The Future of Pump and Stock Class Paintball: rantings of an old school player
May 31, 2002
The Future of Pump and Stock Class Paintball:
rantings of an old school player
Where we’ve been:
In the beginning, there was only stock class, no choice, no semi’s, just your basic overgrown pellet gun, powered by 12 gram powerletts. They were slow shooting, expensive, and not very accurate, But oh what fun they were! With this basic equipment, an entire new industry was born, based upon a game played by a few guys who wanted something different. That first game was played in the woods, on a huge piece of property, the winner never even firing his nelson cattle marker…By 1985, paintball began to come into its own as a true sport. There were still under 50,000 players world wide, but it was growing quickly, and equipment advances made the sport even more player friendly. Fast forward to the early 90’s, half a million players world wide, and the advent of the semi auto paintball guns. Rapid firing, constant air, and bulk loaders made anyone who could walk (and some who couldn’t) and squeeze a trigger able to go out and play. Field insurance rates had dropped by then, have a long proven safety record, and so did the allowable age of players. Where once you had to be at least 16 to play, now players as young as ten years old could plunk down there allowance at their local field and have a fun day. By the late 90’s pump action paintball guns had all but disappeared from the playing field. The rapid firing and paint hogging semis were more profitable to field owners and manufactures alike, their ease of use attracted more players, and the market for pump markers withered up and was largely abandoned.
Through every stage of paintball history there has been resistance and controversy, when 12 grams gave way to constant air, experienced players objected, same when direct feed came in, and especially semi autos. As with all things there is always resistance to change, paintball is no exception. There are always holdouts, clubs and organizations dedicated to the old ways. Some successful, most failures, good or bad, or indifferent its simply a fact of life, you cant get in the way of progress, no matter how hard you try.
Today the sport is number 6 on the alternative sports surveys, and rapidly climbing, there are over 5 million players world wide, and a multi billion dollar industry to support it. The tools of the sport are high tech, state of the art, and expensive. The sport has moved from the wood to the arena, and some players even make a living professionally, simply playing, the same as baseball, football, golf, hockey, and other popular sports. But the grassroots of paintball are still strong, and at the local level, things are changing.
Where we’re going:
There are many different schools of thought of the future of paintball, some say pump is forever dead and not worth time to even comment about. Others say pump will remain, but only at renegade fields and in backyards, played with cheap equipment and only as an minor amusement. Still yet others profess that pump is only the product of old timers, and will fade away as they get too old to play. To all of these, I say its a load of garbage and unrealistic. There are a few simple facts that negate all of these arguments. The most basic is simple economics. Since the most popular players group is between 12 and 17 years old, the manufactures must market to this group to be successful. Holiday presents and birthdays may be enough to support sales of higher end equipment, but what about the rest of the year? Most kids just cant afford to go to the field every weekend and spend $35 to $110 on paint and air. That’s allot of yards to mow and babies to watch. Parents may supplement their kids playing funds, but that will only go so far as well. These are tough times of financial responsibility, in the end these kids either play less, or find another way to support their "habit." Even if the economy improves over night and everything is suddenly wonderful again, history teaches us that spending habits will remain frugal for quite some time to come. Eventually, fields will realize they are loosing players, and profits, and things aren’t going to just "pick up." They will also realize they’ll need more players, that are spending less to make up this loss. To make up losses with volume, the field will have to offer novice fields. These fields will attract all those players with the cheap pumps that they bought in their local discount store. Provide a place for them to play where they wont get lit up in the first 2 minutes, and have a fair competition and they will come. Having a good time, they will come back, hopefully with friends, and everyone is happy.
Novice fields at paintball establishments will also bridge the gap between the fields and the manufactures. People buying a $30 marker quickly realize there outgunned on today’s fields, and more often than not, don’t come back. Often theyre targets of "regulars" with high end gear, which only makes matters worse. With novice fields available, they now have a place to use those guns, learn the sport, and will spend more as time goes on. Manufactures now have happy customers, fields increase there volume, and most importantly, players are having a good time. Filling that gap between the fields and the manufactures can only result in good things ..
As for old school players , they have to change with the times. There will continue to be limited stock class events on occasion and I’m quite sure stock class play will only grow going forward. But it will never be as it was, and trying to make that so is only a waste of effort. We must move forward, looking back only for inspiration and knowledge, and adapting to new ideas and methods. Enjoying those memories, but making new ones...
I see in the future a combination of social and economic events that pretty much guarantee the expansion and popularity of pump and stock class paintball. Well see more pump players at tournaments, more basic level mixed novice playing areas at local fields, and continued growth of the sport overall. Profit margins may drop for field owners and manufactures, but with a little foresight, will easily be made up with volume. After all, most players would rather be out there playing, no matter what type of paintball gun there using, than not play at all because they cant afford to shoot their $1500 marker.
Like it or not, I see in the future smaller, spectator friendly fields and increased local paintball leagues, more organization at the local level, with regional and national events similar to little league baseball. These events will be both pump and semi based with separate divisions for each when possible. There will be room for all types of paintball play, pump semi, stock class, scenario, for players of all ages., though some types will take longer to mature that others.
So listen up everyone, Players, Manufactures, Field owners, Get your act together!! We need more cooperation . We need someplace for new players to use those discount store paintball markers without getting lit up, so they come back next week, and buy more stuff next month. Just set aside a well reff’ed field where no guns are allowed that shoot more than 6bps, the players will take care of the rest. We need local leagues of players of every ability and for them to play other teams of equal ability. We need to make it easy for players with less money to play, they’ll spend more in the long run, and it’ll be constant business. They’ll need parts and squeegees and air and paint, and eventually, more expensive markers. With these things in place, pump play will thrive, and be profitable. Its going to happen anyway, so everyone might as well get in early.
Its not about reliving history, its about looking towards the future..