Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And The Winner Is ..

Tired of hearing about the SplatMaster yet? Hard cheese, Chester, 'cus here comes another post on the subject. My initial take focused less on the new guns and more on the reintroduction of the 50 cal paintball. From a competitive paintball perspective that remains my focus--and concern. One we'll get back to shortly.
On the other hand I can imagine there is some curiosity about the SplatMaster and how well it works--or doesn't. It works as advertised. The small balls break consistently. Within its range limits it's more accurate than I expected but also as one would expect that range is limited by the weight of the paintball, the force applied to it and drag. I can report the sting factor exists--at point blank range. In the interests of science and my VFTD commentary I shot myself in the hand holding it about a foot from the tip of the barrel and it wasn't pleasant. (Nor was it a traumatizing experience but it wasn't pain free. I'll try some more at recommended ranges this weekend.) The instructions that come with the gun and the website make it clear--if not to the new user--to anyone already familiar with paintball that a significant part of the intent is plainly to open a new path to paintball beginning with younger players. The guns are sturdy enough, easy enough to use (and clean) and provide enough performance to the new, youthful player to be a lot of fun. Assuming the sting factor really is gone or greatly diminished it's ideal for kid's parties or even mixed gender corporate groups. While the (brightly colored) plastic construction may seem to be a downside I'm inclined to think it makes the game and the guns more accessible to Moms who will see them as more toy and less gun. If all that sounds like an endorsement of the SplatMaster I suppose it is, but it's a grudging one at present. Because of the 50 cal paintball.
The factor I was most interested in was paintball pricing. If it was too low I was (am) prepared to judge that a sign of an aggressive push favoring 50 cal paintballs. It's not loss leader low. Available to supplement SplatMaster play paintballs come in volumes of 50 ($8), 200 ($12), 500 ($16) or 1000 ($20). Depending on sales volumes at the different increments the pricing may show an excellent return but it appears to me to be hedged toward lower profits and the transition to higher volume (dare I say regular paintball?) play. Which would be in keeping with the presumed core SplatMaster goal but doesn't address additional stages downstream. Like moving the SplatMaster generation into other 50 cal oriented products. Or delivering new state-of-the-art tech using the 50 cal platform. Remember the E-volt? Big, bulky, slow it was a truly electronic gun that didn't need an air source. The downsides weren't overcome by its performance envelope shooting 68 cal paint but what might be the potential of a newer more refined E-volt shooting small balls? (H/T Janek) Of course regular air-sourced markers could operate with smaller tanks & hoppers in ultra-light packages.
Remember the old 'Highlander' movie(s) and TV series? There can be only one. I am inclined to think the same thing about paintballs. Even if the transition took years--and it probably would--my concern is that the outcome would compromise competitive paintball or alter it in less than satisfactory ways. I realize most of you aren't buying into my Chicken Little 'The Sky is Falling' fears and even if it were to happen just as I suggest it might it doesn't necessarily mean ruination. Nor am I suggesting there's a nefarious plot or conspiracy being set in motion. But the one thing you can rely on is that change always has some unintended consequences. The current competitive game is a collection of counter-balancing elements (in relative harmony) that includes marker performance and a move across the board to 50 cal would shift that balance. I'll visit the possible ramifications in the future if it appears we may in fact be headed that direction.


Reiner Schafer said...

So just out of curiosity, if there were a hypothetical, across the board (forced) shift to 50 cal and fields were changed and scaled down accordingly, do you think the game would change all that much?

Baca Loco said...

yes, the 20 feet the PSP added a couple of years ago in combination with whatever the hell Sup'Air decides to do tomorrow to the props has slowed the game down considerably. One can argue over better or worse but not the change.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Field sizes and props can be easily changed to accomodate 50 cal.

What I am wondering is, what the great negatives you see in 50 cal are?

I know it does not stack up to 68 cal in terms of range and accuracy.... but then, that is only a problem when both are available.

So, as Reiner says - hypothetically - if the whole sport was to move to 50 cal, what are the downsides in your view?

Personally I could potentially get very excited at the lower cost per shot....

Baca Loco said...

No, they can't. It is an incorrect assumption on your part.

What lower cost? If you think the paint companies end up making this switch to pass the savings along to you you're dreaming. This is their opportunity to move the margins more comfortably in their favor.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Wait - what?

