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?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is Tippmann Killing Paintball's Future?

Any takers on the over/under for irate (and possibly threatening) communication? It's gotta be in hours, right?
Are you wondering how I could even ask such a question? Am I kidding? Just trying to be provocative? (Well, yes. Partly.) But in fact if you take certain assumptions as a given it's undeniable.
The argument that crazy high ROF guns in the hands of tournament ballers is ruining the game and driving away other players is pretty much the conventional wisdom these days.
Another item of conventional wisdom is that tourney ballers are but a fraction of all paintballers, the tail wagging the dog--and a nub of a tail at that--what I've taken to calling the One Percenters.
Leaving aside the total number of high end markers sold compared to the total number of competitive players--those sorts of stats probably don't exist--a visit to virtually any rec field in the country will demonstrate that not all those guns are in the hands of tourney players. That means part of the original argument begins to break down. We still have the high ROF guns but they aren't exclusive to tournament players.
Perhaps we can modify the argument and claim the problem is high end high ROF guns in the hands of tournament ballers and emulators of tournament ballers. But if we're going to go down that road I'd like to have some idea how many high end high ROF guns are out there compared to the total of all paintball markers and players because it seems to me that if the "problem" can be that easily isolated to some small percent of players and guns it should really be easy to fix. Just quarantine that group and the problem is solved. So why hasn't it happened? Is everybody involved in paintball so dumb the obvious eludes them? Or is it something else?
For starters there are loads of non-high end high ROF guns in the marketplace, added to on a daily basis--by Tippmann, among many others. Some are tourney-type markers, many are not. A brief review of the Tippmann product line reveals 5 basic markers (discounting the pistol) all of which either come with or can be accessorized with an e-grip or reactive trigger mod advertised by Tippmann as capable of up to 15 bps. The same or something similar go for Kingman/Spyder and BT to name a couple other high volume brands. High ROF markers are ubiquitous--they are everywhere at virtually every price point.
Of course, it isn't just Tippmann. It's pretty much everybody. I only used them because they don't make competition markers and everyone routinely associates them with the recreational market, the entry market and newbie rentals. Paintball's problem, assuming there is a problem, isn't out of control tourney ballers shooting mysterious, magical super expensive high ROF markers at unsuspecting newbs. If there is a problem with high ROF markers it's PBIndustry's problem because everybody is making high ROF guns in every possible guise and selling them as fast as they can ship them out their doors. And if there is too much paint being flung too fast across fields around the country the vast majority of it is from guns and players that have nothing to do with competitive paintball.

So what's next? Either the industry is killing itself--or it isn't. If it is then blaming the the smallest segment of players won't solve it, only absolve those truly responsible.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

In the MS Bitburg is done (although complete scores for Malaga still aren't available.) (Did the league complete Malaga or didn't they?) In the CPL Dympact won both events. The Millennium is about 6 weeks out from the next event, London Campaign Cup, over the Fourth of July weekend.
For related 50 cal news check out Mr. Curious from yesterday along with the comments.
One other item of interest that may or may not be Millennium related was the sudden notification of a new Asian series supposedly tied to the Millennium that was even more abruptly pulled within hours of being posted. PALS already has a relationship with the MS & PSP so the initial claims of the new group was curious at best but the most intriguing part was how quickly everyone disavowed the claims. Considering the pace the MS board routinely exhibit somebody must have lit a fire underneath them this time to respond as Bitburg was finishing up to a claim half way around the world. For more info hit the Villian Paintball link on the sidebar. It's probably nothing but ...

For the not so Grand Tour another week means another registered team. Lviv registration now totals 18 teams.

Chicago Badlandz is about a month away and the PSP has 104 teams registered for Race 2-X and 60 teams registered for Race 2-2. Xball numbers for a Chicago event are solid (assuming the majority pay and play) while 5-man numbers continue to lag despite recent gains. Still lots of time and no idea what last minute additions will total although it seemed like Phoenix didn't have the usual last minute influx of teams the PSP has seen in the past. The Semi-pro bracket continues to weaken with Vipers, Fierce and Raiden definitely out and Elevation rumored to be shaky. And of the teams currently registered most will not actually play. (VFTD opinion as there's always a couple of "pretend" contenders who register.)

This coming weekend is NPPL Chicago at CPX Challenge Park. Actual tournament schedule to begin Saturday (not Friday) due to Memorial Day weekend. Final registration including Pro teams is 73 according to data available on NPPL website. (The possibility of last minute additions always exists.) The breakdown is 11 pump teams, 13 Pro teams, 5 D4 (5--man), 3 D3 (5-man), 20 D3 (7-man), 17 D2 (7-man) & 3 D1 (7-man). While the league can't very well turn teams away running divisions of 5 and fewer teams at a national level event is problematic. I won't guess at what these numbers mean other than to reiterate my view they are likely a more accurate reflection of the NPPL as a whole than were the HB numbers. Regardless, in combination with Living Legends and the CPX venue it should be a great opportunity for Midwestern ballers to come out and enjoy some paintball.

Monday, May 24, 2010

(The return of) The Monday Poll

A few days ago in the post, VFTD Needs You, I asked those of you who actually compete in the national events to drop me a line. To those who did: Thank you, it was (and still is) appreciated. Otherwise the response was less than stellar, which I should have expected given that y'all are world class slackers and all. So in order to perhaps get a better sense of what's happening on this particular topic I'ma try a Monday Poll. (Or, you know, you could belatedly drop me a line. Just a thought.)
I am limiting respondents to any player who has played a minimum of two national or international events anywhere in the last two years--but have not competed in a similar event this year. That includes Millennium, PALS World Cup and even CXBL as its draw is Canada-wide along with the NPPL & PSP. Let's also include any league that legitimately draws participants on a national scale even if they are smaller leagues.

Having played in past MLP events why haven't you played in one yet this year?

Mr. Curious Hears a Peep

There is this fellow in Montreal
Who imagines a paintball quite small
He was once a corporate whiz, genius and guru
Who liked strawberry but not chocolate Yoohoo
His latest idea he deems nifty
A paintball of caliber 50
But alas and a-lack it seems the public's too dim
To see the wisdom and profit behind GI Milsim

The word from Millenniumland is that Joy Division did not play with GI Milsim gats or with anything else shooting a 50 cal paintball but continued to shoot their traditional Angels. In related news it's reported that Boost Air Rennes, signed to exclusively shoot 50 cal, also didn't shoot small balls at Bitburg. No word on what guns they were using.

In other 50 cal in Euroland news Mr. C still can't find any official GI Milsim 50 cal marker sightings of guns for sale although there are reported to be Spyder 50 cal guns available to the paintballing public. (Reports are mixed. Some say there are guns in retailers hands, others say not, but it's hard to find confirmed units in players' hands.)

