Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Brave New (Limited Paint) World

The last post, 'Peak Performance', spurred some "the game's gotta get cheaper" comments and as should be plain to even the average paintballer that means restricted paint usage, perhaps heavily restricted. (I prefer "restricted" to "limited" because all paint usage in a competitive or recreational setting is already limited and what is really being debated is restricting the amount of paint a player or team may use on a per point basis.) The other costs associated with playing and even competing are available at a variety of prices and are purely discretionary--for the most part (some safety equipment notwithstanding) and allow balling on a budget for those so inclined. While paint usage isn't mandatory it is necessary to compete and in a similar volume to your competitors. And while I am sympathetic to the desire to reduce the cost of participating I remain unconvinced that radically altering the game we play at present is the best (or only) alternative. While competition costs are high the costs that are onerous and impact a team's development and ability to compete are practice costs. And these can be reduced in two ways; one easy and one (admittedly) kinda time-consuming. First, event layouts aren't released in advance of being set-up for an event. This removes the easy practice option of simply scrimmaging the layout endlessly--or as long as your dollars allow--and begins to force teams to rethink how they approach preparing for competition. Secondly, fill the educational void created denying teams the opportunity to scrimmage the event layout in advance. In other words, teach them how to effectively prepare a team to compete without knowing the layout in advance. Without the layout serious teams will be highly motivated to find other ways to get better and the-once-a-season-just-for-fun-hope-we-do-good teams won't be compelled to spend heavily trying to get ready.
Now is that the answer? Probably not but it would be a reasonable incremental step to take and see what happens. It could reduce costs to teams by varying degrees but in all likelihood would probably just shift expenses--and by that I mean teams would likely still spend the same amount but instead of having practice absorb a large portion of their resources perhaps as a team they attend additional event(s) instead.
But if the movement to restrict paint gains momentum there are some easily foreseen ramifications nobody has mentioned (at least that I've heard.) If you've been around for more than a blink or two you should recall that in the last decade a number of paint-making companies have either gone under or been bought out leaving an ever dwindling number of paintball manufacturers. And also keep in mind that in today's marketplace the paint manufacturers are working on smaller profit margins by (hopefully) selling volume. [Although year-to-year sales have been down of late and rumors of the squeeze beginning to seriously pinch have been repeated for a while now. What the major manufacturers need right now is a way to raise prices but they've put themselves between a rock and a hard place with past practices.] So if we all start suddenly shooting (and buying) a fraction of the paint what's gonna happen? Manufacturers who survive the transition re-purpose their tooling and ultimately produce less paint. But in order for the new "normal" volume of production to be profitable the price is going to go up. How much is an open question. Do we see the return of $100 cases? If we use enough less paint shot than today in a restricted paint future we could still be saving some money but if anyone expects vastly less paint to be shot without prices rising they are deluding themselves.
Okay. Maybe. But there's lots of other sorts of paintball out there being played. And if tourney ball really is a tiny fraction of the whole then the paint tourney shoots--even as extravagant as it is--is not that much in the grand scheme of things. Which may be true but won't matter. A quick review of the majority of successful fields and typical scenario games, etc. should demonstrate that paint prices in those environments is already higher than tourney paint, sometimes much higher. In which case tourney paint prices would simply be catching up with the rest of the market. (Which begs a very serious question: Are wholesale prices the same across the board? In which case the retailers are making the bulk of the profits from paint and the volume sold directly for tourney use is largely irrelevant.)
Under those circumstances the next question might be: Do current prices in the rec environment inhibit the growth of the game? In trying to solve a tourney problem we may be missing a larger problem and in any case, the sorts of fields that cater to the low volume low intensity brand of paintball aren't conducive to growing the sport side of paintball any more than Airsoft or laser tag are gateways to hardcore paintball.
It's easy to offer solutions. A little more more difficult to calculate the unintended consequences of decisions made.

41 comments:

Nick Brockdorff said...

I honestly fail to see we would "radically" alter the sport, just by imposing paint limits.

Take the upcoming Chicago event as an example... could we run the exact same event while limiting every player to "5 pods and a loader" for instance?

I believe so, and I honestly do not believe it would "radically" change the sport.

Sure, if the backs could carry 11 pods, they would play the game differently (slower and safer)... but that is not a radical change to me, with all else being equal.

It is more akin to Formula 1 imposing limitations on motors, tires, fuel, training sessions, etc., in order to level the playing field a little (and yes, in terms of the grassroots level of paintball, I know that is a bad analogy :D).

I agree wholeheartedly with you on layouts not being released pre-event, and hope the major leagues make that move sooner rather than later.

