Why Paintball Is Dying
Social Paintball

Why Paintball Is Dying

Before I delve into this issue, I would like to introduce myself. I have been playing paintball on and off since 2003, taking breaks for school and military deployments. Even in my absence from the sport, I have always been passionate about helping new players, as well as learning all I can about the ins and outs of paintball. In all my travels since I started playing, as far away as Afghanistan and Kuwait/Iraq, I have always met paint ballers passionate about the sport. When I was offered a trial to write for this blog, I thought this would be a great topic to start off the discussions with, so here goes.

Since I really got back into the sport in 2008 I have heard this argument over and over again; “paintball is dying because of _____”. Is paintball really dying? No, I don’t think it is. I do however see a shift in the dynamic of the sport. To give a little background, paintball started in NH between Vermont and New Hampshire farmers, using Nelson paint markers used to mark cattle for slaughter, and trees for cutting. The sport was born out of pure fun. It was born in the woods, and as of recently, that’s where it seems to be returning to. Woodsball transitioned into speedball, which transitioned into hyperball, which had transformed into today’s tournament air ball. But, with the general playing populace not having as much expendable income to support tournament play, it would appear that the masses are turning back towards the roots of paintball and venturing back into the woods to shoot each other.

Now, does this shift mean tourney ball is dying? Not at all. There will always be some kind of national event circuit as there will always be a need for it. Every sport/hobby has its high level athletes, even it it’s not a physical activity like paintball. There is one thing that is detracting from paintball. An attitude of “if you don’t wear/shoot this gear, you must be a sh*t player” or “if you don’t look like this then you must not be a good player”.

I see this attitude all the time with the younger “tourney inspired” players. Most of us know them as “agglettes”. The “agg” movement within paintball isn’t a good or bad thing, it’s just a natural progression of the sport, but when you have some players taking it too far, then it becomes a bad thing. This “agglette” attitude is chasing away prospective life long players. Who knows maybe the next Nicky Cuba is at a field this weekend, and some agglette treats them like dirt, and they never return to the sport. But, I digress, back to the topic at hand.

Paintball dying…. Not a concept I like to hear, and it is one that I see crop up more often on a few forums. The responses I see are pretty typical, “no paintball isn’t dying, its just your area”, “paintball is just shifting towards woodsball/rec ball/scenario ball”. What are my thoughts on all of this? I see a strong speedball/airball following in my area. Yet, we have an even stronger following for woodsball and scenario play, as evidenced by the 350+ numbers which Outdoor Strategic Games (OSG) Paintball saw this season at BYOP (bring your own paint) and scenario games. Bunch Of Lost People (BOLP) pant ball field also saw record numbers of 60+ people for Monday Night Under the Lights speedball, with an average of 30 people a night. That to me doesn’t scream “OMG!!!111!!1! PAINTBALL IS DYING!!!11!1!1!”. What it says to me is that more and more people are going back to the woods to play versus heading out onto the air ball pitch to ball it up. What’s the cause of this? Could it just be the natural shift in the sport or could it be that the economy is forcing diehard players to revert back to pump and mech play to save money as well as out into the woods for lower cost vs. fun?

I personally still play both. I love getting out on the air ball field and having a blast and I have also gone back to the roots of the sport, picked up a pump, and plan on hitting up the woods as much as I can next season. With events like Living Legends, Invasion of Normandy, Supergame; all pulling in 3 and 4 digit participation. Also, look at the number of vendors, industry and non industry, that show up to sell merchandise at non tournament events.