Why can't fields be shortened/narrowed easily?

I get enlarging fields would be problematic - but I see no reason smaller fields should be a logistic problem?

And I think you are mistaken on prices.... All pricing I have seen on 50 cal so far, is 30-40 % lower per ball.

Quick online search right now:
Formula 13 (68 cal) retails at $ 55 per 2000
Formula 13 (50 cal) retails at $ 33 per 2000

Now, if we stay with the hypothetical, and the whole market is suddenly 50 cal, I agree manufacturers would not like to drop prices compared to 68 cal - and they might stick to that, if they could all get together in a room and violate antitrust laws....... but this is paintball.... you know SOMEONE is going to sell at the same mark up as now, and then the whole market will follow.

Reiner Schafer said...

I guess another way to think about it, since it's all hypothetical, what would competitive paintball be like today, if in 1981, those markers used in the first paintball games (and previously used to mark trees and cattle), had been 50 caliber instead of 68 caliber? I'm sure paintball would have undergone all the same evolutionary steps it went through with 68 caliber. Tournament play today would still be played on small fields with air bunkers, but I imagine the dimensions of the fields would be slightly smaller to compensate for reduced paintball flight. There might be some minor changes in play making, but overall, I don't think the game would unplayable, or less exciting.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Well, I almost agree with all of that Reiner.

I do think however, that the game would be slightly more technical, as people would generally be closer to their opponents.

I also think we'd have a slightly more aggressive game and I think we'd see a little more cheating.

The one because OTB shooting and laning would be less effective skills, and the other because paint marks would be easier to wipe/conceal.

We would probably also see more penalties, because hits are more difficult to feel with 50 cal.

Now, to what degree all these things would manifest, is ofcourse the big question..... if only to a small degree, I would happily play 50 cal - if to a large degree, I'd prefer to stick with 68 cal.

I wonder if we will ever know....

Anonymous said...

50 cal would make paintball less of an "extreme" sport. Take away the adrenalin and the game becomes boring.

Reiner Schafer said...

Nick, why do you feel OTB and laning would be less effective, assuming the field is scaled down so that the 50 caliber balls will still make the distance? Ball spacing would still be the same, assuming ROF rules are the same.

I could see the more penalties issue due to less discomfort. That could be partially overcome with mandatory clothing that has little padding.

And I agree with your earlier statement that 50 cal would be cheaper per ball. Paintball industry could not sustain manipulated higher margins for long. At least not in tourney ball.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Because 50 cal is tougher to break.

One of the problems with 50 cal, is you get more bounces.

It has to do both with the lower inertia and the lower fill to shell ratio needed to make the product stable (both in terms of storage and shooting it).

Both could be overcome with allowing higher FPS for tournament play - which is absolutely feasible, since you can safely shoot 50 cal at higher speeds, due to the lower mass.

BTW, such a move would also negate some of the other drawbacks to the caliber.

But, where the FPS limit should be, is not for me to say, as the ball being harder generally than 68 cal, means that it is not as simple at multiplying speed by the factor of the weight difference. So that has to be in the hands of the manufacturers - and possibly goggle manufacturers also.

Anonymous said...

68 cal is very entrenched with a critical mass, where that is the size gun 99% of the players have already invested money in. Because of that, it seems like a switch to 50 cal would almost have to be forced from the tournaments on down to have a chance of achieving a critical mass. But even then, there are lots of recreational players who don't care what the tourney players are doing. (Not to mention, there'd be lots of high-end guns for sale cheap used).

Going from 68 to 50 the analogy seems like it would be like going from VCR to BetaMax (roughly equal technologies, one is dead once the other has critical mass), not like going from VCR to DVD (much better technology, inevitable shift once the pricing was right).

Anonymous said...

How does the SplatMaster compare to the SupaSplat ( http://www.techgroupglobal.com/prod/40/paint-blaster )?

I've seen that for sale in the toy section of Target for a couple of years.

Reiner Schafer said...

Thanks Anon. Went to the SupaSplat site and downloaded their catalog. They have a huge selection. Some of them look to be air powered, much like Super Soaker technology. JT has some catching up to do!

Baca, since you are doing gun reviews now, it only seems fair that you give some of the SupaSplat guns a test. :-)

Ken said...

