Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lack of Innovation

Every once in a while in my browsing of forums and blogs, I find someone who believes the lack of new innovation and technology is causing paintball industry’s slump. While I’m not saying that those companies who have built a business model around constantly releasing new technology, may not be hurting a bit with a lack of new mind blowing technology released, I can’t help but wonder how this affects the average person deciding whether they are going to play paintball on the upcoming weekend or during the upcoming season.

These people can’t possibly be thinking that people are staying home because they don’t have any new upgraded toy to play with, can they? If they are right, and that is the case, what does that say about the sport we have evolved into?

Have soccer players stayed home because there have been no significant technology changes in soccer balls or soccer cleats? How about basketball, football, or tennis players? Are they also staying home because their technology advancements are at a near standstill?

Is paintball’s technology not advanced enough for some to be able to eliminate others with a paintball consistently enough yet?

As far as companies that are struggling because players aren’t getting all excited about the new model that is basically just like the old model…wasn’t that bound to happen some time? Did they think players would be fooled forever by the new shape of the grip or body molding? Did they think players would keep getting excited about the new model that could now shoot 28 bps instead of 26 bps?

I don’t like to see any business fail, because I know how much work is involved in running a business, but in the end, for a business to succeed, the people running the business need to be able to pick up on trends before or at least while they are changing. Trying to catch up after the trend has established itself is very difficult.

We are in a transition state in paintball and have been for a few years. The game has evolved into a totally different game than when the concept of paintball started. It is a very fast, almost brutal game compared to what it used to be, both on the competitive and the woodsball side. The number of people wanting to take part in today’s type of game is limited. We are very close to the saturation point, meaning there are very few new players that want to enter the world of paintball. New players now must come from those that were too young to play a year or two ago. It’s been like that for a while. That’s why the industry has been marketing to younger and younger players. But we’ve reached the level of minimum age, so now kids have to “grow up” before they can play. And these kids that come of age and enter the sport aren’t enough to replace the exiting players.

Manufacturers will continue to fail and fields and stores will continue to close for a while, until the new equilibrium has been established. At that point, for every field and store that opens, another one will close. There are, and will continue to always be, a few more manufactures, fields, and stores operating than are needed. That’s the nature of almost every industry. New businesses start, thinking they can do things better or more efficiently than the existing ones (and sometimes they can), but eventually someone has to drop out because there is just not enough money to go around in the industry. This process is what keeps businesses motivated to do things efficiently, but it also has it’s downside. Because it keeps the money short for almost everyone involved, it also stagnates improvements and advances. This is most visible at fields. Field owners can’t afford to build and maintain fields and the infrastructure to run fields. So when you get to a field and it looks like it hasn’t been worked on for a long time, it probably hasn’t. The owner has probably run out of energy and/or can’t afford to hire anyone to do the work for him.

Seems like I’ve gotten way off track from what I started to write about, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Till next time!


  1. I am one of the people who believes that the industry is hurting due to lack of innovation.

    But not the way you seem to think.

    I don't think participation is impacted by lack of innovation at all. What *IS* impacted is MARGINS.

    For 20 years, next year's product was significantly better than last year's product. People had an incentive to buy the new one, and anything two years old was obsolete. That meant companies did not have to compete with a used equipment market, and could charge a price premium for the latest and greatest.

    That is no longer true. Now companies have to compete not only with other companies' products, but also their own products on the used equipment market. That's actually very good for participation - a player can avoid the cost of new equipment by buying used equipment and have pretty good equipment. But it's a very negative change for the industry, who has to switch from swimming in high-margin profits to competing in a have-to-win on price market.

    This is a case where what is good for participation is bad for manufacturers.

  2. Good point. Not being a retailer, I don't see that side of things very much. Also at our field, we have never seen high volumes of the "latest and greatest." Everyone comes to play for fun and the new electro shooting 20 bps or hopper capable of keeping up with it isn't going to do you much good.