Monday, August 30, 2010

What is Tournament Paintball?

It may seem a silly question at first glance but it really isn't. In the recent post, Crazy May be Too Harsh, John, the crux of my objection--beside the weak argumentation--was a strong difference of opinion about what is tournament paintball. Also, given the fact tournament paintball can refer to quite a variety of paintball is why I tend to use the term competitive paintball when discussing the brand of paintball I focus on and participate in. (That's a hint about the distinction I'm going to make.)

Here's a (related) curiosity. Earlier this summer I started to hear some 10-man chattering in the background; the usual what-ifs, how much fun that would be and even a hint or two that somebody might try to resurrect the format for real--and all of a sudden the smackbox at ProPaintball is full of 10-man ranting. Coincidence?

And a current thread in the CFOA forum at PBN that threw out the idea of introducing 7-man in the CFOA morphed into a complaints and suggestions thread. (If you are outta this loop the CFOA is in the same situation as the major leagues having peaked a few years ago.) The most common responses focus on cost, the idea of simplifying by focusing on 5-man and a return to the old CFOA divisions as it seems too many players are being classified out of a chance to compete. Regardless of the specifics or the merits of any complaint or suggestion, in one sense, the thread is really about what tourney ball ought to be like in order for the CFOA to continue and hopefully grow.

When the discussion turns towards how to fix tournament paintball the different answers tell us what the respondents think is the problem. One idea is that the disconnect from our roots in the woods isolates tourney ball from the majority of new players. If so the answer could be some transitional Old Skool type woodsball tournies to introduce the newbies and walk-ons to tourney play. For a while the hot solution was lowering the ROF as all that scary paint in the air discouraged newbies. As John's editorial, the 10-man talk and the CFOA suggestions thread demonstrate there's a group thinking that maybe returning the game to something close to what it was will bring lost players back and invite more new ones into the ranks of tournament players.

Before we try to decide what to do though let's take a closer look at what's different. How is tournament paintball in 2010 different from tournament ball in 2000, 2003 and 2006? On the national scene in 2000 there is only the NPPL. It's year 2 of the cow pasture World Cup. There's a mix of woods, Hyperball and Airball fields. (Correction: last woods year for WC was 1999. 2000 saw some woods fields still in play in Pittsburgh & Chicago.) Electronic markers are becoming more ubiquitous, burst fire capped at 9 bps. Viewloader Revolutions dominate. 296 teams compete in 5-man & 10-man formats. Each field is a different layout. The prelims feature mixed division play but the rules only recognize 3 divisions (Pro, Am A, Am B). However there are so many B teams registered Novice is added and the B's are split into 2 divisions. The whole event lasts a week.
2003 was the first year of the major league split. The PSP (old NPPL) introduced xball at WC '02 and offered 5-man, 10-man and xball. The first year NXL had 8 franchise teams and D1 xball was really a pro-am division. There are 348 teams competing. Overshooting complaints became common and the appearance of ROF & velocity ramping guns in the NXL force the league to begin examining ways to regulate marker performance. It was the first year the pros didn't ref the pros. The first time WC was held at Disney WWOS and there were no wooded fields in play. NXL xball matches were played in two 25 minute halves.
The new NPPL close their first season in Miami with 138 teams, the largest turnout of the season. (That means all you slackers claiming to have been at the first HB are also unrepentant liars. Ok, not all, just most.) The pro teams are playing for a spot in the soon to be locked at 18 team division. The format is 7-man and the league has ties with the MS that allows some ranking points to be scored playing MS event(s). The league tries to ban event sales of Ultra Evil because it stains. PMI prove other paint brands on sale are no different. The league says nevermind. Suspensions explode. Can you say (subjectively determined) major gun violations? The event is played over a long weekend; Friday through Sunday--but everyone comes in a day early to walk the fields.
2006 WC has 304 teams playing 5-man and xball at Disney's WWOS. There are three streets of vendors in the middle of the venue. 11 fields total in play--if I remember correctly. Ramping with a ROF cap of 15 has been in place since the beginning of '05 and it's the second season in the NXL for the Russian Legion. Xball begins play on Thursday with the 5-man to be played over the weekend.
The 2006 NPPL Commander's Cup event was held at the Orange County fairgrounds. There were 125 teams in attendance across 5 7-man divisions. HB opened the '06 NPPL season with 222 teams. Participation peaks at HB and steadily declines over the course of the season. It's a recurring pattern. 3 of the 5 events were held in the parking lots of NFL teams for the third year in a row. Semi-auto remained the core of the gun rules despite the wide availability of custom programmable boards and the failure of the "robot" to catch illegal modes of operation. The pros are only playing Saturday & Sunday on two show fields, otherwise the events run much as they have since the split. It was the last event with the original Super 7 promoter, Pure Promotions, who sell out just before HB '07 amid rumors they consistently lost money running the league.

