Thursday, January 22, 2015

Can the XPL succeed?

If you haven't heard about the XPL check out their website or Facebook page. (I'll wait.) Okay, it is a would be national league looking to build a following primarily by offering a more xball-like (or lite?) format while flashing cash prizes--at least for the winners. The XPL is using APPA for registration and appears to be on board with APA's classification system as well. Entries are a fraction of PSP fees and the venues will all be pre-existing local fields in various spots around the country. For example first up will be a hometown Phoenix event in February followed by a March event in Florida (at the new Tracks & Trails near Ft. Meyers.) The Phoenix event isn't offering an Open division but the Florida event is and 'Open' is included in the (very) thin rulebook. Otherwise it's bread & butter will be D3- D5. The Phoenix event had 39 teams registered when I checked and Florida had 38. Nearly half the Phoenix registrants have already paid.
No, the numbers aren't huge and I doubt they frighten the PSP--yet--but if those kinds of numbers actually show up for the inaugural series of events everyone will begin to pay attention. In part because the teams the XPL is targeting for customers/competitors is the same teams the PSP relies on to a significant degree and if the XPL pulls entry level divisional teams away from the PSP the loss will hurt. Looking at the teams presently registered for Phoenix they appear to be heavily local (no real surprise) and not sporting names I recognize. (Though I confess I'm not any sort of authority on D3/D4 PSP teams.) Even so the Florida list of teams has a number of teams I recognize as PSP regulars or semi-regulars. Both events however are largely populated (so far) with local or regional teams.
All of which is almost meaningless right now. How the XPL does will depend on how well they deliver on their promises. How satisfied the competitors are with the events and whether or not the new league can make a few bucks in the process. For now the most important thing is to not screw it up. That means having viable schedules and staying on time. It means having experienced refs. It means providing oversight and customer service. It means being prepared for unexpected eventualities or at least learning from past (hopefully) small mistakes. It means using these early events to project the right image and build a brand.
Right now interested teams are giving the XPL the benefit of the doubt because it sounds like something they want to do. The first event or two will either support a positive impression or begin to tear it down.
There are things that need to be improved on sooner rather than later. The website is the face of the league. It's okay but some of the efforts are amateurish with misspelled words and poor grammar. If the events are great nobody will care but if the league appears unprofessional now it may put off teams that might otherwise try an event sooner instead of later. Do we play the first one event near us or wait and see how it goes first? And the rulebook is a page, not a book. Nothing about penalties or equipment or even post-preliminary play. Issues will come up at events that require rules in black & white. I could nitpick a few other odds and ends but I trust the point is made.
Can the XPL succeed? Absolutely, warts and all. All it has to do is deliver on promises made (and implicit) and deliver a positive competitive experience for its teams. Come close to that target in the first season  and the XPL may end up turning teams away in the second--and it won't matter if the website is in Portuguese or not.


Anonymous said...

Hey Baca - Anything insights on Damage calling of quits? Was this one of the teams you were hinting about?
More importantly; since the rumor mill has kicked into overdrive regarding Dye financial problems (with supporting evidence in the form of Wells Fargo claim letters) any comments/insight?

Baca Loco said...

Damage's days were numbered given the source of their funding and the state of the game. Same is true for all the teams, pro or otherwise. In Damage's case a late decision by ownership not to fund the team was the direct cause and I think everyone knew that decision was going to be made at some point but it wasn't clear it was going to be now until it happened.

Given that Dave is principle owner of the PSP and probably majority owner of PBA as well if DYE tumbles no telling the extent of the fallout and I'm not convinced the league is sustainable without a dynamic pro division.

MQ said...

I feel that the league is absolutely sustainable without the Pro's. Easily so. It's only the Pro paintball-team model that is unsustainable.

Crying shame about Damage though, they were a big name in the Division, and will be missed for sure.

Reiner Schafer said...

I assume this has turned into talking about the PSP rather than the XPL now, but what makes the Pro Division less sustainable than the other divisions, just out of curiosity? Is it that they are mandated to be at every event, while the other divisional teams are not? Or is that just a choice?

Baca Loco said...

Without a dynamic pro division to make the PSP unique and ranking rules that allow regional divisional competitors to win with only a successful Cup appearance the league loses both cachet and specialness. I'm not convinced even with a strong pro division the league has any legs; without it won't last 5 years.

Right now the costs involved to be and stay competitive. Without heavy factory involvement or independent resources teams can't usually manage. And of course once you're competing at the top level if you're not really competitive teams tend to have a lot of roster turnover or just fall apart.

All that is going to change in the next couple of years but it will take the quality of play down a notch or two as well.

Anonymous said...

Pro teams can afford to show up and play if the players are willing to play for a free ride, and free gear. The problem is you can always offer a player 5k more to buy him over and win, so the salary cap would be the way to go.

A healthy pro division can not be built on a foundation of random investment from wealthy bystanders. Aftershock, back in the day was talented and inspired teams like Lockout, etc to rise up and compete in their ranks. None of these guys had salaries unless they were teching guns or packing boxes during the week for sponsors. What's wrong with that model?

Tom Romay said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but I think the future of west coast paintball HAS to include leagues like XPL, WCPPL and UPL. The PSP has turned their back on those of us that live west of Texas, and quite frankly I no longer have a desire to play any of their events. Anyway, your point about whether the XPL is able to sustain and grow it's image is valid. Many local Phoenix teams have had the opportunity to play the format since it was tested and tweaked in a local series last year called SWXBL. It's fun, fast paced and really competitive. I know that my team has come back from a 3 point deficit to win - which is almost unheard of in a Race to 4 format and of course impossible in a Race to 3 format. The beauty is that the entry fee is less than a third of what the PSP charges. Quality refs and a smooth operation will be something that the competitors expect and should be's not too much to ask for. There will probably be some growing pains, but nothing that can't be overcome.

Oh, and I agree about the grammar and spelling issues...drives me nuts!!