Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Future of Paintball?

No, probably not--the future of paintball, that is--but I wanted to grab your attention and shake you like a rag doll. No, you (yes, I mean you) didn't do anything--that I know of--to make me angry--but if instead I start talking about politicians, automatic weapons and steel-jacketed ammo the next thing I know jackboots will be kicking in my door and ruining what's left of a bad day.
Some days I decry the future of this stupid game and other days I mock the pitiful efforts made to save it and still other days I think I could have had a V8--and not one of the fruity ones either. Some of you will recall that a fairly concerted effort was once made to keep the milsim and paramilitary overtones of some elements of paintball out of the public eye like crazy uncle Harry locked in the basement when the neighbors dropped by for a visit. That day is over, both from the industry and at the retail level where a lot of paintball stores sell Airsoft side-by-side with their paintball gear. One upshot of that trend may have been the recent California bill aimed at toy guns that originally included paintball markers--and could again. While paintball dodged that bullet--this time--paintball is clearly headed down a path that will further entwine our game with guns of all sorts--and it won't be to paintball's betterment.
But that isn't what I want to rant about today. While paintball looks to relive the Vietnam experience (or D-Day or whatever) minus all the ugly and, you know, deadly parts for fun and recreation Hasbro & Nerf are flat ripping us off. No, I'm not kidding. Here's the deal: check it out. (Watch the short video.) Not convinced, try here. Or here. (Watch this video too.) Getting the picture? Hasbro has taken Nerf to the next level and they've done it by looking at tourney paintball and recreating a Nerf version currently aimed at kids. It's cheap. It's clean. It's easy to play and it might even be fun. And they've taken a giant step or two past that with an annual tour of event stops to play in regional events with a chance to win a trip to Disney's WWOS (Wide World of Sports)--you may have heard of it--for the annual championships and a chance for the winning team to take home 25 grr. The tour, btw, is the Dew Tour featuring a line-up of so-called extreme sports.
Dart tag regional events compete with the other sports on the Dew Tour with regional winners eligible for the championships in Orlando. They play inside inflated, netted arenas with inflatable bunkers, penalty boxes and referees and score points by capturing an opponent's nerf something and returning it to their Home base in a timed game that offers multiple breakouts. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, in paintball land after 20 years TV treats us like the hired help and our industry is all monkey see, monkey do without being able to agree on anything that might be in everyone's best interest all the while leaving a crumbling retail network to fend for itself.
Is nobody either ashamed or offended that Hasbro is kicking paintball's ass? Hasbro? And Nerf?

Of course, it also begs the question of whether dart tag and the other Nerf products are precursors--potential gateways to paintball--or, as silly as it may sound, the foundation of an easy to play, energetic, painless variant of tag that will pull potential paintballers away from paintball. And if nerf tag kids are potential future paintballers will anybody do anything about it or are we too far gone with our picatinny equipped replica AK-47s and battle vests to care?

H/T to Steve Davidson for bringing Nerf Dart Tag to my attention. Like there aren't enough things in the world that already aggravate me. Thanks, Steve. I owe you one and I will get even.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a certain paintball company exec married to a certain Hasbro company exec?

Wonder how long before the nerf guns are ramping like Egos.

Reiner Schafer said...

I've always considered paintball as a high tech form of ball tag. You know, the game we used to play as kids when we used a tennis ball (or some other kind of ball) to try to tag each other out. The interesting thing about old fashioned ball tag was that the number of people willing to participate depended somewhat on who else was taking part, and what kind of ball was going to be used. I remember many times there being a discussion about whether we would use a tennis ball or some other softer, harder to throw with great velocity ball.

Nerf tag isn't using a ball, but it's still basically the same idea. Nerf darts are also almost harmless, so almost anyone would be willing to take part (or at least no one will sit out because they fear it may be too uncomfortable).

Airsoft is somewhere between Nerf darts and paintball. Paintball is pretty much at the extreme end of the spectrum, at least as far as organized sports/games go (sure we used to shoot pellets at each other with pellet rifles, but we don't see too many commercial pellet tag fields).

I would be a little surprised, but not blown over, if one day Nerf tag players out number paintball players. If the game can be made fun and exciting enough for a "gentler" demographic, I could see it taking off.

RyantheMighty said...

I just looked at the Nerf Dart Tag League pages again and it seems like they've already come and gone.
The last update was October 2010 after their World Championships. "Full Recap coming SOON!" ... *Cricket* *Cricket*

Baca said...

Ryan, are you sure you weren't at Paintball.com?