So, in conclusion, is paintball dying? No. Has it hit a plateau in terms of sales and new players? Perhaps. I think it depends on the area you live in.  Most importantly, the sport is shifting away from tourney ball and going back to its roots. Is this a good thing? I think so. Look at the top of the line tourney companies now making equipment for woodsballers; PE, Dye, Mac Dev, Angel (RIP); they all have or had a line of equipment that was suited for woodsballers. What does that mean for the agglette attitude? Are agglettes taking over speedball? If so, how can we, as veteran players, stop them? Do we need to stop them? Is there room in the sport that kind of fashion baller attitude and look? Well, it may push some companies towards making gear that is functional and also looks good. So, in a way this seemingly negative attitude will push the manufactures to make functional and better looking gear, but at what cost? Do we really want to let an attitude like this prevail, and drive away the next potential all star? I sure don’t, do you? I am curious to hear what you readers all think about the direction paintball has taken? Where do you want to see it go? Why is it thriving? Why is the sport dying? This blog is a place where you can man up and post your honest opinion(s) and or analysis of topics that will span all of paintball. From in depth analysis of tournament games to general trends in the sport, I will get us started.  It’s up to you to tell us what you think and post it up for discussion… if you have the balls? ; )

  • Joseph Ramsey

    I don’t think paintball, as a whole, is dying. I think that people in general are starting to figure some things out, however. For instance; if a team without backing plays a national event and wins, each player is still in the hole about (+ -) $300. There isn’t much return in participating in national events. Also I feel that people are figuring out that there isn’t a whole lot of difference from one gun to the next and from year to year. I think we’ve gone about as far as we can in terms of technology. The only thing that seems to be changing now days is gear is getting smaller. Even the industry itself.
    I do disagree about the Agg movement not being good or bad. It is bad, but unavoidable. You run into this attitude everywhere from all walks of life. Just deal with it, ignore it, and don’t take it personally.
    I think paintball is simply contracting from expanding.

  • Brian

    I have to agree with the article. I have been playing now for about 14 years now. I truly live the sport and integrate it into every aspect of my life. Even my children 8,11, and 15 play. I have seen a shift in paradigm from the beginning of the sport and the current climate. There is definitely a elitist attitude towards players. As a whole the sport as alienated some of it’s oldest, may not be in the worlds greatest shape. But they have a passion for the sport and have been cast aside. It is a shame that not all people and skill level are accepted into this sport. This sport is a true sport of teamwork and brotherhood. Teams succeed as a group not as individual talent. It is my wish that paintball will finally open it’s eyes and see the truth.

    • Andrew Levick

      the whole point of me writing articles like tis is to not only get the discussion juices going, but to inspire some kind of change… the issues i see is that there is always some hate between the different communities within our sport… i view it much like the inter-branch rivalries in teh military… yes, the marines and the army may lock horns every now and then, but when it comes down to it, they kick ass and take names together… i woul dlove to see paintball somehow unite… even if its as simple as the NPPL or PSP and UWL all merging under on ruling body and bringing all aspects of the sport to the front lines, not just 7-man or x-ball…

  • http://www.68caliber.com steve davidson

    Paintball did NOT start as a contest between New Hampshire and Vermont farmers.

    There’s more than enough historical information out there not to get this right. It is a minor fact, but getting such a foundational fact wrong brings everything else in the article into question. It was not even important to the article (could have, should have, been left out if not sure).

    Dying? Yes, paintball IS dying. One only need look at the number of manufacturers that have shut down, not to mention the fields and stores that have closed. The solution is sustainability in our approach to everything, but most are still concentrating on short-term profit. Change this, no more death. Leave it as is and one company will be trying to sell oodles of brand names to twenty people scattered around the country.

    • Andrew Levick

      The point of the article was to show a phase change in the sport that I noticed, not to go into the details of how or where the sport started… I have noticed that at both BOLP in Lee, NH and at OSG in Center Barnstead, NH that the numbers have been increasing… When I first started playing at BOLP in 2009, we averaged 15, maybe 20, people on a Monday night… Those numbers have more then tripled… Summer of 2010 Nate, the owner of BOLP, was lucky to get 3 teams to sign up for the 3 man tourny there… This past season… 8-10 teams for each event… From what I hear from other events from friends in Canada, and across the US, that scenario and woods ball games are seeing more numbers then in previous years… that to me does not say that the sport if dying, just changing… maybe downsizing a bit… but not dying…

      Companies come and go, some by their own doing, some by trends in the market, and an unwillingness to change will impact sales… That goes for shops and fields too.. A local NH indoor field, Crossfire, went under a couple years ago because people stopped going there… The owners didnt run a good field, and they lost business… As the economy takes it toll on the job market, expandable income becomes less and less for most families, and luxury sports like ours takes a hit, which is why I think a good number of players are going back to the woods.

      as for the start of the sport, I know that the first documented game was in Henniker, NH, and played between 12 men using a paintball marker George Buttler saw advertised in a forestry magazine… Unless both the state of NH and these 12 men have their accounts wrong… And if I am not mistaken, a couple of them were from Vermont…

      http://www.unionleader.com/article/20110826/NEWS/708269977

      Thank you for your point of view, as the purpose of my articles will be to stir up discussions like this. All opinions will be welcome here.

