Friday, July 8, 2011

Major League Counterfactual

Much has been at various times about what could, would, should, ought or might happen if major league paintball returned to one league. The predominant opinion since double digit growth stopped cold is that the industry can't support more than one league--despite the fact they continue to do so (after a fashion) and after they (the Industry) refused to take the matter into their own hands when they could have (by refusing to do business with the upstart NPPL 3.0 & by intimidating their sponsored teams to knock it off--or else.) Of course at the same time all the big players are fearful of the double cross--or any situation where a significant competitor may gain an upper hand. So there may be talk of cooperation but it never pans out because each in their turn trust only that the next guy will screw them whenever possible. Nor do they want to get out in front of any such maneuver just in case it goes south and they end up the new Smart Parts as everyone's favorite whipping boy.
Back when the leagues first separated there was considerably more support for the idea of two leagues but there was also a seemingly endless supply of optimism about the future that appeared, to the players at least, to be a win, win all the way around. Two leagues drove each other to be better, to compete for the players' dollar in a way that had never existed before with the end result two leagues offering superior events to anything experienced before. Nobody was concerned about supporting two leagues--they were flush with players playing five events each season--and the principle drama of the day was the Race 2 TV. Who would win? Who would leave the other in the dust?
Opinions (regarding major leagues) it seems are conditional, based on arguments that may (or may not) have much to do with observable reality. Opinions that are the result of some depth of empirical consideration. (Everything from the often shallow repetition of the conventional wisdom to a more measured, considered point of view.) Times change, opinions change. Regardless, opinions are about what is. Counterfactuals are about what might be. Think of it as a What If?

What if the NPPL closed shop tomorrow? What if the PSP called it a day and canceled the remaining scheduled events? What if both of them decided they couldn't continue?
Okay, NPPL 3.0 is kaput. What does the MLP landscape look like? A half dozen or more Pro teams disappear too. 7-man is only played in a few local/regional tourney series. Nobody pushes the idea of a national 7-man series anymore. Half the tourney players competing didn't play when 7-man existed as an MLP series. Industry support for the PSP takes a modest bump up. The Big Guys aren't paying any more and the small industry players continue to struggle to make vendor appearances profitable. Team turnout improves less than industry support. Maybe ten percent. [Remember: it's not a matter of teams moving over. It's a question of teams forming in the first place.] Without the NPPL the PSP is in marginally better shape, may or may not have made the same rules changes, and while the affiliates effort is somewhat more advanced the league still struggles with how (or if) to transition to a new revenue stream(s) and/or expand their existing revenue streams. The economy doesn't improve but the news isn't all gloomy. The Outdoor Channel is looking into a Tippman-sponsored show covering the UWL (and their new Tippman division) and a recent pit clearing brawl from the latest PSP webcast uploaded to YouTube has attracted the interest of a Fox producer. The NFL lockout continues. (Isn't this fun?)

There is no PSP. The NPPL is achieving participation levels similar to what a stand alone PSP would be getting. There was a decent numbers bump of crossover when the PSP folded but the same issues continue to plague the NPPL, like reffing. And along with the general economic malaise the overall trend is slow attrition. [This counterfactual assumes the two leagues coexisted for some time otherwise there wouldn't be a 7-man format. Without Xball there was no reason to move away from 10-man.] When the PSP folded a number of regional Xball leagues popped up. Most continue to struggle but a few have taken hold. There has been talk, initiated by the AXBL of the various Xball leagues participating in a co-sponsored national tournament but even as it has created a strong buzz nothing concrete has happened. Despite proclaimed satisfaction from the network the webcasts have not extended beyond the ESPN3 showcase. The league recently announced a contest looking for cheerleaders.

See how it works? I've kind of approached these versions tongue-in-cheek ('cus it's more fun that way) but one of the virtues of the counterfactual is that it can open up one's thinking and the blending of facts and past trends with hypothetical situations can alter perspectives and help the "observer" to see what's really there and (perhaps) what really matters--and maybe, just maybe, what the future could bring.


CadeX said...

Mergers only work when both sides have something to offer; watching the two leagues 'compete' over the years is simply a promoter’s version of the original National Survival Game.

Reiner Schafer said...

Hmmm...where are the cheerleader tryouts being held?

nickgibson said...

I say let the pro's play each other and maybe d1 also included in a national series. Everyone else plays there regional series the winners of those come to cup to sort out who is the best.I really think this is the way we need to go personally the cup thing really works for me orlando is in my backyard so I am kind of being selfish on that front.

But it lowers travel costs allows more teams to participate at the regional level. Thats how I feel but Lord knows Im no rocket surgeon.

Crotchety Old Fan said...

Neither "solution" addresses the real problem - cost to the players and teams.

Traveling four or five times a year, let alone ten +, is simply beyond the reach of most at this point in time/economy. Regionality, leading to a national, in one form or another, is essentially the answer.

Vending sponsors want traffic beyond the teams they are "paying" to appear. (Sponsors are emptying out both pockets at national events - one for the league, the other for their teams - who don't buy gear at the shows.)

Even a successful merger will not solve the problem (which is an obvious disincentive to making that move).

Lockout? Hmmm - that happened once before, with the XFL trying to fill shoes and paintball was approached to fill the XFL's shoes when that collapsed. I don't know if I did the industry a service or a disservice by refusing to accept the offer; I was all for it until it became apparent that the presentation was going to be a 'pro wrestling' (clown show) version of what I was offering. You tell me.

Baca said...

Since the rumor that inspired the post was about a merger that's what the counterfactuals addressed.

As to the "real problem" I addressed that issue before everything went south and I do an annual "reminder" here at VFTD end of the summer just for fun.

On the whole I think it might have been a net plus but even in hindsight it's impossible to say.