So what's different and what's, more or less, the same from then then to now? Answers tomorrow along with some conclusions.


Anonymous said...

There is no difference, and while these numbers are a result of the many “problems” we face, they do not provide a proper context for the concepts these leagues have attempted to place into increments- that paintball is a sport which includes ALL variations of space from ALL perspectives, not just one. In fact, the opposite perspective has been touted and praised above all else, so why would a business want an entire playing base to think simply? Obviously- to make profit. This is not the position of sport, nor should it ever be.

Plain and simple, our national leagues do not know how to run a business with the resources they have been allotted. Why are we continuing to ask these questions without taking action? There are those out there working with nothing and producing everything while those with everything produce nothing. “Stop making sense…”

papa chad said...

I hope this counts as relevant...don't want Baca to beat me up.

-I wish we never added anything past Division 3. It makes the div's lose their status and weight and I would rather have thicker divisions of teams instead of smaller ones. Maybe an intro division is a good idea, but do we really have enough teams to warrant it (let alone D5)? Div3 used to be the intro division, yes, you would struggle, but getting to the top of it one day is called accomplishment. then you have plenty of other divisions to climb, still, after that.

Anonymous said...

I still think that you can't critically look back towards the time when you among others agitated ROF to be lowered and proclaimed it to be holy savior.

Every year ROF has gone down, team count has steadily gone down also. It did not provide savings to teams, nor it brought new players to the sport, it just made it childs play.

I think, downfall of team count is mainly due to:

a) too many division, lack of oldschool "you get to play against the pro's if you do really good" brackets.

b) PB overall made from extreme'ish fighting sport into glorified tag.

c) Ion generation being too young when introduced into national events. Teens wallets are too skimp and they achieve "everything" (in their own minds) too fast.

d) Paintball as a sport got figured out too fast and does not have high enough skill ceiling. Kids get to level local pro lawnmowers too easy just by playing sundays for couple years if they have even slither of talent. This kills then enthusiasm when girls and teenage starts to end.

e) Sport as a whole was unable to separate from its tag-roots and "oh paintball, I played it at johns birthday"-image. Now that its no longer even that extreme, its viewed by too many as extension to hundreds of bp birthday facilities that charge 100$ for case of paint. Talk about loss of cool. Imagine if this was image of surfing, snowbording or skatebording?

f) The industry as a whole. Talk about most incompetent bunch of wierdos who run this sport.

g) Cost of practice. Releasing layouts too early and making practice grind of that layout was not a smart move when practice paint still costs way too much for almost everyone to practice more than once a week and anything called a serious sport does not fly with "yeah we play on sundays". We should play atleast 3 times a week and case price needs to go to 20$ish or lower.

h) The players. Sometimes I think the biggest problems in paintball is all these people like myself who know exactly what is wrong in their own minds, but lack real insight and ability to listen to others or do anything good to help new players to get into the sport.

Anonymous said...

cost control for teams and leagues, regardless of format, tech, etc. Without some form of sustainable budgetary concept, the vast majority of teams will be one event/one season wonders. A few players will move on, the rest will find a more sustainable way to play.

Mark790.06 said...