As for paint cost raising due to limiting paint consumption at tournaments, I am dubious.... and I most definitely do not believe paint prices would increase to a level where it swallowed up the savings made through lower consumption.

We have been told for many years, that the tournament market is a fraction of the total market for the manufacturers.

Also, there were a lot more manufacturers making money, back when the total market was smaller and wholesale prices were only marginally higher than today.

So I would venture a guess, that manufacturers would need only a slight adjustment of their wholesale prices in order to cope.

I would be very interested in someone with in-depth knowledge of the paint market at wholesale level chiming in, to get some more factual input :)

Bruce Anderson said...

I'd really be curious to know what the average income of tournament players is as well as the expected cost to be able to compete at say D2 and above.

I think you are spot on with your analysis that it is the grinding practice of pre-released layouts that is at the core of the escalating financial issues.

I think going back to no released layout would be a good start - bring back the skill set that was necessary to learn and adapt. Unlike semi-auto double fingering, this was a real skill that couldn't be faked or cheated with electronics.

Learning the layout faster than other players/teams in a tournament gave a significant advantage and highlighted the chess aspect of this sport. Once that was taken away, the skillset narrowed and the available people to enjoy the game competitively shrank (remember the big guys that used to play?).

Baca Loco said...

Nick
I suppose it depends on what you take radical to mean. For example your example of limited paint is neither radical or particularly limited as it adds up to a team carrying slightly more than 2 cases of paint on-field per point. To produce meaningful cost reductions the restrictions would need to be more radical. :)
Presently the game hinges on movement versus the ability to deny movement. Any significant change to that equation alters the dynamics of the game, dare I say it?, radically.

The point in Formula 1 is to keep the technology from dominating. Motorsport is supposed to be about the drivers, not the cars.

I can see it now. Paint salesman calls up local all purpose field and tries to sell them on his brand but insists the wholesale price depends on who the field plans to sell the paint to. :D

Bruce
It would seem the most resistance to that change comes from local fields who fear if the teams aren't there grinding they won't be there at all--and certainly won't buy the volume of paint they currently have to in order to be competitive given their practice routines.

Nick Brockdorff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Brockdorff said...

But 5 pods IS a significant drop.

You know very well, if you saw any Pro player lining up with 5 pods today, you would take issue with him as a coach, even if he was the snake front going S1 OTB.... Todays starting line up carries 7 to 11 pods per player.

So a 5 pod limit per player is a 40 % drop if you factor in a 220 hopper in both instances.

And yes, the margin of error (the extra pods you carry just in case) drops when you impose a paint limit, so in reality it is probably more like a 25 % drop in consumption.

But I'll bet you, dropping paint expenditure 25 % at practices and tournaments, would make paintball viable for a whole lot more players than today.

The paint expenditure in our sport has gotten out of hand and it is driving people away from the sport.

I have seen more big talents give up the sport because they could not afford it, than I can count, and it is insane to me that nothing has been done about it for so long.

Maybe paintball really needs a political organ of a sort to think about this stuff and act upon it, so not everything is just about making money, with no real clear vision of where paintball should be going and how it should be positioned in the marketplace.

And in that perspective, with all respect, I care very little about whether the Pros have to adjust their game play marginally, or even "radically", as long as we still get to play our sport on sup'air fields, and run around shooting other people.... only with more people to play against, and more talents to watch unfold on screen.

Baca Loco said...

Nick
I'm not arguing the merits of paintball costing less to play. Conceptually that is a definite good. I'm not even arguing that restricted paint is necessarily "bad". I'm simply saying that such a move would entail a significant change in the game--and that it should be given serious thought before being acted upon.

At practice teams have an allotment of paint and when they shoot that paint practice is over. Whether or not the amount taken on the field is reduced 25% or 40% won't impact the amount shot in practice for the majority until you "radically" alter the way practice is conducted--and even then shooting paint is the nature of the game. :)

Nick Brockdorff said...

I agree with you that careful thought is needed.

I don't really agree with the part on practice, because less consumption means more spins for the same cost, or the same number of spins for less.

It makes is easier to compete for teams that are funded on their own.

geordie604 said...

In British Columbia we started a new version of limited paintin our league xball league called UPL unitedpaintballleague
Half way in season one we have the top players in the westcoast loving the low cost its 120$ player per event amature and 100$ per event a player novice/rookie
Its growing almost to fast and the bes t paintball format we have played

Limited paint is a must in tournament paintball and needs to be in all paintball leagues were long time speedball players that put this together and it works amazingly well

Unitedpaintballleague on face book
And read up
My face book is geordie tickell if you have any questions ... its a proven fact on limited paint

Geo

geordie604 said...

