Monday, May 18, 2009

I cringe when people think I should be smiling

On a regular basis I have people say to me, “You must love the sound of that?” when they hear an extraordinary amount of paintballs being blasted during a game.

I always answer with, “No, actually I don’t. I cringe a bit when I hear that.” Then they look at me oddly, as if I didn’t understand what they meant.

I have to admit, the first couple of years that we were in business, I did get excited when I heard lots of paintballs being shot. With our paintballs costing anywhere between 6 and 10 cents per ball, the thought of all those paintballs being shot was quite exhilarating. It took me a while to figure out that although I might be taking more money to the bank that day, it was costing our business in other ways.

After a while we came to the realization that those customers are not shooting money, as some have suggested in the past. Those people are shooting paintballs and they are shooting them at other people. Now shooting paintballs at other people while playing paintball is more of less the objective, but being the one shot at with huge volumes of paintball can be quite intimidating, especially if you are not used to it, and many of our customers are not used to it.

We really didn’t come to that conclusion until some time after we had built our second field. You see, our first field was a fairly large forested field with lots of natural cover and bunkers and buildings built by us where we thought more cover was needed. For the most part, those that didn’t want “in you face” action, could hang back and hide if they wanted to. When we built our second field, Urban Assault, it was a much smaller field. Once the game started, players could shoot at each other almost immediately. The play was condensed into a much smaller space and those that were a little more timid found it much more difficult to find a spot with less action. On the other hand, some of our customers loved it; much more than our original woodsball field. Right away we noticed, there was much more paint being blasted as soon as the games started.

I literally remember smiling and thinking to myself, “Yeah, now we are going to make some real money.” But it didn’t take long to realize that some players didn’t like the field as much as the larger woodsball field. They didn’t tell us that they thought the field was too intense or that they didn’t like the fact that there was more paint shot on the field. You see, most people don’t like to admit that they don’t like the intense action. I guess they think they might be thought of as chicken or cowards. So they just say things like, “Yeah, I don’t really like that field as much.”

“Do you mind if I ask why not?”

“I don’t know. I just like the woodsball field better.”

Over the years we have built our field with diversity in mind. We know some people like intense, in your face action (most of our regular gear owners do). But we also know some people don’t. We rotate all of our groups so they can experience all the fields. Hopefully every one of our customers will find some of our fields to their liking. But I am very much aware that some of our customers are not really all that comfortable on our smaller fields where they cannot hide from the intense action. So when I hear a lot of heavy marker fire and I know there are a fair number of newer (and chances are, timid) players, I cringe instead of smile. I think I’m an odd field owner.


  1. So you're odd because more paintballs flying means that there is a higher probability a customer will not return?

    I disagree =)

  2. Guess I'm odd, too! Maybe we should start ANOTHER paintball organization. Anyone got a great acronym idea? PBOBA perhaps? Paintball Oddball Association?

  3. Legion, if you disagree that I'm odd, then thank you, I guess.

    If you meant you disagree, that higher volumes of paintballs flying means that there is a higher probability a customer will not return, then we will just have to disagree on that one.

    Actually, if we are talking about "a" customer, then that really depends on what that one customer likes. Obviously those playing regularly now at fiedls where high volume paintball is on the menu, either like it like that, or at least tolerate it.

    Of course the ones who don't like it and choose to stay home and spend their time taking part in activities other than paintball, neve come onto paintball sites to express their opinion. All we hear from are the ones still playing, but that doesn't mean they are the majority. They just happen to be the only ones expressing an opinion (well, except for me and a few other oddballs out there).

  4. Haha, looks like I wasn't clear enough as I completely understand where you are coming from. The reason why I love your blog is that you are a field owner with an actual business plan of how to grow not only the membership at your field, but also paintball in general.

    I'm not sure the statistics on paintball forums, but in the software industry, only 10% of users visit forums. That means if you cater exclusively to them, you've probably lost out on 90% of the total market.

    I know I'm not your target market given that I am a high volume shooter, but I really appreciate places like yours because it seems really well run and great for recreational players.

  5. That's an interesting field design "rule" you hit on there.... rec fields should be designed so that it is not possible to shoot the other team's players at the start of the game - or maybe even within the first 5-10 seconds of the game if you run off at full-clip.

    Another thought I had...

    I was in the grocery store picking up some apples (attempting to modify the diet a bit) and above each type of apple was a sign with a line and a dot above the line.... dot all the way to the left meant the apple was sweet, dot all the way to the right meant it was tart.

    Maybe we should rate our fields - when you go on the field, or look at the field map, it's got something that graphically conveys wither the field is, say, 'strategic' or 'speedy' (or some other suitable words). Then players have some idea what they're getting in to.

  6. I"m often given a bad time by my staff and even my business partner because I jump in and play at our field quite a bit. I rarely ever play a whole day, but I'll often jump in for a few games. I usually put on one of the rental camo tops to blend in a more, I don't like being the cente of attention. I do this because I still, after all these years, enjoy playing the game. I also do it because I like to hear and see how my customers react. Lastly I do it to see how the fields play. I don't know how many times I've discovered repairs that were needed and upgrades that would benefit play. Sometimes the repair was as simple as a little hole that gave one team an advantage by being able to stick a barrel through it and keeping the other team at bay while being almost impossible to take out. Sometimes it's much more elaborate, realizing that several bunkers are needed to even things up for one side of the field. A good field owner needs to see through the eyes of a player as often as possible.