Maybe but according to their website national contestants will be finalized on or by 8/1/11. I don't know if that means they changed the format this time around or not.

Anonymous said...

I've heard about this 2 years ago...interesting to see the development....wonder what lies ahead...?

Crotchety Old Fan said...

Baca - sorry, but when I walk into Target and my head involuntarily explodes all over the toy aisle, it's a little tough to keep it to myself - especially when the PA system is shouting "Brain clean up in aisle 24! Brain clean up in aisle 24!": and then when some 16 year old clerk shows up with a mop and bucket and starts blathering about how awesome NERF wars are and how painful paintball is and how expensive it is and how his mom won't let him play with foul-mouthed paintballers and the local field is a gang hang out and why would anyone shoot a projectile they can't re-use and how come paintball isn't on TV if it's so great and wonderful and -
well, it was kinda funny watching him have to clean my brains up all over again after I kicked over the bucket....

Anonymous said...

Mark said:
How many times do I have to say it: The pain potential in paintball IS the excitement. It's the negative reinforcement. The reason so many come off the field completely winded and laughing their a**es off.
Sure I've seen some kids cry from it, before they're right back out there after the tears dry up.
When a group of girls comes out for a sweet-sixteen party or a cheerleader group comes out for an end-of-the-season party none of which are unaware of the pain potential, are they just biding their time waiting for us to switch over to foam darts? I'll take their money while they wait in vain.
Yes we also live in a world where it's apparently a federal offense for a kid to ride his or her bicycle without 8 lbs of armor.
Is not imitation still the best form of flattery? Too many of you all worry too much.

Reiner Schafer said...

I agree with you Mark for the most part. Even if Nerf Darts became extremely popular, I think it would be drawing from, for the most part, a completely different demographic. There would be little crossover, just as there is little crossover in lasertag and paintball.

The pain in paintball is a big part of the excitement. But there are many in the world who are not interested feeling the pain and will therefore never play paintball or might try it once and then never play again. That's the demographic that might take up something with Nerf Tag. I could certainly see Nerf Tag as a stepping stone for paintball, especially for younger kids.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the nerf-games advertised on TV, and viewed them as a positive thing for paintball - something that 6-7 yr olds could do before trying paintball.
For me, paintball is an O18 (competitive)sport. At least that's the way it should be (certainly Pro division paintball anyway). I think if we keep kids waiting till 18 before they can play in a tournament, they will have more sense, more money, and will stick around longer than if we rely on 3rd party (parent/guardian) funding. I definitely think that there is space for separate Junior games (13 and up) but not in competitive play. I don't think U13's should be playing the game at all. I think they are 'over it' before they have a chance to actually drop any useful dollars.

raehl said...

You shoot a projectile you don't have to reuse because you don't have to leave your cover to pick up rounds shot by your opponent to reload.

Try playing NERF in the woods. That's thing - most of the paintball industry is built around a form of paintball that is not comparable to something like nerf, and only marginally so to something like airsoft. The mechanics of the way most people play paintball is high-performance water gun fight, not military simulation or low-performance darts that go 25 feet tops.

I was amused to watch the darts just barely make it over the bunkers, and then watch the refs have to huddle after a point to decide what had happened.

Anonymous said...

They blame everything else for decline of paintball, except rental tippmanns with shake&bake that look like relics from 1980s using the crappiest, hard shell paint they can find as cheap as possible so they don't have to clean the markers. Then they wonder why hits hurt.

Fact is, good paint does not hurt. Shitty paint, hurts like fuck.

Anonymous said...

If fuck hurts like shitty paint, you're doing it wrong.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:
Disagree. We got kids under 18 that play tourny's and it's not a problem from my experience. Our team is primarily funded by two parents and the rest of the kids kick in what they can. Of the eight players we have three are under 18 and the rest except one are under twenty. Two of them started playing paintball at thirteen.Bottom line is we are out their grinding every week, have for almost two years and have won one smaller regional tourny and we place well in others.

houdini said...

For those who haven't seen archery tag as well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaABl079iAo

Nerf's legitimacy as a sport is a joke considering it is controlled by one brand...

On the flipside if nerf convinces some kids to try paintball then it can't be all bad can it. Kids seem to love over here in Asia...

Anonymous said...

If your team is primarily funded by 2 people that aren't actually playing (3rd party parents in this case, then that's exactly what I'm saying. It doesn't matter if they can compete.

Anonymous said...

Is this author for or against pantball?!

Anonymous said...

YOUR A DICKHEAD THIS ARTICLE IS BULLSHIT! PAINTBALL IS AMAZING