Host field clears 3000$ on a 6 team event as well fyi so the sport grows a good infrastructure

Baca Loco said...

Nick
If we agreed on too much I'd have to seriously reconsider my argument. ;)

Geo
Got any video?

Reiner Schafer said...

I agree with Baca that much thought needs to be put into incorporating paint limits and how it will affect the game.

On the other hand, how much thought was put into reducing the cost of paint over the years, which essentially raised paint usage, and how it would affect the game?

I wonder what competitive play would be like if paint prices had decreased over the years due to scales of economy, but paint in competitive play had been limited 20 years ago to the point that that players would today be shooting what they had then? I daresay there would be many more competitive players today as it would be much cheaper. I think guys like Steve Davidson may have actually been on the right track after all. But they got pushed out of the way and "progress" was allowed to progress.

Bruce Anderson said...

Geordie - I'm with Baca on this; I would really like to see how these games play.

playMisty4Q said...

To answer one of your queries - The profit is in the field sales. There is very little margin in team/tournament sales. The flip side is that at the major events the manufacturers are selling directly to the consumer, so they are able to keep the distribution and dealer margin for themselves. Nonetheless, after transport and staffing, its barely worth showing up - until you factor in the ethereal 'promotional value'

I am for LTD paint. I don't believe that a LTD paint MLP scenario raises the price of paint either. The huge majority of paint is sold to fields. MLP is a few trucks per year. MPL buys as much paint in a season as one single (albeit large) US/Canadian field. To imagine that MLP going LTD could impact the market to the degree you imply is just attributing too much importance to too little product, in my opinion.

Michael Brozak said...

Nick - I think you are spot on. We struggle every week with cost and come tournament time the true impact of paint cost rears its ugly head as we try to estimate what we will need to compete in 3 different divisions (D6-D5-D4, I know the first two are made up and don't truly exist). If we had a limit to what a player could carry then the estimating would be much much easier. We are a charitable organization and we raise money by hoisting rec games in our local area that we give back to groups doing good work for those in need(over 50k in the last 4-5 yrs). We also have a airball team geared towards helping young men learn sportsmanship and teamwork. We actively search out businesses that will help us and we give 10% of that sponsor money back to the charitable side while using the other to buy our team jerseys (at no cost to the players) and misc. (pods, pod fillers, snacks etc.). I have even been working on a 70' x 150' (which I know isn't reg. but works for a purpose) field / power line easement to drill on when we don't have a layout for up coming events. We ask that each player simple pay the cost (which is at a discount that we pass to our players - we make no money from them)of one case each for practice which we lump together as a group. We are trying to do everything we can to make it as affordable as we can for these young men and their families.

Paul - I think that not releasing the layout ahead of time is a great idea. I like the idea of adapting to the layout on the fly. Those that figure it out the quickest will be successful.

We all seem to love this sport so I hope that we do see some changes that will grow this thing.

Baca Loco said...

Q
So help me out. How did we get from $100 a case to $45? Or less. Somewhere in their manufacturers reduced their wholesale prices, didn't they?
And if it's true that the paint companies are feeling the pinch because the volume isn't there anymore isn't there a real economic need to raise prices at some point?

Baca Loco said...

Mike
How much paint do your players carry onto the field per point as a group?

Do you conduct practice on the basis of X amount of available paint or not?

Reiner Schafer said...

Wholesale paint prices can't be increased very much due to the fact that Asian suppliers are more than happy to flood the market with cheap wholesale paint. I get probably an email a week from some Asian company trying to get me to try out their paint. In that regard, the paintball industry has the same problem virtually every other manufacturing industry in North America is facing.

Nick Brockdorff said...

The reason we went from $100 per case to $45 a case, is because the manufacturing cost of a paintball dropped from 1 cent to 0,45 cent ;)

Well, that's not exactly true, we have to factor in also, that as quality gaps between manufacturers have dropped, they have all had to lower the huge margin they used to have on high grade paint, because price became the USP.

But still, the volume is so much bigger at the few plants still making paintballs than it used to be, which naturally lowers manufacturing cost, and at the same time, world market prices on gelatine, food dyes, etc. has dropped in recent years.

And yes, the asian manufacturers have entered the market in a big way in the last few years also, with a quality that is getting close to the good old american/canadian paintballs, which has also had an impact.

All that having been said, I think the point is that our little corner of paintball (tournaments) were never really a big market for the manufacturers in terms of direct sales.

But it allowed manufacturers to brand themselves at events that got good paintball media exposure, at the same time as getting close to a lot of the most influencial field owners in the marketplace, as many of them run teams and attend events (which is probably the biggest upside in the tournament market for manufacturers).