  • Scott W

    I don’t think paintball is dying. I do think that more people are playing in the woods and maybe less speedball. Ballers do need to stop with the whole speedball vs woodsball thing and just accept that they are different games. I’m sure if some woodsballers played some speedball they would enjoy it just as much and vise versa. I’ve also seen the numbers at OSG in Barnstead NH grow. see new players and new teams popping up and it’s a pretty good mix of old and new players. Paintball is not dying it’s just changing like everything else does.

    • Andrew Levick

      thanks for your input… i remember watching 7man NPPL on espen back in the day… was a shame they took it off the air… but, given today’s commentators, a non-paintballer wont understand what they are talking about… Matty Marshall does a great job, for those of us that understand the sport. but to those that don’t, they need someone like John Madden to dumb it down….

  • http://http//tsquarepaintball.blogspot.com M Gray

    It’s simple. Paintball died with the electric marker and high rate of fire.

  • Devon Page Lee

    paint ball is far from dead its just become very spread out and with us in a 3rd world country can see that more then most and with bushball rec and scenario being our biggest field of play that u normally booking a spot to play 3 weeks in advance we have amazing players out here in south africa and the numbers are growing open your eyes and look at the different types of game! we had out first night game of bushball the other day and it was a turn out of 40 people per a side and now a 2 day non stop &2 hour game is being planned on a 300 acres farm. this would not be happening if the sport was dying

  • Ben Chierici

    I think paintball is dying because people are jerks to the new players

  • dead pb

    I do think PB is dying, i realize this after starting 2006(fairly new) went on it aggresively and bought all kinds of gear,went from woods and then speedball field,then both,buy and sold gear like crazy(I was really into it). I used to even go PBling every weekend,sometimes even twice a week(even 3 times a week and visited different fields all the time)indoor and outdoor to a point on going to different states just to PB…Now 2012 what I’ve got to show for it NOTHING just some marks all over my body and an empty deep deep pocket(all kinds of crazy gear that i mark the trees in my backyard). I could have bought that motorcycle i’ve always wanted,i could have had that steak and lobster instead eveytime I played,i could have went on a date watch some movies and maybe even got lucky cause of it instead,etc.etc….It’s not even a real sport(did you win the game, did ppl. cheat,did the ball break,did it curve,did they just not felt it, what did you really win,did you loose/win b/c the ref did not see it, are you a hero at the end of the day)For some reason it’s never as clear cut as the real sports that ppl actually get out of the way to watch,,, there really are toooo many variables. PB is one of those games/recreation that you felt you got screwed 1 out of 3 times when you play it and that sometimes happen every game in any given whole day outing.I can go on and on…point is go take your wife,girl friend and kids out to the movies,fishing,basketball,dinner(heck go to the local bar even)all kinds of stuff to do out there,,, instead of going PBling all the time for $50 to $100upup an outing/day…. I personally think it’s a joke along the ways of airsoft, sure i’ve got a trophy or two but who really cares, i mean really… You don’t

  • Thomas Grawcock

    I think ramping is assisting in the death of the sport Ramping is great against other people ramping, but when you get some wanna be tourny a**hole thats comepletly disrespectful of new players and bonus balls the living hell out of them, they dont wanna play anymore. My team is based out of Paintball Barn in Attica, IN. One of our favorite things to do is to trade guns with the rec players. We use rentals, and they use our Dye, PE, Bob Long, or what ever. Most of these people say its the most fun theyve ever had, and then we see them coming back, weekend, after weekend, after weekend. I believe this is one of the best way to get new players into the sport, which in theory will be what makes it grow. Just my 2 cents. Feel free to explain why you agree or why you disagree.