UPDATE: Mr. C's most diligent and prolific source in Euroland has discovered 2 players shooting 50 cal at Bitburg. They played for Consileum Dei's M5 entry and at least one of them was shooting a PE gun modified with the 50 cal kit. Go figure.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pro*file: Tommy O'Donnell

Name: Tommy O'Donnell
Age: 25
Hometown: Indianapolis
Occupation: Alta Brand Agency
Family: Brother Sean Mom Jo Ann Dad Tom
General interests other than paintball: Fresh threads and sick cars

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?
I found the field myself - no one introduced me to the game. The first time I played paintball was at Old Indiana Fun Park. Way back in the day they had a Renaissance Village. Then they quit funding it and what was left was a huge old school medieval town. Some smart guys converted it into a paintball field. Still to this day it was the coolest paintball field I've ever attended. A swim suit and white tee shirt was my outfit for the day, and I was hooked instantly.

2. What team do you play for now?
Indianapolis Mutiny

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
Venom, Atmosfear, Farside Kids, Farside, Miami Effect, St. Louis Avalanche, Chicago Aftershock
4. What role do you play on your current team?
Back center / insert on the field. Off the field I'm also a coach, mentor, motivator, sponsor and owner.

5. Who are your favorite paintball players?
Jon Richardson, Todd Martinez and Danny Tiljack

6. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
So far, winning the Las Vegas NPPL with all of my best friends on Farside in the Amateur division back in like '04.

7. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done in order to play paintball?
Drove in a rental mini van from Indianapolis to Washington DC to practice Arsenal, then drove back to Indianapolis. Then drove a rental mini van 2 days later from Indianapolis to Corona, CA to play the SC Village NPPL. Then drove home. Coast to coast in a van in a week.

8. What is the single most important lesson the up and comer needs to learn?
Stay hungry, stay humble, don't burn bridges, respect the OG's, don't talk shit behind people's backs and STAY ON THE GRIND. It took me 10 years of playing paintball to learn these things and many failed try outs before I went pro. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, grind and dedication.

9. What keeps you playing paintball?
I used to play paintball for all of my best friends on Farside back in the day on the amateur circuit. Then we all went pro together, then eventually the majority of them retired. At that point I had to figure out why I wanted to play paintball again. The answer came in the form of raising all of the NTK kids to go pro together with me. I play for all of them now.

10. Do you (or any of your teammates) have any superstitions related to playing paintball?
I gotta rock my Sandana. The one I currently have is about 9 years old and it's on its last leg. I've got a back up boy on deck though for when it finally gives out on me. I started in a Sandana and I will retire in one.

Thanks, Tommy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Promotion of Competitive Paintball as Commodity, Part 2

If you missed Part 1 here it is. (It was awhile ago.) Today's post picks up with the historic relationship between the major leagues and industry and with past efforts by the major leagues to promote competitive paintball beyond the pool of players. As well as PBIndustry and their customers (and potential customers.)

Where the PSP focused primarily on the pool of existing competitive players (while assuming a Field of Dreams faith in promulgating future players and teams) the NPPL went in a different direction, mostly because of differing philosophies. [Don't confuse the PSP with the NXL. Even though there are/were shared owners the two entities were viewed very differently. Think of the NXL as focused on TV and the PSP as focused on tourney play.] The NPPL was more proactive in reaching outside the boundaries of existing players to the wider pool of future players and possible fans with unique venues and more attention, energy and money spent on things like radio, flyers and attracting local media. (It strikes me as an open question whether the real goal, even then, was to be able to check off as many boxes on a list of to-do's as possible in the process of trying to draw in outside interest & sponsors.) In any case, over time, both leagues were frequently making similar efforts even if the emphases were different. Without judging the utility of the measures taken it's also relevant that part of the process was in putting (competitive) paintball in the public eye. Today most everyone knows (broadly) what paintball is but the more difficult job of differentiating kinds of paintball still exists as does the even more problematic effort to educate people about the sport.
With respect to (PB)Industry the MLP have followed similar patterns. Within the industry accepted norms were assumed--until they failed, more or less. Outside industry has proved to be (mostly) resistant to the charms of competitive paintball despite the valuable demographic and despite the potential promotional appeal. (Trust me, it's there. And, no, it isn't necessary for peeps to understand paintball to make use of paintball's action potential. There are reasons why it hasn't happened. I'll explain. Later.) Suffice to say that the leagues had a working formula for dealing with PBIndustry and insisted on swinging for the fences when it came to outside sponsors. They may not be swinging for the fences anymore but they also don't have the same product to sell anymore--but that hasn't seemed to alter the approach much.

When considering promotions by the industry we can see how their approaches and efforts are changing when it comes to reaching and influencing the pool of all current players. Whether it's new media or targeting a different segment of the player base or introducing new products simultaneously live and online the industry isn't doing anything new--but it is doing them in new ways. (Along with traditional methods where they still apply.)
Where MLP has, to my way of thinking, three basic avenues of promotions; existing players, industry, potential or former players--it's an open question whether the same applies to PBIndustry. So far we've the pool of existing players. Check. Add commercial partners--those PBIndustry sells to or through. Check. So what about potential players, potential customers? It certainly hasn't been a priority. (Of course it didn't need to be when loads of new players picked up the game without much effort, like fish jumping into the fisherman's boat.) It's also a fair question if drawing in new players is something PBIndustry can do. Largely it's been assumed to be the province of the local field and store.
In the past the routine avenues of promotion, magazines, etc. and later the internet were seen as being inclusive, appealing to both players and potential players while the frontline of fields and stores did the preliminary work and most of the interface between customer and industry was a product of marketing and accessibility. In the current environment the industry is rethinking its relationship(s) with the major leagues out of both necessity and a changing marketplace. Old assumptions are being reconsidered and the future offers no guarantees. Direct sales and the cyber storefront have broken down conventional sales and distribution methods and left the chain of commercial relationships in flux and pricing controls in flux. Across the board PBIndustry is struggling to maximize their marketing and promotions in a changing media environment, contending with a shrinking and changing products market and confronted with new challenges in efficiency, profitability and expanding the market.

Next time: If the old ways ain't working, what do we do? A few ideas. A new approach? First, the MLP. Then PBIndustry. I'll start you thinking with one word: education.

