Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's an Epidemic

Pump paintball play is growing. Statistics in paintball have always been a little lacking, but from what I see and read, there is no denying that more players are playing with pumps. In recent years, several manufacturers have designed and produced new pump markers. Others have revisited old designs and rereleased these. They (the manufacturers) are only doing this because there is a market for it. So why has that market grown? Why have players chosen to pick up pumps, when they clearly handicap them, at least when they are playing against semi toting players?

Is the arms race over? For years (basically since the beginning of our sport), the quest to have an advantage in firepower has dominated players' minds. Do players no longer desire to have an advantage? The crucial factor in the arms race is the price of a paintball. Paintball prices were decreasing steadily throughout our game's history, that technological advances in firepower could be taken advantage of. Therefore, (almost) everyone wanted the fastest, most reliable paint shooter. That's what all the marketing was about (don't ever think that marketers do not have power to influence).

But paintball prices have seemingly gone as low as they can. In recent years, paintball prices have actually risen slightly, indicating that the low that was hit, was probably a little too low for manufacturers to sustain. With a paintball price equilibrium reached, there is no more need to increase the ROF technology. What would be the point of a marker shooting 50 bps for instance, if players could only use the feature for a few seconds to shoot their budget of paintballs?

Pump use in paintball seems to be growing at an inverse rate of tournament paintball declining. This may be sheer coincidence, or there may be some common factors affecting both. Economic conditions are probably having some effect. I personally think it definitely has something to do with value. Let's not forget that paintball is a recreational activity. Paintball is played by individuals because they want to play, not because they have to play.

People want to play paintball because it is fun. For years, the emphasis was to market paintball as a competitive sport. People chose to play paintball competitively, for the fun, just as they might choose to play baseball, soccer, football, or basketball. As long as competitive paintball was affordable and fun (seen as having good value) it was growing. The peak time for competitive paintball was during the time when paintball prices were dropping to their lowest point. As prices were dropping, players could afford to shoot a competitive amount of paintballs and could afford to buy them. It was fun and it was affordable. Average player paintball consumption during that time was increasing as the prices dropped. However, when the prices stopped dropping and in fact rose some, but players still felt the need to shoot "competitive" amounts of paintballs to stand a chance of being successful on the field, it became less affordable. The voluntary recreational activity decreased in value. Players were dropping out of the competitive scene and less were entering and those that did enter, left after shorter stints.

But people still want to play paintball. It's still fun to feel that adrenaline of hunting and being hunted. It's been part of our human instincts since... before we were even humans. It's part of what we are as animals in the animal kingdom. Paintball is probably as close to what we can get to truly hunting and being hunted without serious injury. Therefore I think it's natural for humans to be drawn to the activity. It's probably the reason we see many more males at fields than females as well. The hunting instinct is stronger in human males than females. That instinct has been cultivated over hundreds of thousands of years.

Modern life limits us by economic pressures. As much as we would like to, we can't do everything we want to do, even if driven by deep instinctual desires. Pump play allows us to feel the adrenaline of hunting and being hunted, and still feel we are getting sound value. As the number of pump players increase at local fields, other, often newer players see that playing with pump markers is viable. They see those using them having fun without it emptying their bank account. They want to keep playing paintball and now they see a way of accomplishing that. Pump play lets them have affordable fun. It's good value. It's no wonder we are having a pump epidemic.

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