'99 WC was the last one to have woods fields.

Reiner Schafer said...

Anonymous' list above is pretty good. I don't agree with b & e, which pretty much say the same thing. I think if anything, keeping recreational paintball "tame" should help draw those looking for a more extreme sport to competitive paintball, especially if the price difference in paint is huge. Why play tag at $160/case when I can play an exciting competitive form of paintball at $40/case? Competitive paintball should be trying to disassociate itself from recreational "tag". Besides, how many fields recreational fields do you know that charge over $100/case? Most charge the weekend warrior (recreational player) the same price for paint as the competitive players are paying. The industry is also very happy to sell the weekend warriors the same guns (or close cousins dressed up in Milsim trim) as the competitive players are using. There is no need to make the commitment to play the extreme version (competitive paintball), when you can get your jollies shooting cheap paint with fast guns at recreational fields all over America.

There should be a distinct separation between recreational paintball and competitive paintball. Both would fare better if we stopped trying to intermingle the two. I think that's the root of the problem, but unfortunately the solution to the problem is out of the hands of those involved in competitive paintball (must be very frustrating). It lies in the hands of thousands of individual field owners across the continent, many of whom are not intelligent enough to figure this out on their own. And even when it's explained to them many don't believe it, so there really is no hope. It's a one way street with no room to turn around....and it's getting narrower.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible CFOA attendance is down a lot because they run crappy events?

They made a grab for the paint sales so local fields don't have any reason to support the league anymore, Larry never returns emails or phone calls, the refs drink on the job...

Other regional series are doing OK or growing. Might just be a CFOA problem.

Anonymous said...

Reiner, anon here. I pretty much meant what you said out better. Not that there is something wrong in selling tag experience to people, there is a massive market and need for such fields and they prosper.

What I meant was that competitive paintball has done a major sidestep by trying to tone down the sport to cater for people who just want to play tag. And like you said, high rof, pain, blood and sweat belongs to competitive field, not to your local recpark.

And no, I have no idea how to turn the truck around on the narrow road either, but I know its a dead end.

Baca Loco said...

For some reason I "misremembered" and was thinking those atrocious woods fields carried over to 2000. Warpig was inconclusive but it seems more likely your youthful memory is correct. Now I'ma gonna have to fix the post, dammit.

You may be correct about the CFOA. My point was only that the issue isn't just a major league paintball problem.

Reiner Schafer said...

Back to the question of what is different.

I found some interesting data published by Statistics Canada a couple of years ago. I mention them in my latest post at I assume statistics for the USA would probably parallel.

The source can be found here:

It makes you wonder if trends in participation in competitive paintball are all that much different as trends in participation in sports in general.

Mike said...

Paint ball seems to be doing well in Southern California with the majority of players playing rec ball.Paint ball fields are mostly full every week and fields make a distinction between rec and speed ball with the entry fee for speed ball less if that's all your going to play.It seems the rest of the world is getting screwed on paint as its cheap here.Ultra Evil and other brittle paint is going for around 35.00 to 45.00 a box.Cheaper if your sponsored.The economy is hurting the sport with a lot of good players that can't afford to play consistently if they aren't sponsored. If paint gets cheaper (I think it will) and the economy turns around teams will start signing up for tourneys again.

Reiner Schafer said...

People always say paintball is doing great in California. But compared to where? considering the population of California and the the number of paintball fields in relationship to the population, is it really any wonder that the fields are busy?

Anyone have any statistics about how many people play in California (and other states). I have a feeling there may be a lower percentile of the population that play paintball in California compared to many other states. I don't know this for a fact, just a hunch I have.

Of course paintball is going to be a hotspot in California just due to the shear density of the population, just as California is a hotspot for many, many other activities.

Mike said...

@ Reiner;
Ya I think your right. It's not that it more popular here then any where else:Its the high population density, the weather and cheaper paint. Crowded paint ball parks give the illusion thats its alive and well.But if you talk to store owners their sales are nothing like they use to be a few years ago though this year is better then last year.