The Future of Paintball
Where is paintball headed??
The facts show that paintball is on a financial decline. This isn't anything new. It's been on a downward slope for some time now. Whose fault is it? Where do we point the finger? What are the contributing factors to its decline?
Major paintball companies closing. Searches for paintball and paintball related keywords are down on Google from only a few years ago. Paintball field closings.
This article is based solely on my point of view as a tournament player that tries to appreciate all aspects of the game. I currently make my living as an affiliate marketer. A large portion of my sales is from selling paintball products.
I started playing paintball in the early 90's at small local fields. They mostly shot pump guns with 9 oz CO2 tanks and charged $100 for a case of paintballs. Typically, with the rates of fire back then, a case would serve several people playing all day. You spent most of your time unjamming rental guns and fighting to see out your scratched small rental goggles.
Paintball has drastically changed over the years. Now, even low end guns offer high rates of fire. The equipment is usually more trouble-free and readily available. It's rare for a player with even minimal paintball playing experience to not have at least some of his own equipment.
This increase in equipment sales has sprung up new companies all over the world. The industry has made a dash for what felt like a gold rush as paintballs popularity grew into the new millennium. High end guns made their appearance as tournament play gained common place at fields around the world.
Even here in Wisconsin, paintball fields started popping up all over. There were as many as 50 operating fields in this state in the early 2000's. As the last few years has shown all over the country, paintball fields have been closing down by the dozens. Even the fields our team frequented stopped hosting tournaments due to a lack of participation. Several of these fields used to have to break up the brackets and have sudden death eliminations due to enormous turnouts.
What happened to everyone? Where are all of these tournament players? Speaking from my point of view, most of my teammates(myself included), have gotten older. Other responsibilities in life have come and taken presidence over paintball. Wives, children, mortgages, the list could go on. The point is that my disposable income has been strongly reduced.
So where is the next generation of paintball players to come an fill the gap? They are all over PBNation chit chatting about the sport. So why aren't they at the fields playing the tournaments and scenario events? Frequenting the weekend local fields? Buying the equipment from JT, Smart Parts and other failing paintball companies?
How much does it cost for a good day of paintball? $50? $100? $100+? When I played a tournament, I would typically spend anywhere from $100 to $200 for entry fees, paintballs, field fees and other costs. Does the new generation not have the money? Or are they spending it on cell phones and iPods?
One problem we had as a paintball team was that the equipment was always upgrading. Walking onto a paintball field with a 5 year old marker meant you were going to get out shot. It could have meant your opponent having a higher rate of fire or better technology working for them. To keep up, one would have to spend a good deal of money every year to sustain competitive equipment.
As the economy fell into a recession, generally people start being more conservative with their disposable income. Paintball isn't a necessity. So how are people reacting to it? Those kids paintball parties that mom sets up, those company outing that include 100 people, where are they all? Perhaps they have been moved to a more cost conscious solution? Renting a pavilion at a park? Or other less stimulating but budget friendly places?
Could .50 caliber help out the sport? Or is it a ploy for equipment manufacturers to sell a new batch of guns and ammo to the industry. A box of .50 paintballs is only 5-15 dollars less than a case of .68. The equipment certainly isn't priced cheaper. How does it affect game play? Are the paintballs not marking as good as the .68? Are the .50 paintballs more tolerant of temperature or poor manufacturing?
What is the reward for playing paintball? Have peoples expectations gone up as to what the sport should be delivering? Should we be further along with the development of game play? Maybe running around in the woods isn't what it used to be. Maybe it's time to develop more exciting game play.
I thing the big question is going to be, will the sport turn around with the economy. Or did the sport embrace projected growth and simply out grew it? Did the, "if you build it they will come" aspect not produce as much as we invested into it?
As a paintball player and business person, I strongly hope that we will see paintball grow and have the remaining companies and fields prosper. I think paintball will rise as the economy comes back. This sport is a great deal of fun for players at all levels. Will 2010 be the year things turn around? Let's hope so.
Posted by Redwood