    • Jose Sore

      I like your article and agree with most of your observations. However, all the things you mentioned has been happening from the beginning. The agg type attitude, looking down on newbies, etc.

      Also, I would say there seems to be more interest in SCENARIO ball, specifically, which I don’t lump in with general woodsball. There have always been more woodsball players as that’s paintball’s roots – therefore more in the general public.

      Finally, I quote “Could it just be the natural shift in the sport or could it be that the economy is forcing diehard players to revert back to pump and mech play to save money as well as out into the woods for lower cost vs. fun?”

      Someone could interpret that last part as “playing with a pump/mech and/or playing woodsball is not as fun (implying, I assume, speedball/airball is more fun”.

      I think many players would disagree with that. One is not more fun than the other, they are just different kinds of fun.

      Happy pballing and hope you write more articles.

    • Mike Robertson

      I’ve been playing since the early 90′s more than 20 years and yes I am one of the old guys. Now 51 and still play on a d-4 team. I had a run of 4 PSP World Cups up to 2010. 2011 I had just had enough and lacked enthusiasm. Here is the problem I’ve seen at least from the airball side of it. You kind of hit on it but I would like to add. Vendors and suppliers

    • Mike Robertson

      with terrible attitudes. Pro players acting holier than thow. Being a businessman and making enough money to play all the paintball I care to I don’t appreciate the worse than rotten attitude from a large number of people in the paintball businesses. It doesn’t work in most businesses except maybe the airlines where they are the only game in town. WC 2010 I had a VP of one of hte largest vendors in paintball just be plain rude and I overheard him do it with several other younger players. JUST BE NICE TO PEOPLE AT ALL LEVELS. This would encourage and stimulate growth. As for me, I still play. I was spending 10 to 15K a year playing ball now probably 7K. I still am able to spend the later but just don’t have desire. I just wonder how many dads are out there taking their check book somewhere where they feel appreciated and their kids are learning the value of a positive attitude. Your article well said and this my 2 cents worth.

    • Aric Quist

      I don’t know if paintball is dying or not but I definitely have seen a drop in players since the early 2000′s. I started playing in 96 and fell madly in love with the game. I’ve continued to play off in on since then. I played both airball and woods evenly and the last couple of years i’ve mostly played airball because I have a field really close to my place. Some of the biggest turn offs to me in paintball is attitude of the industry. Look at dyes line for the last several years. Hell look at even some of the biggest advocates for paintball right now. Mike from TechPB is a big one. Look at what he’s been focusing on with markerbids. He’s flat out taking advantage of his subs from youtube. At LL’s i was paying 80 bucks a case. Really? How many times has nation been sold and how many people that bough it tryed to make a buck even if it ment damaging the game? I remember when smart parts sued everybody purely on the reason to make money and nothing about creative ideas stolen. Not that you don’t see this is any other sport but i’ve seen it enough to really not trust my industry and really don’t see a point in investing my time in money on it. I met some great people and had some fun but as far as continuing my time with paintball… HELL NO! There are so many other things I that I love doing to keep wasting it on paintball. Good luck to all those that stay and play and I hope the game doesn’t downsizing and we see a updraft!

    • Jason Willis

      Paintball is dying in my opinion for one reason and one reason only, cheating. Cheating is such an integral part of the sport. It’s an integral part of paintball video games as well. What is really sad however is that it is pretty much promoted and glorified at the national level. What do you see in every national level video, some guys pulling off some so call “SICK” or “AMAZING” wipes and getting praised because he gets away with it. I understand that cheating occurs in other sports as well, but it is usually looked down upon or the player in question is fined/removed from the league. Having played at the national level for many years it’s stupid overhearing guys talk about winning points/matches because they are “so amazing at wiping”. To bring national level paintball back into the spotlight all we need to do is punish/permanently ban players for cheating/wiping. But then again if we did that I wonder how many national level players would be left……my guess is not many.

