Chronology: Competitive paintball exploded.
This coincided with and/or was driven by the move out of the woods, electronic markers, concept fields, a rapidly expanding market of new players, traditional formats (10-man & 5-man) were still played and shrinking retail paint prices.
Industry got slammed when the growth spurt suddenly stopped. (The critical question here is did sales go flat immediately or did they decline against expected growth? And how long after the rapid growth did sales actually fall behind past sales peaks?) Elements of industry begin competing directly with traditional retail outlets.
This is also the era of corporatizing PBIndustry which brought different management philosophies & goals into play within the competitive environment. The leadership and value of competitive paintball was no longer assumed. Sponsorship turns a corner and begins to decline in real dollars.
Xball is conceived as the Sport of Paintball designed for a TV audience.
The TV Wars begin. The result is competing leagues (NPPL & PSP) driven by shifting priorities (and concomitant expenses) only indirectly related to putting on MLP events.
The pro ranks are divided by the NXL and the NPPL is the beneficiary of all the burgeoning 10-man teams unwilling, uninterested, unable to make the leap to Xball.
So what happened? Here goes.
PBIndustry was caught ill-prepared when the growth years suddenly stopped. For whatever reason even the incoming transnational corporates failed to manage the transitions successfully except (so far) KEE.
Xball succeeded in turning tournament paintball into sport. That success has had some unintended consequences.
The TV Wars squandered the enormous base of competing teams with redirected resources and in the NPPL's failure to sustain a profitable series.
The Sport of paintball raised the bar for everybody (eventually) and as a result has pushed out of competitive paintball some number of players unable--for various reasons--to meet its demands.
5-man paintball remained vital until the last year to 18 months.
Local and regional competitive paintball has also declined--although the declines appear to vary in different areas of the country.
The impact of the housing bubble was felt most severely initially in competitive paintball strongholds like Cali & Florida.
The general economy remains in an extended recession (at best).
What's important here. (Well, d'oh! all of it in one way or another but --)
One--Xball (Race 2) isn't going anywhere. Despite the fact I am convinced that Xball drove our demographic down and a lot of pre-existing tourney players to 7-man (and out of competition) there is a dedicated core willing to do what it takes to play competitive paintball as sport.
Two--5-man has been amazingly resilient until the last year. 5-man is the heart & lungs of tourney paintball. Through years of being second class competitors (back in the day) and rising entry fees the national scene continued to benefit from a robust 5-man turnout
Three--5-man began to decline on the local level before real weakness appeared in national events. This is the result of pressing to integrate bread & butter tourney ball into the national scheme and raising the bar to basic participation too high.
Four--There's a significant number of former tourney ballers not competing.
Five--If the rumors of operating in the black this season are true the NPPL has a pared down tournament formula that is more sustainable in this economic environment.