At any rate, I don't really see a paint limit in tournament paintball having too huge an impact on the financial state of the manufacturers.... especially since the whole object of such a move, would be to create increased playing population.

Baca Loco said...

Reiner
Don't doubt it for a second but fields also need to be responsive to their customers. I've seen the response to Chinese paint a few times and mostly it's not very positive. Even so there would be tipping point between price and quality in there somewhere.

Nick
In North American raw material costs have been on the rise, or so it's said, for between 24 and 36 months now approx. Even so, I think it's fair to say there is an upper limit to where manufacturers can take wholesale prices in the general marketplace.

Michael Brozak said...

Paul -
The lower division, the less they carry as a rule. They just don't shoot as much ( you know the old hide longer then shot thing). Usually our fronts go 5-6, mids 7-8, backs 8-10 based on the layout. Some layouts play to the aggressive atmosphere our the team and allow use to carry a few less across the board (pun intended).

Practice length is dictated by available paint for practice and what types of drills we are running. It 's typically the norm for use to run thru various skill set drills, 2 on 3's etc. with 2-3 points at the end to apply what we worked on. Using 8-10 cases amongst 12-15 players. We then use the surplus paint for supplementing the scrimmages when we have a layout without raising practice cost.

It's not foolproof but it has been working so far.

Anonymous said...

For GI to stay alive and not slash their workforce and relocate/close facilities etc, they need to sell X number of paintballs. Everything they do is predicated in someway on selling X paintballs. If they sell X/2 they'll either have to raise prices as Baca said or readjust to the new world where they have lower capacities (closures, firings).

If at a tournament, GI and Kee sold half as much paint, they'd either have to raise prices or spend less on events (sponsorships, advertising webcasts, small event presence, less events, etc)

But paint isn't so interesting. What about talk of competing leagues, troubles with Dye,,etc. these things have theoretical to radically change tournament paintball and not all positive ways!

Nick Brockdorff said...

Baca: I was taking a much longer view, since your premise was $ 100 per box.

Anon 12.19: GI does not need to sell "X paintballs" - GI needs to have a bottom line of X.

That having been said, even if volume was a goal in itself, I think everyone can pretty much agree that lower prices means a larger turnover.

Both because the people on a fixed budget buy more paintballs and because the market grows as a whole.

Also, I would be quite surprised if GI and Kee viewed events as a straight up cost vs sales business model.

I do not think the manufacturers have ever attended events, simply because they are good business in themselves.... it would be amateurish to view events as such for a manufacturer.

There are a lot of added benefits that cannot be calculated simply by holding sales at an event up against the cost of participating.

Q said...

Prices did go up at WHL this year. The entrance of Valken into the marketplace dropped prices for 3 straight years as they tried to buy market-share, but now they are on the rise again. Kee closing their plant has also had an impact on pricing. There isn't as much paint around as there was last year. Supply/Demand.
Many fields (the successful ones) are still at $100/case or more. They can command the price because they have an attractive product. Some are getting $140/$160/case, and packing their fields each weekend, while other local fields, selling at $50/case, remain empty. The power is in the product, to a degree.

If you're talking about MLP paint prices, well that's part of the evolution of the game. When the 2 main paint manufacturers own a share of the league that introduces a format demanding more paint be shot, permits full-auto fire, during 30 minutes of continuous play, at that point the paint prices had to come down, or the teams just wouldn't be able to play the format.

Anonymous said...

Nick provides advice on everything, despite never being successful at running a paintball company, league, etc.

It's easy to say how it should be or how "real" business men do it, but the fact is this industry we are a part of does not entirely line up with real world expectations.

Baca Loco said...

Thanks Mike. The only point I was hoping to make is that given your situation Nick's limitations on paint wouldn't have any real impact on your situation at all. To affect teams like yours it would need to much more restrictive--and that still doesn't do anything for practice paint use.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Anon 12.17:

Snide :D

I guess your opinion is, that someone who chose a career at management level in corporate life outside paintball AND got paid to play pro AND spent 25 years in paintball overall, lack the ability to advise on paintball business.

Fair enough, everyone is entitled to an opinion, me included luckily :P

Anonymous said...

TBH I know what he meant and don't even think he was being 'snide'.

You flog your points like you're Charlie Sheen at a brothel.

Michael Brozak said...

