Friday, August 22, 2014

Guns Guns Guns

Regulars here know VFTD doesn't talk about paintball gear because it only leads to pointless (and endless) arguments ("Is so." "Is not.") and I've no desire to expand this audience with "those people." And I don't do equipment reviews because they are tedious (been there, done that a hundred times over) and nobody wants to hear the truth, certainly not the industry producers. So any post that includes the hardware of paintball is just looking for trouble. Except I'm really not. It's just that I can't talk about the relationship between technology and the play of the game without, in this case, discussing guns, or markers if you prefer. And what the future might hold in a changing competitive environment.
Historically technology advancements have driven the game in significant ways. (Which is an interesting conversation all on its own. Who still remembers actual gravity-feed hoppers?) Another is how marketing created an artificial buying cycle which in turn contributed to the glut of used guns and helped destroy the secondary value of those guns. (But you can see where that conversation might cause some agitation.) So we're not going there. Instead this post will speculate in more detail on how trends in the play of the game might impact future guns. (Or loaders for that matter.)
In my last post, Restricted Paint FTW, I asked a few rhetorical questions about the impact of restricted paint on gun utility and where it might lead. The two most influential tournament series in the world have reduced ROF to 10 bps. (In the PSP it's only for the pro teams but remember the league tried to introduce 10 bps to divisional a few years ago.) At 10 bps performance is hovering on the blurry line that separates modern electro-pneumatic guns from the best of the Old Skool mechanical markers. More to the point it is also a range well within the performance envelope of even the low end electros to say nothing of mid-price markers. A number of pro teams shoot mid-price markers without handicap. The fact is almost anyone can afford a perfectly functional tournament capable gun today. (And we've haven't even mentioned the huge resale market of formerly top end guns available on the cheap.) If the ROF were to drop any further top mechanical guns would be competitive too. Toss in restricted paint usage and it's a whole new game for guns. A reduced ROF and rules mandated scarcity of available paint will reorder gun performance priorities. Ramping becomes largely counterproductive. Air efficiency is nearly irrelevant. (More so even than today.) Improved ergonomics and accuracy become leading trends and differentiators. As the priorities and defining characteristics of 'performance' are altered manufacturers are pushed to produce specialty guns that are actually specialty guns. (Or not.)
Now all of this begs another question--or two. If competitive paintball is merely a tiny corner of the paintball marketplace can it drive manufacturers' decision-making? The seemingly sensible answer would be no. But history suggests technology advancements and innovations have been driven by the competitive game. Or at least largely focused on the competitive game. And that the competitive market informs the rest of the paintball marketplace. Recreational players with their own equipment don't buy $1000 guns because they need them to play. Would that pattern continue or would the scenario & rec crowd continue to want their machine guns and paint sprayers?
Could a changing competitive game create a new divide separating competitive paintball from the other forms of paintball? Would that ultimately be a good thing?

More speculation next time as VFTD ponders another possibility.


Michael Brozak said...

Paul -
Would it be a good thing? The separation between the two? Yes I believe it would and with the UWL being the bridge. Maybe?

Baca Loco said...

It might very well prove a positive. Zs to the UWL bridging the gap--not so much.
I doubt the UWL will be ubiquitous enough to serve as a bridge. On the other hand I'm not sure a bridge is required either.

Kaz said...

The fact that non-sponsored players even drop the cash required for the newest model "super gun" has perplexed me since the advent of the ION marker... and every "mid-level" marker that's come out since. I've strictly used mid-grade markers since 2005 and have played competitively since then in every major format. I would much rather spend my money(what little of it I have) on playing the game and the costs of making it to events than some super gun that talks to me or looks pretty. I wish my teammates over the years would do the same. I don't know how many times I've heard, " I can't practice/play this event because I just got this 1200+ gun."

Drives me crazy. Even when a team I'm on has a sponsorship package, I have stuck with the cheapest one I could get that would still allow me to compete. I've never felt handicapped by any tournament marker I've used either.

I know that's a little off topic... but that's what this post has me thinking about. I am always preaching this to newer players... though they usually still go out and buy the high ends anyway when they could use that money to drill and actually improve their game.