Oh the irony is delicious, Baca ends up doing product reviews for the sport he does not want rather than the sport he loves.

Anonymous said...

Things that are annoying: Not being able to shoot someone you can see.

There's a reason there isn't a competitive water gun league, and why competitive nerf dart whatever hasn't taken off either.

Reduction in range also changes the nature of the engagement. Sure, you can make the bunkers closer together and make the field smaller, but that doesn't change how far someone can move in a second, so unless you're going to find a way to make people move slower too (always play in sand?) you can't just 'scale things down'.

Nick Brockdorff said...

How far someone can move in a second, is only relevant to ROF (spacing between the balls in a stream) and FPS (how fast the balls fly through the target area).

The size of the ball is only of very little relevance, as it is only a topic in those rarest of instances, where a near miss with 50 cal would be a hit with 68 cal.

Baca Loco said...

Reiner & Ken
A review wasn't the point. The point was the product ought to be taken seriously. All the 1 and 2 votes in the poll are missing the potential here. If they sell loads and it proves a plus for paintball I'm all for it. If they sell loads and it begins to lead to a small ball transition I'm not all for it.

Anon 5:42 is exactly correct.

Nick Brockdorff said...

I'm sorry Paul, but I disagree with that.

Speed of movement is not relevant to ball size, for the reasons already explained.

Baca Loco said...

It's not the ball size that matters, Nick.

Nick Brockdorff said...

So, what matters? - Please explain :)

Dan said...

its not the size, its how you use it.

Anonymous said...

The range, like the previous anon stated. No matter the size of the ball when you are closer to someone it is easier to hit them. So when you shorten a field and move all the bunkers closer together you change all of the shooting angles making it easier to hit someone. The reason you have to shorten the field is due to the lessened range of the small ball. that makes the game a more technical, less aggressive game where people don't move as often. That also makes the lower price per ball a moot point since you'll likely end up shooting more anyway as well as making a few other advantages moot such as weight.

There are far too many unanswered questions and unknown changes that will happen to make the change to small ball almost too hard to even force upon the current player base. it'll. change the game in too many unknown ways. if the game changes too much you'll lose a portion of the current player base. To make the switch to .50 cal worth it they'd have to gain those players plus a substantial number ontop of that to make the switch worth all the hassle. the answer to the question of how many players they'd gain by making the switch is far too hard to even guesstimate to take the risk.

I know that's a lot to read and probably confusing to follow, but those are some of my views on all this. that all is also the reason i think this whole splatmaster thing is an attempt at a paintball lite to bring more players to the CURRENT game as opposed to an attempt at trying to start a change towards a different small ball version of paintball.

.02¢ :-)

Nick Brockdorff said...

So, don't shorten the field, increase the FPS instead - problem solved :)

Anonymous said...

You're not a chicken little, but more like a billy goat. The grass is always greener.

If someone made a product that shot consistently accurate and father at the same time, you'd also complain about the ramifications to paintball as we know it.

If someone invented constant air in the age of 12gram, you'd probably also complain.

No offense Baca, but you are a dime a dozen in this respect. People have always complained about the game and unless you think the game was better in 1985, deal with it. The marketplace drives innovation and consumers make up the market place.

If consumers choose a smaller ball, which means more carrying capacity, smaller equipment, more shots per fill, so much the better. Notice I didn't say cheaper. Small ball should cost the same or more because it offers an increased value. I'm glad to see $40 for 2000 with the splatmaster paintballs. But they should be charging even more.

Anonymous said...

If Tippmann don't go 50cal (and they won't, according to them) then it's not going to happen. Without Tippmann there is no traction for 50cal at the field level. You can ponce around with a few 50cal speedball guns all you like, but without the fields on board it's just a short-term gimmick.

Reiner Schafer said...

Tippmann is run by business people. After 50 cal was ruled out and ridiculed by virtually every player, Tippmann jumped on board and stated that they will never get into 50 cal to make themselves llok good in the paintball community. If 50 cal had taken off, we would no doubt have 50 cal Tippmanns both at paintball fields and at the local WalMart. Don't let the PR crap sway you too much.

Having said that, i don't think 50 cal will be going mainstream anytime soon, even with JT's "revolutionary" SplatMasters.