KEE is about to launch JT SplatMaster. They began some early info releases a few days ago. The new SplatMasters are plastic spring-loaded 50 cal markers. The target market looks to be the pre-teen crowd from 9 years old and up. The result is low impact, low velocity, reduced range quasi-paintball fun--although it appears JT is intentionally avoiding a direct association with paintball. Whatever. Meanwhile, the paintball crowd is jumping on the gateway to paintball notion. Paintball Lite for kids with cheap guns are the perfect introduction to "real" paintball later on. Well, maybe. Frankly I don't see why it couldn't as easily be a gateway to Airsoft. More realistic SplatMaster without any mess. I'm not really interested in that aspect anyway and I doubt KEE are either. JT SplatMaster will need to be profitable independent of whatever other follow on effects it may or may not have. And given the target market it will need to be economical. So what I really want to know is how much paint is going to cost.
It's the 50 cal part I'm interested in. Small Ball was a failure the first time despite the industry paint giants preparing to produce small balls. And despite some of the gun makers producing marker lines to shoot the 50 cal paintball. There was early and widespread resistance from the paintball community at large and a small group of home testers who demonstrated the performance drawbacks of the small ball compared to the standard 68 (despite the initial hyperbolic rhetoric.) The original brouhaha was followed with a quiet effort to promote small ball to large rental operations as a friendlier paintball option for birthday parties and group play, etc. Part of that promotion was the less intense less potentially painful first impression paintball experience available with 50 cal. It has seemingly failed to catch on.
Another part of the early promotion of small ball claimed it would be cheaper--a claim that gained the attention and support of a minority--at least briefly--but didn't pan out as advertised. (There was, as I recall, a modest price difference per case but it wasn't sufficiently cheaper that it encouraged players to transition to the small ball or take up small ball directly.) And now 50 cal is back.
I can't help wondering if part of the SplatMaster plan is to reintroduce small ball in a benign way, a positive way even, a way that doesn't trouble anyone currently and actively involved in the game today. Which is why I'm curious to know how much replacement paint is going to cost. Paintball prices are largely a product of the economies of scale--particularly domestic production with its rising materiel costs--so how many small balls is KEE gonna produce to support the JT SplatMaster? And how much can they reasonably charge for replacement paint for a game aimed at 10 year olds?
The resistance to small ball was all about lost performance but if you create a generation(s) with vastly lowered expectations maybe the ultimate limitations of small ball don't look so bad after all. It would be a long view strategy but from a business perspective it has a lot of upside.