Friday, November 1, 2013

GOOGs (Gear Owner Only Games)

During this past summer, we started offering regularly scheduled games for gear owners only.  There were a few thoughts behind this idea.  First, let me say that many times we don’t get enough players at the field to have both gear owner and rental owner games, so splitting them up hurts our business on these days.  First, there is the fact that it’s not very much fun to play with smaller groups, especially on larger fields like our recreational fields are.  Second, having two games instead of one adds at least two extra staff we need to pay for, without adding any extra income.

I know many gear owners play more regularly than renters and the cost to play is more of a concern for them.  A $10 saving when you only play once a year isn’t a big deal but if you play 24 times a year, it adds up, and savings seem a little more important.  Our main competitor sells paintball for considerably less than we do and has attracted more of the gear owners over the years (I think we still get more overall, but the ratio has changed, so their piece of the gear owner pie has grown some).  So we started scheduling our Gear Owner Only Days (GOOGs) every Sunday.  We reduced our paintball prices by ½1/2 for those participating in the GOOG, actually making them cheaper than our competitors and obviously much cheaper for gear owners used to playing our regular prices.

This really stirred up some excitement when first announced and the first couple of weeks we had a higher than average turnout of gear owners who wanted to get in on the action.  One of the interesting things I noticed right away, which was a bit of a shock to me, was that many gear owners opted to play in the regular open group, with a higher ratio of renters, rather than in the GOOG, even though they had to pay considerably more for their paintballs (entry/air cost were the same).  After a while, the novelty of the GOOG wore off, and overall attendance at the field didn’t really change.  With many of the gear owners opting to play in the regular open games, there were days where we didn’t have enough players to have a GOOG.  We had no choice but to discontinue having scheduled GOOGs every Sunday and changed the schedule to having a GOOG only the last Sunday of the month, which is what the current schedule is.  We’ll have to see how many gear owners opt to play in the GOOG on the last Sunday in November.  October’s game saw about 20, which is just barely enough in my opinion.

The GOOGs obviously have a higher average level of skill and also better equipment on the field.  I thought that a lot of gear owners would see that as a positive, being able to play against better players on average, rather than renters.  I was wrong.  It seems there are many gear owners that are willing to pay extra to play in games that have lower average skill levels playing against them.  Our main competitor, who sell their paintballs considerably cheaper than our regular prices always has “mixed” games of renters and gear owners.  Our thought was that we would attract a few of those players as well, opting to play against higher skilled players, but that did not happen either.  When I discussed this with another field owner, he mentioned that most players would rather be wolves than sheep.  Given a choice, many players will opt to play in a game where they have a decided advantage.  Maybe I am naive, but since I personally would always prefer to play in a game where the playing field is fairly level, that thought didn’t really occur to me.  This is just another example of where a business owner (myself in this case) has failed by believing his viewpoint was similar to his customers’ viewpoint.  I personally would prefer not to play in an environment where a good percentage of the players were at a disadvantage to me (sheep).  Apparently, I am in the minority.