reiner Schafer said...

Yeah, but that's a boring question. The off topic stuff is more interesting. ;-)

Battery technology will have to come a long way yet to make shooting even the smaller mass .50 cal bores viable. LIPOs, the size we would need to shoot more than just a few paintballs, are very expensive, and also heavy, although probably no heavier than an airtank. They are also bulky and would require something outside the marker to hold them or a large "ammo clip". Although they can be reused quite a number of times, they do have a limited life and "maximum" power and storage is lost relatively quickly.

I think if anything, the evolt and .50 caliber may have a bigger chance in renegade play. It's much easier for the individual player to have access to an electrical outlet or a car battery to charge off than to have access to air/CO2. But in that market you still have the problems of .50 cal just not being as effective, so I don't see that happening either.

Missy Q said...

I've seen the Evolt, at the Vegas shot-show in 2004/5, and remember thinking that it was a total game-changer. It was developed for the big box stores, and thats where the sales would be. At the show they were lining up to place their orders. It does need to be charged, and I don't think fields would even be that interested in it. Its for the retail rec guy. I think it could actually work with 50cal. They could only get 170fps or so with 68cal.
Baca is on to something. 50cal could make the Evolt viable, and that could change the way paintball guns are sold in Wallmart etc. That would be a huge deal.
Last time I did any digging, which was about 6 years ago, the figure was 70%
Thats 70% of paintball is played 'outlaw/renegade' ie - not at a field. Those numbers were for the US. Most of those guys can't fill a tank.

anonachris said...

Here's what I would do if I were making that gun. Offer Walmart a 2 year exclusive, in exchange for monthly volume commitments during the peak months + advertising, but also insist that 500-1000 guns be allowed to be to the traditional paintball market to get the buzz going. Online store sells out of those 500-1000 guns in a couple months, and everyone that didn't get one has to go to Walmart. Gets the buzz going in the traditional market. And also directs business from the traditional market to Walmart. I say exclusive to Walmart, because it has a unique selling proposition that no one can match, and if I'm Walmart, I'm wondering why I carry a product (paintball guns) that my customers have to actively go to my competitors (for airfills) who are selling the exact same product to use.

But Walmart may not care anymore...

Björn said...

Battery technology has not moved as far as you think.
It's one of the slowest moving technologies around.

So likely the batteries that were around for the original evolt, will probably be as close as 98-99% similar.

_However_, i really like the way you think, in regards to applying 50.cal to something that would actually make a bit more sense.