Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chicken or Egg?

My favorite topic, as anyone that has read this Blog knows by now, is the health, or lack thereof, of our paintball industry. I’m a stakeholder in the industry; a very small stakeholder, but a stakeholder, nevertheless.

So in my readings I often come across the reasons why our industry has been declining in numbers these days. There seem to be two ends of the spectrum when it comes to his argument. The tourney guys and other high volume shooters, say it’s too expensive.

I’m not going there in this article other than to remind every one of this; prices of paintballs and equipment have never been lower than they have the past few years. But apparently we’re declining in numbers now because it’s too expensive. Does that mean it was less expensive during all the years when the industry was growing? When fields and manufacturers could barely keep up with the demand? Ponder that. Then give your head a shake and ponder it some more. Enough on the paintball is declining because it is too expensive issue. I’m not buying into it.

At the other end of the spectrum are the guys that feel the high paintball volume (or high ROF) style of the game has lead to the decline in numbers of players. The argument is that the high volume atmosphere is keeping new players away, at least from coming back a second time and taking up the game more seriously. Personally, that’s the side I’m on. It just makes sense if people trying the game out are not having fun they aren’t going to come back and eventually our numbers will dwindle. Any activity that is not fun for most people is not going to grow in popularity too much. Anyone that doesn’t understand that concept needs to do some more head shaking.

Most people blame the high volume (high ROF) problem on technology. They say paintball was more fun when markers weren’t capable of shooting at a rate that ends up changing the atmosphere to the point where the majority of participants aren’t having fun. I think that’s true. But the other component to the high volume style playing is the cost of ammo. Without low cost paintballs, the high volume style of play, doesn’t take place.

Obviously, over the years, there was an ongoing demand for markers that could shoot faster. Markers that could spit out more paintballs would give a player an advantage, or probably of more significance, markers with lower ROF would create a disadvantage (nobody wants to be put in a situation where they are at a disadvantage – if they are serious about winning anyway). As the popularity of these high ROF machines grew, the demand for more paintballs grew as well. Paintball manufacturers were able to produce and sell many more paintballs. New suppliers sprang up as the market for huge volumes of paintballs became apparent. Economies of scale came into affect (it’s cheaper to produce higher volumes of a mass produced consumable). So paintball prices dropped at the wholesale level and fields followed suit and passed those lower prices on to their retail players, mostly through what they thought was necessity, because the field across town had done so and they didn’t want to lose all their customers to them.

As paintball prices dropped, the demand for technology with even higher ROF (markers and loaders) grew even more. If a little higher ROF gave an advantage over the next guy, a lot higher ROF would create a bigger advantage. Only makes sense.

Even higher rates of fire, created even more demand for paintball, further enabling manufacturers to churn out paintballs for even less.

So now to the Chicken or Egg question (you didn’t think the title had anything to do with Easter, did you?). Was it the increase in ROF that created a situation where more paintballs were shot and therefore lowered the price of paintballs, or was it the lower priced paintballs that allowed players to shoot at higher ROF’s, therefore creating a demand for equipment with higher ROF capabilities?

So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Does it really matter? Why am I even asking the question if I, and others don’t really care? We can’t turn back time. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle as I’ve heard many say over the years. All very true, but the fact remains, if the high volume game has indeed been the major cause for the decline in paintball because new participants aren’t having fun, then the only way to reverse that tend is to do something about the high volume game.

High rate of fire markers in combination with low priced paintballs enabling their use, is arguably the biggest reason for the decline in participation in the industry. Chicken or egg? It doesn’t matter. But whether you kill all the chickens, or smash all the eggs, either way you are going to halt the clucking and crowing.

OK, so maybe exterminating chickens isn’t such a good idea, but my point is, and what we have built our field’s business model on, is if you create a situation where the high ROF markers cannot be fed with cheap paintballs anymore, the game will be more appealing to a larger segment of the population. A larger segment of the population will find their first paintball experience fun and will return for a second outing. Having them not have fun and having them not return for a second time is the fundamental issue at hand.

So let’s fix the problem! If you are a field owner and can lower the high volume game another way, go for it. I don’t care. Just create a lower volume playing atmosphere that the first time player will have loads of fun in so they’ll be back next week with all their friends. You’ll do them a favor and you’ll do yourself and the rest of the industry a favor too.

I’ll leave you with that for now. I’ve got to go throw some chicken on the BBQ.

1 comment:

  1. This is a VERY well done article. Honestly, this needs to be shared with the PB community. I really think this should be published in a PB magazine or at least on one of the big sites. Thinking like this is what will allow the sport to grow, and evolve into a form that will survive through time and any obstacles.