Enlistments of the Week

The great march forward continues thanks to VFTD's latest recruits; Alex Tessier, Vince & Aspri Nurhendra Santoso. Greetings & welcome. The Deadbox Puppet Army rolls on. Victory is certain.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WCPPL #2 Layout

This is a reasonably well balanced field with virtually no wasted bunkers in the sense that every prop can be played at almost any time. In particular the interior props are nicely conceived and uniquely playable during any phase of the game play. My only real question is how effective the snake positions are relative to their risk. They are fine when one side or the other is able to use them to dominate play but in an even up, highly contested scenario snake play devolves to a battle for control almost to the exclusion of its other properties. Again, not a defect but could result, with less experienced teams, in slow playing the snake side. The other factor that could tend towards a defensive or counter-punching play style is the fact Home has excellent control lanes on the D-side of the field and decent angles, given the orientation of the CKs in the snake, for suppressing a snake player.

The red lines show the basic OTB lanes from Home and the effective lanes Home has on the D-side to inhibit and/or control rotations up field on that wire. The orange lines display the most effective lanes the snake offers although both the back of the snake and the brick are playable. Countering the OTB lanes is the forward position of Home from the start and the bunker spacing at both corners. With the edging options available and the position of Home it is possible to neutralize or limit the effectiveness of the OTB lanes and add to that the corner spacing which will tend to force teams to shoot either a deep lane or a shallow lane and the result should be largely neutral even as it rewards speed, skill and tactical diversity.
And providing the basis for much of the tactical diversity are the green highlighted DZs (dead zones) that offer an almost infinite variety of hesitations, delays, and lane or zone shooting options that can also mask the primary bunker choice gives well schooled players and teams the opportunity to adjust and maneuver on the fly. (In the next week or so I'll break down how to use DZs as a variable element in a fixed breakout.) Also, with respect to DZs I mostly use the term as it applies to a standard Home shooter but in reality there are frequently multiple DZs with overlapping blindspots and the very best DZs are those that are blocked from as many positions on the other side of the field as possible. Even so the standard DZ allows the player to ignore the Home shooter and focus on some other objective during the initial stages of a breakout.
Returning to an earlier observation about interior bunker placement I've surrounded a couple of props in blue as examples. The Can, while being a high risk position, can be played from the beginning of a point due to the angles (and elevation) that are blocked. For instance the back of the snake has a shot but not a guaranteed kill. The brick has a better angle but the intervening Temple means the Can can safely be played low. So that movement thru the snake diminishes the Cans options and effectiveness but don't immediately eliminate the position. And proximity to other props means a Can player has viable movement options as well. Similarly the MT is a lane blocker, an alternative upfield move that can attack or contain the snake (or even access the snake) it offers proximity gunfighting but isn't at significant cross field laning risk until an opponent gains the 50 Dorito. This layout could also serve as a very good general practice field.
Despite elements that could conspire to slow things down there is no question this field favors the aggressor but then this is xball (Or Race 2) after all. And isn't that the way it ought to be?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

And the big winner this week is ... (drum roll please) the Millennium Series! Not altogether unexpected but the measure of their victory was. In the final week the league nearly doubled open division registration for Bitburg from 22 to 43 teams including 10 homegrown German teams. That result leaves the MS only 4 (open) teams behind last year's turnout when it looked like a very soft turnout was possible.
Matches begin Thursday for the CPL make-up event with SPL & D1 beginning make-ups on Friday morning and open divisions playing a normal schedule.
One aspect of this year' MS series schedule I hadn't accounted for yet is the move from 5 events down to 4 events. Thinking about it I suspect it helped the league in encouraging some teams to but up a division to help fill in the locked divisions what with lower season entry fees and rumors of jiggling the licensing fees in some instances. At the end of the day it appears whatever level of frustration and cynicism some of the Euros feel over Malagas past (et cetera) hasn't impacted the MS too harshly to date.
And perhaps we'll get the answer to what gat is Joy shooting in the next couple of days? And what caliber it is.

Coming in second place this week is the PSP with registered teams increasing at least 17 over last week. I say at least because during the past week the Pro division was separated from other Race 2-X teams forcing me to rely on incomplete notes and recollections to get the increase correct. (It could be two or three more.) At any rate both Race 2-2 and Race 2-X registrations went up with nearly half paid as the first entry increase deadline passed last week as well. While a definite positive it still leaves the PSP well short of traditional Race 2-2 numbers. On the plus side registrations have increased 22 teams in the last two weeks and if that were to continue final event numbers would likely look quite good. We shall see.
As I'm expecting no more than 5 semi-pro teams for Chicago I wonder if that leaves the option open for the league to reinstate our 4th prelim event? Hmmm.

Showing is the NPPL as their Chicago CPX event deadline rapidly approaches. They were +5 for the week bringing non-Pro registrations to 60 teams across all divisions of play and up to 73 when everyone is included. Of the 60 teams 9 are listed as not yet paid. On the cusp is the D3 5-man and D1 7-man divisions as each only have 3 paid teams each so no telling how that will shake out for the actual event.

Rounding out the list is the not so Grand Tour as they added only 1 team to their registration for the Lvov event. The total now stands at 17 teams but there's still time as the event takes place in the later part of June.

Otherwise it's quiet out there. Perhaps too quiet. So if you know something new or noteworthy don't hesitate to post it up in the comments or drop me a line. Till next week.

VFTD Needs You

I need your help. Yes, you. (Okay, maybe not you specifically but hear me out.) I'd like to hear from players, captains, owners of teams that have played 2 or more national events in the last two years but have not (yet) played a national event this year. Drop me a line at Baca's email if you would. I'd like to ask you a few questions. I will be posting on the responses but won't post any reply or comment for attribution without prior permission. Who better to help explain the current environment than the people and players who have been there and done that? And if you know somebody who fits the bill but isn't a regular reader please encourage them to participate as well.

Also, took care of a little light housekeeping. There were a few noticeable cobwebs gathering in the corners. I've added a new link to Paintball Sites Around The Web with Infopaintball. Looks like Vince has a bit of all sorts of things going on. I've also dropped a few Paintblogs due to extended periods of inactivity--and I could have cut the numbers further than I did--so if your paintblog is still there but you've been slacking I hope this encourages you to be more active. (Or else.) Besides, I could use the company.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Keeping it Real: The Rest of the Rant

Last Friday, short on time and more than normally agitated I posted Keeping It Real in which I had begun intending to make one point but (sorta) made another one instead. The point I was intending to make is that all the qualities that sports fans admire are the very same qualities that drive more than a few pro paintballers to give up virtually everything but paintball. If you truly admire drive, desire, dedication and an indomitable spirit to succeed then which athlete is putting more on the line to win; the guy making millions or the guy eating baloney sandwiches so he can go to practice?

