Monday, August 17, 2009

Will Paintball Die?

Sometimes I wonder if paintball, as an industry, is on a course of self-destruction.

Over the years we have seen fields change from places where players would go for an adrenaline raising day of plinking away at each other with paintballs numbering under 100 to a day where players are shooting a case (or multiple) cases of 2,000 paintballs. Of course this has happened because fields competing with each other have continuously dropped their paintball prices enabling players to shoot those quantities. The manufacturers of paintballs are just as responsible for this trend. They too, due to competition, lowered their prices enabling fields to retail for less and less.

This has created a product that is so dissimilar from it’s roots that you can hardly compare it anymore. The cheaper paint prices have not attracted more players to the game, but on the contrary are keeping many people from picking up this high intensity form of paintball.

The problem is that the trend is basically irreversible. Paintball manufacturers are in the business of selling paintballs. It’s a competitive environment with emerging competition from offshore sources. Wholesalers can’t raise their prices. Since they are in the business of selling paintballs, they have no choice but to keep cutting costs as much as possible and trying to sell higher volumes of their product. With less people picking up the game, those that do remain are marketed to, trying to persuade them to shoot more.

The .50 caliber paintball is the perfect solution to this. It decreases production and shipping costs, reduces retail price to the players, ensuring they will buy and shoot more and is being touted as the savior for fields and stores because the cheaper wholesale price will bring back the margins needed for fields and stores to survive.

But is this what will really happen? Will fields and stores retain these margins and have more money to keep fields and stores open and to upgrade and maintain fields better? Or will fields and stores lower their prices of the new balls and pass those savings on to their customers in hopes of securing a bigger part of the pie, as they have throughout the history of our sport as wholesale prices came down? What kept fields and stores from maintaining the needed margins as wholesale prices dropped in the past? Why does anyone think things will be different now? Am I missing something?

Manufacturers have no choice. Low price competitors force their high volume sales tactics. Store and field owners, as a group, aren’t smart enough to figure out that they need to retain some of those wholesale cost savings for themselves. They WILL compete with each other to try to get a bigger slice of the pie and that will result in lower retail paintball prices, which will result in more paintballs sold/shot, which in return will result in even less people wanting to pick up the sport. Sounds like a course of self-destruction to me. It’s very depressing.


  1. "which will result in more paintballs sold/shot, which in return will result in even less people wanting to pick up the sport"

    Higher rates of fire (HROF) is one reason I was attracted to and remain engage in the sport. I still love my pumps (got four of them) but... really... liking the HROF. Keeps me interested. Keeps me going out to play at the airball field. My point... HROF did not detract from my interest in the sport. It was in fact one of the primary "hooks" that drew me in.

    What does make the sport less attractive to me is HROF + very high paint prices. This is not a formula that will work for me. It will keep people away if they are motivated by HROF action.

    This does not mean that I think that TNT should change it's operating premise. TNT has a marketing approach that works for entry level players who are somewhat timid about getting shot. LROF (Low Rates of Fire) and the very casual rec baller or serious pump master will continue to be drawn to TNT. They know the action is safe, FUN, and well staffed. TNT serves as an entry into the world of paintballing. TNT operates in the "Flag Football" realm as opposed to "full contact football". "Flag" is safe and challenging, and will bring out birthday parties, and moms and dads. It is the entry into something more demanding. LOL... K... I'm done.

  2. I understand and agree with everything you said. There is nothing wrong with HROF, in the right place at the right time, and with the right people. The big problem with HROF (# of paintballs shot per outing/day, not per second) is that most North American fields cater to HROF all the time and don't give the players that would rather play in a LROF environment a chance to do so.