Paul that is correct to an extent. If a limitation was set on total pods on the field per point then we could still divi-up those as we see fit. If you give every line 15 pods per point + hoppers, to work with. Then put 2 on your fronts, 3 on your mids and 5 on your back player. That's about a case and a half per point max used. We all know that we hardly ever shot everything we carry anyway. I still think that if the cost of playing was reduced that we would see a bigger turn out of players and give us a larger talent pool to choose from.I really believe that there is untapped talent out there that we may never see on the field simple because of what it costs to play. I don't see an issue with the time commitment from my players its simple "cost". Again that's why we are doing everything we can to soften the financial blow. There are many things as I have asked you before that might make this game more fun / exciting to watch and play. The elimination of sideline coaching is a big one for me - frankly I love the idea if a player being aggressive and make a dynamic move that "isn't negated by someone outside the field of play calling out positions. I hope that we do see some changes for the better in the near future

Nick Brockdorff said...

Anyone who do not think Charlie Sheen is delightfully crazy and awesome, rates low in my book ;)

geordie604 said...

Pitt Meadows Punishers UPL E2 Speedball Highlight…: http://youtu.be/v0hmd_Sw4ZU

Many westcoast pro players are playing upl and its fast paced with paint limits



is one video link on my youtube under upl
Theres tonz of raw footage from events

geordie604 said...

Geordie604 on you tube

Watch in upl e2 pittmeadows punishers video by match strike to get the idea

Just to keep legit there hours of raw footage from 4 of this years events

Many westcoast grown x pro and semi pro paintball players play in this league ... we have no shortages of paint or game play field is set up with paint limits considered

Raw video is only done for our review

Event 4 has best raw footage and shows pace of games

Cost is super affordable 120 per player in this tier (div1)

Geo

17788822026 is my phone #
Face book unitedpaintballleague has loads of info

geordie604 said...

Posted link to lots of videos

Gameplay is fast and very entertaining to watch ... upl is formed with a limitless expansion considered
We use 12.5 cap psp ramp and psp inspired field layouts

All franchises playing are very happy equally and at 120$ per player at a event day it works for a test model well

Wed love to do a hybrid of this on a pro level with psp ...

Geo

Baca Loco said...

Thanks for the link, Geo
Do you play to a standard field size? If so, what are its dimensions? Thanks.

geordie604 said...

Yes baca we play psp length and width minimum and 20 feet wider than psp where facilities can acomidate was the wider field size field
We do a psp/ xball field set bunker layout

geordie604 said...

Beca 150'/180' is upl field size 5man

geordie604 said...

We didnt eliminate sideline coaching in UPL ( fixed paint amount league) 120$ div 1 for a event is afordable its 100 div 2/3 ...instead of no sideline coaching we put snake side opisate croud / pit side and coaching is on far side of the field ... we allow a person from the pit to call out and fans can cheer n so on without interrupting on field coaches ... yes the snake side coach is in the field are and doesnt have to yell over other peoples voices... this helped and the game plays so fast the coaching mostly helps make the game a faster more entertaining pace to watch. .. I personally prefered old school no coaching but it improves the entertainment value and I have to admit now ive proven myself wrong lol in a fast format doesnt take the skill away from the game like it is thought ... due to the speed the game happens at

geordie604 said...

Nick in bc fixed paint amount at our events has drawn alot more players out* of the woodwork *
Player population is increasing here with afordable events !

Anonymous said...

Nick does a great job in BC. A shame he doesn't have the support of the rednecks out there. Not cool what I heard about the last event.

geordie604 said...

Ive known nick a long time ... yes vpl is a fun league and works well we support vpl and other leagues
I did hear of a issue at one of his events but its not common bad press spreads fast ... my field is hosting vpls August event it will be good

This thread is about limited paint Upl has done a format that fits fixed paint costs at events and how it plays for speedball

Limits work and makes speedball way more affordable allowing a much larger customer overall $ spent on speedball potential for our suppliers and manufacturers because alot of players cant aford the sport wen they hit late teems and have to support themselves ... basically wen mom n dad dont pay the wallets alot emptier but theres still a wallet and with lower UPL costs more player can play more ball its simple really

geordie604 said...

Upl Facebook link is https://m.facebook.com/upl604

Lots to read there for info and details on how limited paint is played and works to build a larger player base than previously posable due to way more players being able to aford speedball play
the paintball gear manufactures sell way more gear and paint in a limited paint tournament world ... the higher divisions get more paint at an event and play longer matches

geordie604 said...

Event 6 july 12 UPL set up and played a standard 5 man type field set up NOT Tailored for limited paint paintball as we normally do ... turn out the limited paint was not a issue at all

All upl event 6 july 12 videos are limited paint full HD1080p and raw un edited footage

Here is a link to one of them
UPL E 6 VICTORIA VS MISSION TIER 1: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL74wntIoHOF5fP_zstR0tADu8DCNtttUk