I'm not saying these guys deserve to be idolized or that I think it's the wisest option for the future but it's easy to idolize the super rich super famous sports star and I'm wondering if the object of that adulation isn't getting all mixed up in some peeps minds. Because you can't say Kobe Bryant is great because of the traits he displays on the court if you won't say the same for a player like Alex Fraige. Do you admire their character and the qualities that make them great performers or do you admire (and envy) the result? For every kid out there talkin' about the grind there's three others belittling their motivation and unwillingness to compromise. So which is it?

Monday Poll in Review

Last week's question wanted to know what was your first introduction to paintball. The responses were fairly typical but instructive nonetheless. For all the Average Joe Ballers out there clamoring for friends taking friends to play paintball--you were right. It was the number one response by a huge margin. More people were introduced to paintball by a friend than the next three largest vote getters combined. And if friends bringing friends to play paintball is by far and away the most commonplace method how many local fields encourage the practice with special promotions and/or discounts? (I have no idea. But back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I don't recall the local field(s) I played at doing stuff quite like that. It was more like discounts based on past purchases or group related discounts.)
Anyway, rounding out the votes magazines garnered 5% as did TV (5%) with other media straggling in at 2%. Parties (16%), Outings (12%) & Other (14%) rounded out the other significant vote recipients. Some percentage of "Other" votes probably could have gone into one of the defined categories as well but mostly seemed to amount to stumbled across paintball from something seen or read or from a friend or acquaintance.

So who's going to organize a national Take a Friend to Play Paintball Day?

For the observant among you--Yes, you've guessed correctly and there is no new Monday Poll this week. If you've got an idea or are curious about something feel free to post up your Monday Poll suggestions in the comments. Or you could go crazy and comment on the post. Just throwing it out there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pro*file: Colt Roberts

Name: Colt Roberts
Age: 28
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Occupation: HVAC Lead Installer
Family: Don and Deborah Roberts (parents), Desiree Mauldin (my love), Foxy (Pomeranian), JC (Bengal Cat), and Moses (Flame Point Siamese).
General interests other than paintball: Big time gamer nerd, any sport you name it, ancient civilizations.

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?
Originally I decided to start playing because of a group of my High School friends. They all had this great idea to buy guns and start playing. This really got my attention because I had always wanted to try it and was finally at a point financially that I could. So I go to the local paintball store and buy all my stuff. I was bad with my Spyder 2000 for sure. Turns out I would be the only one to actually get the equipment so after a month of it collecting dust I went back to the store and asked the manager where a good place to play was. He told me about the field that he was playing out of called Lonestar. So I went Sunday morning ready to play and soon found out that it was team practice on Sunday mornings. So I decided to jump in and next thing I knew I was on a team that day playing a tournament the following weekend. After that I was hooked and have been playing tournament paintball ever since.

2. What team do you play for now?
San Antonio X-Factor

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
TBA, Fuel, TX Storm, Avalanche, Arsenal, Naughty Dogs, X-Factor.

4. What role do you play on your current team?
Corner or snake insert. Unless needed somewhere else. I'll play anywhere.

5. Who are your favorite paintball players?
Dave Bains, Bobby Aviles, Frankenstein from old Russian Legion.

6. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
Winning Huntington Beach Pro (X-Factor) and the Smart Parts World Championship (Naughty Dogs)

7. What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve done in order to play paintball?
We drove from San Antonio, TX to Atlantic City, NJ and camped just to play Novice 5 man. We ended up taking second so it wasn't a total waste of time.

8. What is the single most important lesson the up and comer needs to learn?
Play people better than you every chance you get. That's the only way to get better. If you don't believe me just go out to your local tournament and look for the teams that have been playing rookie 3 man for 22 years. Learn that and learn respect. Don't run in thinking you're some hot shot that deserves a full ride when you've only played rookie 5 man.

9. What keeps you playing paintball?
I still love to play. Not to mention I'm competing at the pinnacle of the sport. I just can't walk away.

10. Do you (or any of your teammates) have any superstitions related to playing paintball?
Grayson Goff has to stay up all night playing wizard games before a match.

VFTD: Thanks, Colt. Way to throw Grayson under the bus. Things have been kinda slow, rumor-wise, lately so maybe you can blow this up into an ongoing feud. For the kids. Just a suggestion. While we're at it--Let's hear it Grayson. We need to know more about your wizard games.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Keeping It Real

If you stopped by looking for a new Pro*file check back tomorrow. (Yes, Friday is the regularly scheduled day when I have some and I do--but not today. I'ma little busy.) The Pro*file was getting bumped a day in order to post on this weekend's WCPPL field layout--which should play well except things may bog down a bit in the snake--only I simply don't have time to do it right and do it today. Should be posted Sunday (or Monday) so y'all playing the event can tell me if I got it right or not.

What I do want to comment on today is a conversation that occurred on one of my local sports talk radio channels while I was on the road earlier. The subject was LeBron James and what a loser he is. How he'll never be another Michael Jordan or even another Kobe Bryant even if he is a billionaire by the time he's thirty. The conversation annoyed me on so many levels it's hard to keep track of them all. How much I despise the star system that is the modern NBA; how much some sports figures are deified; how easily and superficially the same guys are then crucified and over the most trivial of things. How completely detached from reality do you have to be to see things that way? I guess that makes Mr. Local Sports Radio Talk Guy the ultimate loser 'cus he isn't ever going to win or lose anything of a similar nature while he pulls down that not-quite-a-major-market-afternoon slot-on-an-afterthought-station paycheck. And could somebody please tell me how many championships Mike won all by himself? Just what is it that affords the Jordans and Bryants and opportunity to be idolized? What if Jordan wasn't a basketball player? What if, instead he was a car salesman or a garbage collector?

Look, I agree with this much--if LeBron has to win a title carrying a team and a city on his back it isn't going to happen. It's foolish to believe otherwise because it doesn't happen--not even for Micheal Jordan. And James isn't Jordan. He doesn't have the iron will or the pathological self-confidence. Yet, despite appearances it remains a team game. But what's really at the bottom of all this? If Michael Jordan or LeBron James were paintball players some would still idolize them but mostly they'd be told to grow up, get a life, quit wasting their time and figure out before it's too late that paintball is a dead end.

Enlistments for the Week

Y'all don't make world domination easy. But that's okay. The DPA (Deadbox Puppet Army)--see the sidebar (d'oh!)--is pleased to report two new recruits this week.
VFTD welcomes Mike (Yo, Mike) & dave skeen (hey dave) to the ranks of the DPA.

As for the rest of you lazy slackers it's not if but when. World domination may seem like an impossibility, it's not; it's an inevitability. Take your cue from dave. He didn't bother with an avatar or anything fancy and I bet it took only a minute so there's no excuse. It's simple really, join the DPA or be a forgotten footnote in the annals of history. No pressure.