    • Erin H

      I agree with what dead pb said. It starts out as a fun and addicting hobby. But once you get into the gritty world of paintball, you see stupid crap like these kids acting like they’re better than everyone else because they got newer and more expensive gear.

      My boyfriend is a Muay Thai fighter and most if not all the fighters in his gym are nice and they all help each other out to become better. Same can be said about opponents in competition.. they’re all respectful of each other. Yet, they also beat the crap out of each other. Paintball? These little turds acting like they’re better than everyone else? It’s pathetic.

      Also, as dead pb pointed out, that money can be used for better things. I’m so glad my boyfriend got out of the “sport” early. He focuses his energy now on fighting (which isn’t expensive like paintball) and it really makes him a better person. The money he would’ve used on paintball, he now spends on cooler things like aftermarket parts for his car and motorcycle.

      When it comes down to it, paintball is dying because people realize it’s just not worth it. Sure, there are the hardcore players that claim it’s a brotherhood and there’s no better feeling in the world. But that’s complete BS and they need a better hobby.

      • Jacob Graffrath

        (NECRO POST INBOUND) I think you should re-consider your opinion on the sport. Paintball family? Yes and no. You build your way into a strong bond through playing the sport, just because you come in doesn’t mean you get to call yourself family. The “agge” or “Turds” are their own breed and don’t represent the rest of us.
        Addressing respect, respect goes both ways. It goes both ways in MMA, Karate, and paintball. It’s a matter of yourself and the people around you. You earn your respect by showing respect and not crossing boundries. Generally we are all good about respecting everyone. My point here is that you’ll see disrespect no matter where you go. “Sure, there are the hardcore players that claim it’s a brotherhood and there’s no better feeling in the world. But that’s complete BS and they need a better hobby.” That’s a pretty respectful statement miss.
        To me currently it is a hobby. I go out and relax with friends at the field on the weekend, shooting each other up and working together, messing around, etc.. And to me it is an amazing feeling. I would much rather spend time with friends than gain material goods.
        I don’t believe the game, the hobby, the sport, is dying. I believe it’s a matter of experience and guidance within the community to make people want to come back.

    • Donnie D.

      well..i started playing pb when i was 14 and got serious about it when i could afford it and starting playin airball in 03..i worked my way up and played 7man nppl’s for 3 season’s 04-06 with M.O.D out of my area new jersey..we played d2,d1, and semi pro thru the years..by the time i stopped playing we finally had a free ride..after spending alot of money over the years playing..but i didnt care at that point..it got to the point where it was like a job that i wasnt getting paid for…dont get me wrong i love paintball and i always wanted to play pro..i still do..but the fact is pb cost alot of money..and it true its a poor sport that few can afford to play to get to the pro level..the amount of time u need to put in is alot to go pro and stay there..i dont know how most of the pros r able to do it with having a real job to make a decent living..im 28 now and recently had knee surgery that im recovery from..some damaged came to it from pb for sure..this sport costs to much money to get the amount of people involved to really really grow the sport..

      plus when u win a torney its great,but then what??..nothing u barely make any money…playing in the psp or nppl cost alot of money..and even if u win u will barely break even..

      if u get hurt and can work how can u pay ur bills..

    • Ian

      Skirmish ION 2012 sets record attendance at 4500+ people. Michigan monster grows. Scenario is getting huge paintball is not dying.

    • Zort PBall

      Paintball has definitely dwindled in many areas of the United States due primarily to the economy and introduction of airsoft.. Yes, Airsoft is the enemy ! While some paintball companies are jumping on the airsoft bandwagon and cashing in, these companies are also helping to destroy paintball. If there is a surge in woods ball lately, then naturally the patterns of history repeating itself should bring paintball back around full spectrum in popularity in ALL aspects of the sport..It’s up to us whom REALLY care to make this sport recognized with the rest of the sporting world! The paintball community should wake up and use the Call of Duty popularity and Gun Control discussions to their advantage and market paintball strategically to grow popularity ! The Nuke Town Paintball Map at Paintball Explosions is a model and prime example that ALL parks should follow ! SMART PAINTBALL MEANS DESIRED PAINTBALL !