Friday, July 9, 2010

A Simple Solution to Player Retention & Growing the Grassroots?

I received a great email today from Steve Grundy of Annandale Paintball and all the credit for the contents of this post belong to him. (Thanks, Steve.)
Remember the tactics the small ball crowd used to promote the idea of switching from 68 cal? More efficient, less energy required so less painful, breaks better, cheaper etc.Whatever one thought of the merits of the arguments everyone agreed, by and large, that all those things were positive steps forward, if true. And more than a few touted the potential breakthrough benefits of better breaking less painful paint. While small ball has yet to prove itself and peeps still debate most of the claims on its behalf there already exists paint that fits the breaks better less painful bill. Generically its usually called tournament grade paint.
Yes, I know it's more expensive than field grade paint. And yes, I am aware of the usual arguments in favor of field grade paints. They're cheaper and plenty of players want cheaper--because nobody bothers to remind them they are also on the receiving end of those marbles. Rental equipment isn't suited to thin-shelled tourney paints. There needs to be a balance between getting it out of the field rental and breech and/or barrel breaks. And others. But are they legit reasons given current technology or excuses to be lazy and do things the way they've always been done?
Recently at Steve's field a logistical mishap forced them to purchase a highly recommended but different skid of paint from their usual order. (Their usual paint is a good quality field paint that also frequently passes muster as a cheap tourney paint.) As Steve also plays he noticed the paint wasn't up to their usual standard (it broke less often and stung more in the process) and with a little investigating it also appeared they weren't selling as much paint per customer as usual either. Then last week they had a group of first time 11 year olds. Concerned Steve switched out their paint for a higher grade paint and reported they had a great time and no issues with stinging hits or painful welts. Of course no paint guarantees painless breaks all the time but a reduced incidence along with a reduction in stinging hits is one way to optimize the playing experience that virtually everyone agrees on.
What's it worth to a field to send their first timers home happy, especially the kids? How many fields are selling an experience rather than trying to hold the line on costs while calculating profits piecemeal in game play essentials? Does anybody advertise or promote fun, safe game play? Or make an effort to educate the occasional rec player about the potential benefits of spending a bit more for paint? How many additional players per weekend would be needed to make up the difference if a field operator clipped their own margins by providing better paint at a perhaps higher but still competitive price? Or does a field operator need to reconsider their whole operation, top to bottom, to implement this sort of change? Or perhaps simply experiment in limited ways with changes around the edges?
Somewhere in this calculus the field operator needs to make money but ironically in too many instances we are seeing what happens when a field opts for lowest possible cost and high volume--and most of the time it isn't pretty.


J-Bird said...

genius up-selling lol, "if you buy this paint, itll hurt less. might cost a little, but will hurt a lot less."

players are going to use the same amount, so it's not like they wont get their money worth, and itll probably break easier/fly straighter = win/win for them. have we gotten so caught up in selling the cheap experience that we've forgotten that quality sells as well? genius.

Reiner Schafer said...

Our customized Draxus field paint in plenty fragile. It breaks very easily and admittedly, a little too easily during the colder months, meaning we need to tear down many of our rentals every week to clean the internals. Anyone that's had to tear down numerous amounts of Model 98's every week knows it takes a little time. But we do it. We could easily buy cheaper paint, which would mean we would make more per case and we would have less tear downs of our markers to clean out internal breaks.

So yes, good post, good idea, and some field owners are alreday doing this.

Reiner Schafer said...

I was re-reading this again and came to the realization that Steve's idea falls into the "players paying a premium to play in a less extreme (possibly more fun) environment" category. Hmmm. Great concept. Nothing more important for grass roots growth than making the newbies' first experience a good one. What's the saying? You never get a second chance to make a first impression.?

papa chad said...

not to mention that the marbles you shoot at your home field are not replicating the tournament experience where you are shooting tournament-level paint.
your practice with "practice paint" on the weekends is so much different. I mean, it changes things, especially when laning OTB.

raehl said...

I'm not sure I agree with the physics though - whlie you'd get less bounces, which hurt a lot, I would expect that amongst hits that break, htis that break from easier-to-break paintballs will hurt more than hits-that-break from harder to break paintballs, because less of the energy is "used up" breaking the paintball and more thus is taken out on the person being hit.

But, the difference there is probably minimal compared to the increased pain of a bounce over a break, so less bounces is good.

I also think at least some new players would rather be eliminated by a hit that breaks than stay in due to a hit that bounced (and hurt more) and likely just get shot again anyway. (For new players, if you're in a situation where you got shot the first time, you are almost certainly in a situation where you're about to get shot again a second time.)

Missy Q said...

People playing for the first time will often go out on a bounce though. Its the impact that tells them they are out, rather than the visual of the break.

..and Factions Physics isn't making sense to me. The more fragile ball hurts less. The energy that breaks the ball is being exerted on the taget, therefore the more resistance to breaking, the more force is exerted before the ball breaks and the energy dissipates.

Simon said...

As Missy Q states, more fragile paint hurts less, as it requires less force (in an equal and opposite reaction) in order to break it, and the energy is then dissipated as it breaks.

On another note. I've been preaching this for YEARS. That the harder paint is whats putting people off. Mostly it fall on deaf ears though.

The paint that leaves welts or goose eggs on people is the worst thing that has happened to this industry.

sdawg said...

The field where I play recball uses for its rental guns (98s) paint that rarely breaks. I've taken to call myself out if I take a bounce because it's the only way to be fair to the rental players. And I've gotten really horrible welts from the rental paint. The owner uses that paint because he doesn't want it to break in the hopper or the gun, but it's almost like using rubber bullets.

Mike said...

I play at SC Village in Ca. and the majority of players go their for the rec ball. The best paint they sell is "Weapons Grade" Paint. You can fire it all day long in 98's and not get a break which is probably why they sell it. I play X ball in their Tournament arena's and most players their shoot brittle paint.Occasionally some walk ons will show up with some hard paint and hot markers and I'll get some welts.Getting hit in the head or neck with hard paint sucks especially at 300 fps+.The fastest way to get into a fight is to over shoot somebody with hard paint.
Brittle paint sells between 40 and 50 a case here in Southern California and is cheapest if you buy in bulk and pay cash.