UPDATE: Not that I'm about name dropping but there's a new recruit today jumped on board. One of the original wild & crazy kids, T-Hump, Tyler Humphrey. No fancy avatar, no flashy look at me. Go on, check it out. Hey, T, wassup? Thanks and say hey to everybody.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Paintball 101

If you haven't read yesterday's post, Competitive Paintball as Recreation?, check it out before you continue here. (Or don't. Doesn't affect me one way or the other but this one will be better understood in the context of yesterday's post. However, I believe in your freedom to choose. Besides, screwing up here doesn't entail bitter, crushing consequences. Not unlike if you worked for Goldman Sachs apparently. But alas, no six figure bonuses.)

The weak link in yesterday's suggestion is that merely hanging around a paintball field doesn't imbue the average slacker with the skills or knowledge of the game by osmosis. And the principle pleasure in playing a competitive style of paintball is in matching wit and skill against your opponents. Unlike newbie paintball where the big thrills are the unknown, the consequent adrenaline rush and getting to shoot at people (and get shot at) all forms of competitive style play require varying degrees of knowledge and skills.
What? Oh, quit your whining. Yes, sure, woodsball and all the traditional forms of recreational play benefit from player knowledge and skill too but it isn't a perquisite. Don't get me wrong. A group of first timers could play on a speedball field and have a great time but it isn't the field that distinguishes styles of play. The new player plays any kind of field largely on instinct and with the aid perhaps of a few tips from friendly temporary teammates.

(Tangential thought: has anybody considered the possibility paintball loses players to boredom? Here's a separate post topic for you while I'm at it: How Do Newbies Learn To Play Paintball?)

One reason I suggested more optional competitive style play for recreational purposes is because I believe the game has more depth, is more demanding and more satisfying as a player begins to learn more about playing the game. Anybody can play but not everybody can play well. And learning to play well brings with it a whole new level of reward that has nothing to do with winning or losing. It also provides additional reasons and motivations to play. It's okay to feel lost and confused the first time. Not so much the tenth time. Or so it seems to me. But there also needs to be someone (or a number of someones) available and willing to teach new players (or long time rec players who want more from paintball) how to play the game; the fundamental tactics and the basic techniques.

How many fields use their field team as weekend referees? Has anybody ever assigned one or two of them to teach interested regulars more about how to play the game? How many local fields offer free classes? Doesn't need to be an all day dealio or particularly rigorous. How about 2 classes a month? One for beginners and one more advanced. How long would it take before players started showing up because of the classes? And how long would it take before they wanted more?
This isn't a cunning plan to create more tourney players though I think it likely would. But if local fields mixed the idea of educating their customers and offering them a more eclectic variety of play, who knows, it might go a long way towards building a long term, more loyal customer base playing paintball the way they want to play.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Competitive Paintball as Recreation?

Another detour before returning to the subject of promotions. (Like you didn't know this was gonna happen. I am nothing if consistently inconsistent.)

Between the recent post, 'No Easy Answers' and the comments engendered here's what I'm thinking. The PSP is swell as is their Big Plan for universalizing player classification and creating a horizontal network of related (by format & rules) regional events that uniformly provide a vertical path (or ladder) of competition that culminates in an exclusive pro division. Terrific.
But it may still be too much. Regardless of division this is serious competitive paintball, top to bottom. (Despite dumbing the format down from xball matches to Race 2-whatever.) It's a fast paced, athletically demanding game aimed at a narrow, youthful demographic. Which again, is awesome when you're talkin' hardcore paintball as sport. But it also excludes a lot of paintball players. It may be it really does cater to the One Percenters.
At the other end of the spectrum is the newb and occasional rec player (plus some percentage of your average walk-on/scenario/Big Game types) who don't have any readily recognizable paintball skills. (Oh please, it's true and everybody knows it.) Could be they don't know any better but whatever--they enjoy playing the game the way they play it. It seems to me that leaves a lot of middle ground and includes a majority of paintball players--even pump players--who understand the rudiments of the game and either want to learn more or find more challenges within paintball without going to the tournament extreme. After all, wasn't that part of the point with the introduction of speedball?

Which is one reason why I'm all in favor of the (attempted) resurgence of woods-based tourney ball along with the crossover type events like the UWL or the SPPL. But even with those additions (alternatives?) there's still a big gap between that sorta paintball and what happens in the PSP (or the NPPL for that matter.) A few months ago I tossed out the idea of a mechanical marker tournament event in order to bring the competitive game closer to the typical paintballer. (And there's no reason it couldn't work and be a lot of fun except perhaps that nobody wants to do it that way anymore--although if they gave it a try I think it would change a lot of minds. Be that as it may--) The CFOA is experimenting with 3-man and pump only events are making a comeback. What all of these have in common is a tournament organization and a presumption of rudimentary paintball skills.

But what about the players who don't want to make the move into organized tourney play but want something more from their paintball experience than the same game they got the first time they played? There is a broad diversity of ways to play competitive paintball and I don't see why it should be the exclusive property of tournament competition. For example, not everybody who enjoys playing basketball plays with the same level of skill, natural ability or desire to be the best. But you don't have to be working for a college scholarship to want to play a more demanding version of the game than the one you play in your neighbor's driveway. And it seems to me that there is a largely untapped opportunity to provide competitive style paintball in a more relaxed, less organized way as an option of play at the local level. Every second Saturday might feature an informal 3-man "event" on the speedball field. (Or alternate months using a woodsball field.) No entry, no prizes, regular field refs, restrict as desired and let the players play. Just for fun. Sure, maybe it's a little extra work but not much beyond taking the time and making the effort to promote it to everyone who comes through the doors. (Yes, I know, there are fields that do stuff like this, just not enough.)

And of course there is one thing missing. I'll be covering that in the next post, Paintballl 101.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

As the time winds down on the next two events in the major league season, Chicago NPPL & MS Bitburg, the sound of the ticking clock is getting louder and louder--at least for those with a stake in the outcome. Both leagues will close registration sometime within the next two weeks and do so with lower team totals than they hoped.

In Millennium land there are 66 locked division teams, For a goodly number this will be their first event of the season. (No word from the MS on what the locked division teams opted to do, accept forfeits and complete their remaining Malaga matches or take an average score, but we should see once a make-up schedule is released.) Last week there were only 15 open division teams registered. That leaped up to 22 today with two of the open divisions in single digits for registrations.
The unknown in this equation is how many open division teams had made prior arrangements to compete at Bitburg and are waiting until the last minute to register and pay. The trend has been toward softness in the open division participation (which doesn't bode well for the future especially as the league cannibalized the lower divisions in order to try and fill up the locked divisions.) Last year Bitburg had 47 open division teams while Malaga '09 had 77 compared to '10 having 60 registered. (And there is a discrepancy between registrations and those receiving ranking points after the event which may be accounted for with no-shows.)

