Monday, July 23, 2012


You didn't think I was gonna let y'all off that easy, did you? One post on the new JT SplatMaster small ball (50 cal) spewing, plastic spring-actuated not-a-paintball-gun revolution was not enough. The only thing the SplatMaster is--besides a likely winner for KEE (depending on their projections)--is a gateway for small ball to establish its viability in paintball. The more success SplatMaster has with the field rental crowd in pushing the boundaries of the age limits lower and in potentially expanding the youth group play opportunities the greater its potential to remake paintball--not act as a gateway into "real" paintball. Until the SplatMaster's introduction (assuming the basic claims about the gun & paint are true) the dividing line between paintball players and not-paintball players was first contact with a paintball traveling at speed. If a potential paintball player survives first contact and isn't bothered by the sting the majority will want to play some more--and again--and again. If the pain is too distracting or off putting more paintball is out of the question. And as long as paintball relies on a 68 caliber paintball shot at velocities in excess of 250 fps the principle dividing line between player and not-a-player will remain the same. And SplatMaster won't change that. It might get more young players interested in checking out "real" paintball than might otherwise have tried it, though given paintball's ubiquity these days I'm not sure I buy into that argument, but even if it does the threshold remains the same.
Now depending on the overall success of the SplatMaster there will be a young generation of SplatMaster players who will want more at some point--which is where the whole gateway idea comes into play. But why rely on the SplatMaster generation potentially choosing to follow a paintball path (that already exists or lose them to Airsoft) when you can provide them with upgrades built around their previous experience--low impact small ball--and alter the threshold for paintball play and make it more inclusive of a wider percentage of the general population? None of the objections current paintball players have with the 50 cal paintball would be a deterrent to a generation of SplatMaster players. Before you know the 50 cal marker is back and its the basis for a youth movement in paintball and the prospect of more girls playing enters to picture.
At what point, how many generations raised on the SplatMaster will it take to convert the majority to a game based on the small ball instead of the current 68 caliber paintball?
The history of change in paintball is the history of changing technology & profits. If the SplatMaster is an enormous success it will signal the next great change to the future of paintball.


Reiner Schafer said...

I see your point and I could see that happening. There are many people who will play a game flag or touch football, but will never graduate to full tackle football. Maybe that's the direction paintball will take. Maybe "regular" 68 cal paintball will end up being what the serious paintballers graduate to, but the majority will end up sticking with paintball lite. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

50cal is probably superior in many ways. I find it unlikely that the caliber the sport has arrived at is the "right" one. All you need is a ball which carries enough marking fluid and can travel far enough with a shell that can handle the stresses and still break.

If it's 55cal or 50cal, who knows? But I think it's preferable to have smaller packaging, smaller equipment, more shots per fill, and less pain than it is to have longer range for an industry.

Now, obviously, in a competitive environment, you're not going to choose shorter range over gas efficiency and higher capacity.

But for "the sport" and "the industry" I think it's better, assuming everyone was on an equal footing.

Anonymous said...

When was the last time anyone went to play paintball and saw someone quit after the first time they get hit by a paintball? I've been playing almost 20 years now and I can't think of a single time I've seen that happen.

If you have a person who you can sell on, "Let's get some people together and run around in the woods and shoot paintballs at each other!", they are not going to care if they get hit by a .68 cal paintball or a .50 cal paintball. Anyone willing to run around in the woods is already in the "not scared of bruises" group.

And if you have a person who you CAN'T sell on that, you're not going to change their mind by saying they'll only be shot by .50 cal paintballs instead of .68 cal paintballs.

Whether a 1st-time player thinks paintball is fun or not has nothing to do with how much getting hit by a .68 cal paintball hurts. If you can't take that, you won't be hiding in underbrush while sweating and batting the occasional mosquito either.

There's also a tradeoff... even if hurts less when hit by a .50 cal paintball, it's harder to shoot someone else with a .50 paintball, and a whole lot of the fun in paintball is shooting someone else. That's one of the reasons new players getting shot at by a case of paint a day is such a fun-killer - it inhibits their chances to play the game in a way that's fun (running around and shooting at people).

It also won't help reach a younger age group because the reason we don't let younger players play has nothing to do with paintball size and everything to do with not taking off masks.

This is wasted effort. The real obstacles to wider adoption of paintball is simply too many fields out there offering poor first experiences.

Reiner Schafer said...

I've had many people go through our field that have quit after their first hit, but admittedly, the percentage is very small. However, there is a much larger percentage that continued playing a good portion of the session, but in the end didn't like the discomfort enough that they wouldn't return for a second outing. Then there are the millions that haven't even bothered to go out for their first paintball outing because of what they have heard from those that have. Now if they had heard that there is no discomfort at all, or very, very little discomfort, those millions might give it a shot.

I myself, many, many years ago, turned down my first two invitations to play paintball because of the stories I had heard. Later, after I tried it, I ended up kicking myself for not trying it sooner, but there is a typical example of what word of mouth can do.

