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.