Back in the U.S. of A. the NPPL linked to current registrations within the last few days and the numbers are predictable if not what the league was probably hoping for. Given our recent polls 5-man registrations are about where I would've guessed compared to PSP Chicago 5-man numbers with both being very soft. Leaving the pro teams out of the calculation there are currently 55 teams registered for the CPX Chicago event over Memorial Day weekend. Of that number it appears 10 have yet to pay their entry. More interestingly approximately 23 of the 55 teams are repeats from HB which puts new registrants at 32. As I've suggested in past MLP updates the Chicago numbers are likely a better reflection of the NPPL's drawing power than HB but even there I discovered a discrepancy. In looking for teams playing Chicago that played HB it seems only 103 teams received ranking points in HB--which is odd given the league was supposed to have sold out the event with 120 teams total. I don't profess to be a math whiz but I counted the numbers twice so I'm confident I didn't miss 17 teams.
UPDATE: Seems raehl was correct (even a blind squirrel etc. etc.) and the NPPL simply didn't bother to rank the D4 5-man teams. Or hasn't gotten around to it yet but they were listed on the HB schedule.

Skipping over to the PSP the Race 2-X registrations have been fluctuating up & down a little bit this past week leaving the total today similar to last week's total. There's always some of that as new teams register in the wrong divisions and others change their plans. It is however looking like we're about to see the whole semi-pro division falter as word comes out that Vipers S-P is done for now along with rumors of Raiden's demise--with the prospect of more to follow. 5-man registrations rose 33% which sounds impressive only because the number was low to begin with. Today's total--when I checked--was 40 Race 2-2 teams registered. That number needs to double to put the total number of registered teams in the ballpark of recent Chicago events. The first payment deadline is coming up later in the week so for those who want to keep their entry costs as low as possible it's that time.

The not so Grand Tour has posted results (finally) for Venice along with some links to a few photo galleries. The next event is Lvov in late June and there are 16 teams currently signed up including the 8 pro teams that played Venice. The event got some media coverage (newspaper) in Poland but not in the sports section. Something closer to the Style or Gossip section of the paper. Seems one of Warsaw United's players is a C-list celebrity TV actor who passed out briefly at the event after getting shot in the head. It was attributed to dehydration--though commenters to the online version were inclined to blame previous alcohol consumption--and the player assured everyone he wasn't put off and would continue to play. There were photos attached and the claim that paintball was a growing hobby in Poland. So any press is good press, right?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Monday Poll

It's nostalgia time this week for some of you--while others go, huh, what's nostalgia? (Try a dictionary, kids.) The Monday Poll this week wants you to go back, back, back to your earliest recollections of paintball. (Mr. Peabody, his boy, Sherman, and the Wayback Machine are available for the oldest of the Old Skool amongst y'all.) I'm curious as to how you first heard about paintball and/or what prompted your first paintball experience? Did you see a copy of APG at the 7-11? Were you invited to a birthday party? Did you drive-by a local field?
I'ma give you seven (mostly self-explanatory) choices and if you pick 'Other'--I know I'm wasting my breath--please post up in comments what that 'Other' was. Otherwise your choices are: magazine, TV, other media (like a tourney DVD, a paintball website, etc.), Friend, Party Invitation & Outing (church group, corporate event, etc.) (but nothing to do with sexual orientation unless it was an outing outing.)
Last week was another excellent turnout. It seems the VFTD Rock The Vote campaign is working. Remember, only you can prevent forest fires so get out there and vote!

Monday Poll in Review
For those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder a reminder: Last week's poll wanted to know which firing mode you preferred for tournament play given the fact all guns would be set-up the same. I provided only 4 options; uncapped semi-auto (21%), capped semi-auto (22%), MS style capped ramping (14%) and PSP mode capped ramping (41%). My interest was in gauging how much difference it makes when teams and players decide to plunk down their cash and play an event. I was curious mostly because every recent incarnation of the NPPL has made "semi-auto" a point of pride and there are those who believe it helps sell the league. And because in the previous week's Monday Poll the Gun Rules option didn't get a single vote as the most important factor when deciding what event(s) to play.
Even if Gun Rules won't make or break a decision to compete the numbers for the semi-auto crowd are stronger than I expected with 43% preferring some version of semi-auto compared to PSP's 41%. That suggests one of two things; either lots of old diehards skewed the results or even some percentage of regular PSP players would like semi-auto in some form. (Y'all realize in the context of electronic markers "semi-auto" is nearly meaningless, right?) So gun rules continue to polarize opinions but they don't rise to the level of pushing players from one format to another. At least not in enough numbers for the powers that be to reconsider--in either direction.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pro*file: Aaron Tholey

Name: Aaron Tholey
Age: 27
Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota
Occupation: Paintball some how/some way.
Family: Amber(sister), Deez(dog)
General interests other than paintball: I'm really into music and the culture surrounding it. Tattoo's and art in general. Built cars and bikes, Jiu Jitsu (not MMA). Hockey, Firearms, and of course the most important; family and friends.

1. What was your first paintball experience and who introduced you to the game?
I actually found it with a buddy of mine, we were very young. It started out with us playing nerf. After lots of cheating we decided we needed something that could identify if your hit. We did yard work all summer and bought cheap pump guns. I was hooked ever since. That was over 13 years ago now.

2. What team(s) do you play for now?
Indianapolis Mutiny (NPPL), Sacramento XSV (PSP), Kingsey Falls Kamikaze's (CXBL)

3. What teams have you played for in the past?
Vintage, Them, Division, Impulse, Ignition, Texas Storm, Studio City Ice Men, Miami Rage, Miami Effect, Miami Hatecrew, Philly Americans, New Jersey Jesters, RNT, Chicago Aftershock, Sacramento XSV, Geelong Extreme, Kingsey Falls Kamikaze's and Indianapolis Mutiny.

4. What role do you play on your current team?
Off the field I look out for our squads best interest. On the field I'm just another soldier.

5. Who are your favorite paintball players?
Wow. There are so many. I admire a lot of the old guard: Old Aftershock, Lockout, Bob Long's Ironmen, and Strange. All of Mutiny. Player wise: Ryan Moorhead, Nate Cota, Dan Norcross, Adam FarEY, Z. Long, Markus, Bwing, and Damien Ryan. It should also be noted that Damien is the best player in the world.

6. What’s your best paintball experience or memory?
Starting a Pro team with all my friends, with no money or help and actually making it. No one has any idea what we have been through.