Missy Q said...

To echo what Reiner's saying, I've seen a whole bunch of first timers quit both after the first game and after the first morning. I've also seen a whole bunch of people come to 'watch' simply because they are frit of playing. It is definitely not unusual.

I do agree that poor first experiences are also a factor, but KEE can't do a lot about that - that's down to the fields' execution. Nobody can tell a bad field that he has to close, it's one of the advantages of owning your own business - he can run forever if he likes.

This splatmaster stuff is not aimed at fields, it is specifically for the mass-market and will be used in back yards and renegade play.

Anonymous said...

But how many of those horror stories would be different if the size of the paintball changed? How many of them are from getting hit by 4 or 5 paintballs, or people who are just fundamentally pansies?

The two things this gun does have going for it are not needing air and a shorter range making it more suitable for renegade play. Probably also cheaper to manufacture, and thus sell, so a good product for the wal mart shelves in that regard.

Bob said...

I don't believe .50 caliber will ever detract from the popularity and growth of .68. Great gateway, different demos , and definitely enhances acceptance of "paintball" by certain markets and insurance underwwriters. I believe first experience of impact pain and bruising has driven many players (or parents of players) away from paintball. Some have returned or been converted by low impact .68 caliber games and then graduated back into real paintball. There is merit in low impact paintball, regardless of caliber. And it has a lot to do with game rules, as evidenced by the new ASTM standard. Smart field operators will cater to youth low impact play and nurture these kids with their "near toys".

Anonymous said...

Can the .50 cal balls from a Splatmaster still put an eye out?

Backyard/renegade can often have more lax safety. Mix in younger players who may not know any better, and parents who may not really be supervising, and you may be asking for more trouble in the form of busted eyeballs. Injuries in backyard PB lite will make regular paintball look bad as it won't be differentiated in the press or in the minds of 'we need more laws to ban everything for the sake of the children!' types.

Likewise with vandalism. Kids will think that PBs re washable, so there is no problem shooting cars, street signs, houses, etc and destroying clear coats / staining.

Reiner Schafer said...

I do find this whole thing kind of ironic. Many of the naysayers of .50 cal were saying that if they allowed .50 cal to be shot at a higher velocity, it might have a chance in the industry. So what does JT do? They go exactly the opposite direction. You've got to give them some credit for thinking out of the box.

I did watch a lot of their promotional videos for the Splatmasters and the kids looked like they were genuinely having fun. The balls did look like they were moving very slowly though. Slow enough that you could dodge out of the way at about 30 or 40 feet (hard to say exactly from the videos). Personally, from a field rental business perspective, I would like to see something similar but shooting at a slightly higher velocity, probably in the 175 to 180 range. But I assume then there would need to be some kind of ratcheting or levering mechanism in place so 9 and 10 year olds could recock the heavier springs that would be needed.

Anonymous said...

I like the warning before each promo video about never shoot someone within 10', and one of the videos shows Telford shooting a kid in the arm at point blank.

Nick Brockdorff said...

I wonder if these can be taken apart and the springs exchanged.... I hope not, because that could potentially be a big problem.

I hope Kee has ensured that the spring cannot be exchanged for a more powerfull one, by molding it into the platic.

Anonymous said...

Bah. People can always modify any product. If people put in bigger springs, they put in bigger springs.

I've watched their videos, and now that I have, I realize it's not quite the product I thought it was, and it looks like it's actually a pretty neat concept.

First, it has nothing to do with .50 cal vs. .68 cal. This product is about as relevant to that debate as laser tag or water guns - these aren't meant to be "paintball guns" in the traditional sense, they're back-yard tag guns / target shooting BB guns that happen to use a paint pellet instead of a plastic BB.

I think there's some value here in getting parents used to the idea of a breakable gelatin capsule filled with dye, but at 110-140 FPS, this is never going to be a paintball replacement. It's another product/experience entirely that just happens to be made by a company that also makes paintball equipment.

Reiner Schafer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reiner Schafer said...

Last anon, I more or less agree with you. This has only a small resemblance to what we call paintball and believe it will affect us very little. But It has gotten my mind churning and I wrote a little more about my thoughts on my blog earlier today.

Baca Loco said...

What? Reiner, it's not enough you have an active link in the sidebar? Now your trolling for readers in my comments? ;)

Reiner Schafer said...

Damn straight Skippy!

Grant said...

KEE just wish they had the rights to Nerf because Hasbro have created an entire line of various Nerf products which must be making them a decent profit.

So maybe the SplatMaster is their attempt at creating a similar TOY that has expansion potential, the 50 cal ball and spring help them probably help them meet the majority of international laws that apply to TOY importation, thus creating for them a bigger GLOBAL market to an even bigger pool of buyers from retail shopping chains and specialty toy stores.

SplatMaster may have some potential as a boys gift item or that spur-of-the-moment purchase by people wanting to have some cheap laughs with friends but it will probably be another toy that ends up gathering dust when the paint runs out.

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