Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who is Playing Less?

Who is playing paintball less in these days of economic uncertainty? There is more unemployment these days and many of those employed are not earning as much income as they used to. When the economy is slow, wages are cut back where possible, there is little overtime offered, those that are self employed, although not showing up in the unemployment figures are earning less. In general there is just less expendable income out there. There are also the people who are not directly affected by with loss of income, but fear they might be in the future, so they hold on to their money a little tighter.

As a business owner of a type of business that is certainly not a necessity by any stretch of the imagination, the fact that people in general have less money to spend is obviously in my thoughts. So at our recreational paintball facility, who have we been seeing less of in these tougher times? The answer is regulars. The players that play more often, are coming a little less often. The number of players that only come once or twice a year (mostly renting) has not really changed in the past year or so for us. If anything, the number of those players has gone up slightly.

I was thinking about this trend the other day and trying to analyze why this might be the case. There are probably papers and books written on the subject, but I like to knock things around in my own head and see what makes sense to me. This is the way I see it.

A person that normally spends $50 every two weeks for a hobby is going to save much more money by eliminating or cutting back that activity than a person that spends $60 once or twice a year for the same type of entertainment.

For the regular player, $100/month (I’m just arbitrarily using this figure) is going be a big deal, if their income has been cut back and they have less expendable income. However, a player spending an average of $5 to $10/month, is hardly going to notice that. That’s probably a lot less than they spend on coffee.

That means that paintball fields that cater mostly to regular players are going to be a lot harder hit in these times than fields that cater mostly to players that only play once or twice per year. From my interactions with other field owners, that definitely seems to be the case.

Fields that cater to higher level tournament type players seem to be hit the hardest (they spend the most). It only makes sense. Tournament players, especially ones that strive to be near the top, need to practice regularly and play in tournaments fairly regularly. That’s a big commitment, both of time and of monetary expenditure. Those are the players that we are going to see drop out or cut back on their spending the most. The renter that only plays once or twice a year and spends $60 each time is going to be much les affected. And so will the business that caters to them.


  1. Been a while since I came to read, didn't realize so many new posts had been made. Well written and insightful articles. I'm a strong proponent of your field's style of play and management, and I'm very glad that it continues to work for you - looking forward to the WCPW this year!

  2. This is one of the reasons I put together a pump marker. I use less paint, am forced to change my play style, and get to practice aiming to boot. No more spray and pray!

  3. Hi Aaron. I'll argue that you can practivce aiming with any marker, but obviously with a pump, if you miss your first shot, by the time you get your second shot away, it's most often too late, so it forces you to make that first shot count. Following a stream of paint to zero in on your target is a bad habit that doesn't work well at high level play.

    Using a pump definitely saves money which means, unless you're loaded, you'll be able to play more often. We have a big pump community at our field, possibly the biggest in the Great White North. I'd rather see my customers more often shooting less paint than try to wring all their money out of them getting them to shoot as much as possible. Only short sighted field owners do that.

    Even renters that only play once a year and really aren't going to complain too much about spending an extra $20, are going to give a field better word of mouth advertising if the field didn't try to milk them dry and they leave regretting spending all that money. We don't want our customers telling their friends, "Yeah it was a lot of fun, but it was also very expensive." We just want them to say, "It was a lot of fun. You should come with us next time."

    Thanks for the comment. Keep on pumpin'.

  4. The more paint you sell a customer, the more of the customer's money the paint company gets instead of you.

  5. "The more paint you sell a customer, the more of the customer's money the paint company gets instead of you."

    If you've lowered the price of the paint in order to sell more.