7. What is the most ridiculous thing you've ever done in order to play paintball?
I hate to say this but I make the rounds of the old folks homes dancing with octogenarians for cash under the table. [May not be Aaron's actual answer because he may have missed this question. I'm just saying.]

8. What is the single most important lesson the up and comer needs to learn?
"Play Smart, not Hard." Frank Connell taught me that when I was on Philly through a really cool lesson. I also think that you need to play for the right reasons and check yourself at the door.

9. What keeps you playing paintball?
I fucking love it. Plain and simple.

10. Do you have any superstitions related to playing paintball?
Yes actually. Before I went pro one of the guys who helped me along the way gave me a first generation brand new flying skulls Sandana headband. I brought it home and pinned it high up on my wall in my room where I could see it everyday. I made it my goal that I would wear it one day and it was my reward once I became a pro player. Once I achieved that, I've worn it ever since. After we won Texas NXL I had my mom sew the words, "Never Forget" on the sweat band on the inside. Now every time I play right before I put my head band on I look at those words and take a few seconds to remind myself and "Never Forget" where I came from, why I play this game, and what I have to do on the field. I also think headbands need to be given to you by someone you look up to or admire. In a way they are sacred to a paintball player and I think that kind of thing is overlooked these days.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No Easy Answers

Is not an excuse for failing to look for answers. It's a recognition of reality. In comments to The Monday Poll post this week raehl suggested uncapped semi-auto hopperball and Don (tongue in cheek, if not firmly) suggested no batteries equals true semi-auto. My purpose here isn't to dissect the merits of either suggestion but rather to point out two or three factors in play when we try to "solve" various of the presumed "problems" with competitive paintball using their suggestions as a springboard.

Arc of Development
James Naismith invented basketball but nobody sets up peach baskets at either end of the floor anymore. In fact the dimensions of the modern competitive game aren't always uniform depending on the level of play. And nobody playing football eschews the forward pass today because it wasn't part of the original game or utilizes the wing T formation much anymore beyond a few high schools--and even they may have moved on. My point is simple; the game is constantly evolving and it's difficult, if not impossible, to resist. MLB has held a line with wooden bats and NASCAR uses restrictor plates on some circuits but even well-established sports aren't immune.

Arc of Technology
Much of the driving force behind changes in competitive paintball has been technology. (And behind the technology is the ever present desire to make a buck. D'oh!) While technology itself is neutral it easily and often outpaces our ability to consider the end result. Producers are looking to profit. Ultimately the players, collectively, decide if it's something they want or not. Sorta. In the long term. In the short term the balance can be tipped to favor the producers. And thru much of competitive paintball's short history that has occurred because producers also controlled the competitive game. Including the rules. And as technology has bumped up against the rules it is the rules that have changed to accommodate technology with, as far as I can tell, virtually no concern for the outcome. However, (for whatever consolation it might be) regardless of how some might choose to apportion blame within this process changing technologies are an unavoidable factor and will eventually find a balance between the producers and the users

The Will of the Players
Despite the fact most of you are sheep y'all eventually get around to only buying and playing the brand of paintball you really want to. Mostly. For purposes of this post that means the 13 year old who kinda sorta wants to play tourney ball doesn't want to play hopperball or some variant of low ROF. And it doesn't matter if he only thinks that's what he wants. And it's not some PBIndustry conspiracy that there are high ROF Spyders & Tippmanns or tons of DMs and Egos out in the woods. Players are buying and shooting the guns (goggles, packs, hoppers, etc.) they want to. Sure the choices have limitations but as long as there are choices players will do what they want--including quitting playing paintball.

Nothing Happens in Isolation
Decisions are like dominoes, one leads to the next--whether it was the intended next or not. So what about raehl's uncapped semi-auto hopperball? If it's an answer what's the question? How many players per side? What size field? Is there an age component? Is it a beginner's format? Have you ever tried shooting a high ROF electro with a real gravity fed hopper? It's like owning a Ferrari and being unable to leave Manhattan. My point isn't to nit-pick the examples, it's to demonstrate there are no simple solutions. Why aren't Young Guns divisions with age restrictions more popular if ROF is the problem? Are there really too few players interested in competitive paintball or too few mentors and captains to lead and organize?

All the pieces of the puzzle must be accounted for. If you do it right there aren't any leftover pieces. Here's another example. Not a great one because I don't know enough of the details but I am intrigued by the CFOA's efforts to promote 3-man. Once upon a time 3-man was a staple local tourney option. It seems like a no-brainer for entry level play but what happened to it? Will the CFOA's efforts be rewarded? Is it being played with any restrictions? On Race 2 field layouts? Is it working or isn't it? Why or why not? The uncertainty surrounding competitive paintball these days can be a frustrating struggle--but it is also an opportunity. Just not one subject to easy answers.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Major League Paintball on Suicide Watch

Short and sweet today, kids, 'cus I'm busy filling out permit forms. Need more guns and a zoning waiver so I can put razor wire on top of my security fence. (The paperwork is brutal.) And this is just phase one. Alternatively I wonder if I can emigrate to Bermuda? Hmm.

The not so Grand Tour's Italy event across the lagoon from Venice (probably) went off without issue last weekend. I say probably because there's no scores, no results, no reports or anything else posted at the GT website regarding their first event of the season. (The scores are posted at for those of you who can't wait to find out what happened.) The Grand Tour--working hard to keep the "not so" alive and kicking. In the pro division Syndicate dropped a match, the Bullets got thumped and inquiring minds want to know who the heck are the Carpathian Bears?
I'd like to hear from anyone who was there what they thought of the venue and event in general.

With less than 3 weeks to go until Bitburg the open divisions (D2, D3, M5) cumulative registration stands at 15 teams. I expect more to jump in as the days draw down and it will be interesting to see how little support Bitburg gets from the German teams. Also no word from the MS or the effected locked division teams on the apparent "plan" for resolving the Malaga mess as noted in last week's MLP update. Either the MS options seemed fair and reasonable to all involved or the teams continue to get what they deserve.

NPPL Chicago is the final weekend of May and while it's been suggested the league would soon--prior to last weekend--release rosters so folks can see who is planning on playing as of this writing that hadn't yet happened. No point in speculating although it seems to me the longer the league waits the greater the likelihood the numbers aren't all that positive.

PSP Chicago 5-man registrations remain soft, very soft. If I recall correctly the typical registration trend was that 5-man teams usually signed up early, excited by the prospect of participation because it was a one off or first of the year with actual entry payments coming much later as teams either realized they weren't going to manage or finally scrapped the needed funds together. I don't if that has been the norm but it seems like it has. (Faction [raehl] may know better.) Anyway of the 123 teams registered 75% are Race 2-X which could put this year's xball turnout slightly ahead of last year but both Chicago and WC have had outsized turnouts largely on the basis of 5-man participation in recent years.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Monday Poll

Good turnout last week, kids. Thanks. The more the merrier. (The rest of you are still a pack of slackers.)

This week I'm gonna keep the trend going and use an element of last week's poll as the basis for this week's poll question. The aspect of last week's poll that surprised me the most was the big fat goose egg on the Gun Rules option. Nobody--not a one--picked gun rules as the most important factor in choosing a 5-man national event to compete in. Which may not be a big deal but hasn't one of the factors touted by the 7-man crowd always been the whole semi-auto thing? Come on. Maybe it doesn't translate and maybe it's the number two choice of 50% of the voters. Who knows? We will. After this week's Monday Poll.

What firing mode would you most like to use in tournament play?

There it is. Keep in mind when answering that whatever mode you choose is, hypothetically, the one everyone would be using. Keep the streak intact. Keep those votes a-coming.

Monday Poll in Review
Don't know about y'all but I'm not sure how to interpret this one--but I'll give it a shot--and you can disagree. Even though I suggested ways to apply each option I am inclined to associate most of them with one league or the other except entry and layout. How entry got 11% of the vote is a complete mystery unless it's in comparison to the alternatives. (Which means you've already decided to attend a national level event and chose 5-man 'cus it's cheaper. Would love to hear somebody who picked entry explain their thinking.) And layout was a throw away really but you never know. While Vibe could go either way (I suppose) it's the NPPL that pushed the total tourney experience. Venue is similar. Sure, you might think World Cup but more likely HB and all the past NPPL hype, stadium parking lots notwithstanding. Officiating seems to me to be a net plus for the PSP. Doesn't mean it's been better all the time (but is has, by and large) only that the PSP has always done a better job of communicating their effort and desire to make reffing a priority. And coaching in this context is really about who objects to it more than who approves of it--so picking coaching was probably a negative choice. Preferring NPPL because it has no (legal) coaching. Finally format could go either way and some lesser percentage no doubt favored NPPL by format but going by last week's results I'm assuming the majority made a positive choice favoring xball style paintball. If I'm ballpark the bulk of format and officiating reflects a favorable perception of the PSP while vibe and coaching votes reflect a NPPL orientation.
As always there isn't an iota of scientific analysis involved but it's still intriguing--and best of all, like all proper statistics, allows me to manipulate the data however I please.

Syndicate Dissected

Since I'm on a promotions kick at the moment and teams are also beginning to discover new ways to promote themselves--largely through video--(and the kids at Syndicate were kind enough to drop their newest in my mailbox) I'ma take this opportunity to comment on the trend. (Part 1 is in the link and from part 1 you can link directly to part 2. Check them out. They are well executed, underplay the commercial [industry] connection and include a player line-up and serve as one of the better examples to date.)

From Josh and the other delinquents on Impact "roamin'" all over the world to every wannabe Patrick Spohrer out there filming at dozens of fields around the world the potential reach of YouTube style video is almost limitless. Traditional media once dictated who was worthy of attention and who wasn't. And while some of the same qualifiers are relevant nobody is limited in the ways they once were. Which is fantastic but the more ubiquitous this sort of promotion becomes the harder it's going to be to stand out from the crowd. One more needle in a haystack of needles is quickly lost--and forgotten. As are--at least in my never to be humble opinion--the endless action snippets available on dozens of DVDs and homemade videos. Sure, once a while something stands out but not all that often. The challenge is--and will remain--to create a unique take on the wide world of paintball and hope it connects. For example, look at Vicious. Vicious has taken the role of blue collar up-by-their-own-bootstraps team rising thru the ranks that has wide appeal with rank & file divisional players perhaps in part because they're perceived as being more like the average player and because they've succeeded and fulfilled the dream. Will the image last? How will other teams choose to promote themselves? What will work and what will fail? It's not a one size fits all world, the possibilities are nearly endless.

See America & Play the PSP

No, I'm not shilling for the PSP. (But I do feel a little dirty bringing this up.) I received an interesting (for once) email from the league today--as did everyone else on their mailing list--suggesting an economical alternative to high priced plane tickets. Amtrak. Rail. The network of commuter and passenger cross country train travel. (The link is in the title.) The sample fares are seriously cheap--though I'm assuming they are one way--but I don't know. Regardless the PSP is being proactive and making practical moves to encourage participation. And that's worth mentioning particularly as VFTD is in the middle of a series of posts on promotions.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Promotion of Competitive Paintball as Commodity, Part 1

Long title. Sounds kinda boring. Probably is kinda boring. Probably not particularly relevant for the majority of even this blog's readers. Fortunately none of those things dissuade me in the slightest.

I've been reviewing the recent history of major league self-promotion and competitive paintball promotion in general and it falls into three categories; promotion to the pool of potential customers (peeps who already play); promotion within the PBIndustry and promotion to the wider, non-playing public. And within these categories you have sub-groups. For example, when it comes to potential customers there are regional competitive players, recreational players, etc. Industry promotion is about building reciprocal relationships and support for the leagues. Among the non-playing public there are sports fans, adrenaline junkies, spoiled rich kids, video game shut-ins, The Most Dangerous Game wannabes, Real Housewives of Orange County and assorted corporate simulacrum with nothing in common except an unspent pile of marketing cashola. (Some are more likely targets than others.) In all cases I think there's, let's just say, room for improvement.

So what exactly have the Big Leagues done to promote themselves to the pool of likely paintball players? When there was only one league the answer is damn little. (Think Millennium Series.) With the split came competition between the leagues. That competition resulted in actual substantive improvements. Improvements that could be used in the promotion of the leagues--but not promotion per se. But don't get caught up in the conventional wisdom that says the competition between leagues created an unsustainable product and level of expectation. (That part of the competition wasn't about the players it was about the Race 2-TV.)

Once upon a time promotion was mostly assumed--if anybody bothered to spend anytime thinking about it. There are competitive paintball teams out there who will rise to the national/international challenge, right? Cool. With the split to 2 competing leagues and 2 formats promotion began to matter. And that promotion largely focused on philosophies and differences; primarily formats (7-man vs. 10-man & xball) & focus. By focus I mean the NPPL was selling an experience--the perpetual paintball party--while the PSP was selling paintball as legit sport. The methods (and means) were, and remain (mostly) mundane, lacking creativity. Email blasts for past players on a list, announcements on paintball forums, ads in magazines. The latest invention, video clips. (Some of which have been good.) But if survival is at stake shouldn't there be more?

Next time more about where promotions are now--and eventually some thoughts on where they ought to be and maybe even how to make it happen.