This editorial is the opinion of Dale Ford and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Ford Report, their advertisers and/or sponsors. Observations in this opinion piece may not accurately reflect the reality of the situations commented upon. It is after all, an opinion piece. No Industry Leaders were harmed in the production of this editorial, however some may likely be good and pissed off with me.
Due to the vagaries of custody agreements, my wife and I find ourselves by ourselves on Christmas day, so I’m taking the opportunity to go ahead and write this year’s “Year in Review” editorial.
2012 was a tough year, although I would say that it wasn’t quite as tough as 2011. My own personal experiences may be coloring my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. This year, rather than focusing exclusively on the industry I’m going to widen the scope of my review this year to include thoughts and opinions on the impact of social, political and economic happenings as they pertain to the paintball industry.
First, let’s take a look at some of the movers and shakers for 2012 on the industry side:
Despite protestations of innocence and flat denials of an ongoing project to develop a scenario gun, the DAM (DYE Assault Matrix) rolled out late this year to much fanfare. Utilizing both a hopper feed system and a magazine feed, the DAM is what DYE considers the state of the art for the scenario player. As of this writing I haven’t seen one in person yet nor shot one, so I’ll reserve comment on the DAM’s performance. The players that I’ve heard from who do have one are ranting and raving about the gun’s looks and performance.
The DYE Rotor continues to be the loader to have, although offerings from Empire, Valken and Virtue are looking to chip into the Rotor’s dominance of the hopper market.
Now that I’ve seen one in person, the DM12 still remains one of the prettiest paintball guns I’ve ever seen. Performance matches the gun’s looks, at least according to owners I’ve talked to.
Valken continues their aggressive strategy of growth for 2012, expanding into new markets while consolidating their gains in existing markets they own. This year Valken rolled out the Proton, a new mid-range gun set up to compete in the already packed mid-range market.
I’d asked for a review piece, but was unable to get one as every Proton produced was already sold! Normally I’d discount this as hype from the sales team, but there’s been a genuine excitement about the Proton, and retailers I’ve talked to literally receive their orders and the guns are gone within the next 24 hours.
Paint continues to be one of the main focii of Valken, and they’ve earned a place among the ‘big boys’ for making and selling paint. Despite being made overseas, the consistency and quality of the paint coming from Valken has been extremely impressive.
For 2013 Valken is spreading their wings across the pond, sponsoring two events with UK-based Shoreline Paintball.
Last year when I wrote the “Year in Review”, I wasn’t able to do much more than hint and tease about the Vapor. During the course of 2012, my wife Ashley and I have been extremely busy assisting Mike and Andrew Spurlock with the marketing, beta testing, and development of the Vapor. Ashley in particular stepped up on the technical front, while I mainly played the role of doofus player doing everything wrong, forcing Ashley to fix it.
During the entirety of my playing career, I’ve been a poppet valve guy. From my old Tippmanns to ‘cockers, Angels and Egos I’ve stayed away from spoolies. When Ashley and I were brought on board by Mike Spurlock, Mike saw it as an advantage that I had very little experience with spoolies, since I’d make all the mistakes that new spoolie users make which would help him from a design standpoint and help the technical team. As expected, I destroyed several parts during the course of testing, mainly during attempts to adjust or fix something.
The Vapor officially rolled out mid-year, with much chattering about the $1650 MSRP, and quite a bit of derision towards Mike Spurlock personally. Knowing the man himself as I do, I’ve always had a hard time understanding why he inspires such a strong negative reaction. Ironically, the ‘hate’ just makes him work that much harder.
Late in the year former DYE VP Bryon Benini joined the Machine team, and interestingly enough, the petty hate and smack talking came to an abrupt halt. For 2013 look for more goodies to come from The Machine, although at this point Mike, Andrew and Bryon aren’t telling me what they might be, since I have a big mouth!
As noted in last year’s Year in Review, there was no Ego 12 this year. The Ego 11 platform soldiered on, defining the workhorse poppet valve gun. There has been no talk from the Eclipse camp as to any upgrades or new models in the Ego line up, aside from the DART kit, which makes the already smooth and efficient Ego even more smooth and efficient.
On the spoolie front, the GEO 2.1 gave way to the GEO 3, which rolled out mid-year to much fanfare. Having shot one, I can say it’s a definite step up from the previous generation GEO, and is a worthy competitor to DYE, Vanguard, and Machine.
Richmond and Co. continue chugging out paint, with their tournament formulations powering top teams in the tournament world. The Grill mask continues on with some new patterns. Around World Cup it was announced that G.I. Sportz would be the exclusive distributor of the Machine Paintball Vapor.
The G.I. Sales team took the ball and ran with it, getting major players like Pev to start carrying the Vapor and spreading the word world wide, with incursions into South America.
Last year I’d heard rumors that Tippmann was looking to increase their market share, capitalizing on their de-facto dominance of the mil-sim market. There was no confirm or deny from the powers-that-be at Tippmann, which came as no surprise from the notoriously closed-lipped management team at Tippmann.
However, the Crossover made it’s debut relatively early in the 2012 season, intended for players looking to ‘cross over’ from pure mil-sim guns to more conventional paintball guns. The review piece I had performed quite well, especially in the hands of an experienced Tippmann user.
JT/Empire/KEE Action Sports
KEE has been looking out rather than in this year, taking their newest product the JT Splatmaster and leveraging it heavily to grow the pool of players involved in the game. The guns themselves are based mainly on spring action airsoft technology, shooting .50 caliber paintballs at low velocities.
Intended for the 9-12 year old market, the Splatmaster is marketed as a way to mainstream paintball a whole, and KEE has made serious monetary investments in television ads and even putting Splatmasters in the ‘swag bag’ for the Country Music Awards.
Frankly, this type of long-term thinking has been sorely missing from the paintball industry for some time, and I’m personally glad to see that someone is stepping up and making the investments necessary to actually grow the sport, rather than trying to dominate an ever-diminishing pie. Speaking as an industry observer, I can only hope that other companies within the industry take KEE’s lead and do similar outreach strategies.
This year video and social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have been the main area of growth within the media sphere. APG stands alone now as the only print magazine for paintball. Face-Full Magazine is ‘on hiatus’, and in my opinion not likely to return.
Under new ownership now, PBNation is still the main place for people to go for forums, but Mike Phillips’ TechPB continues to offer a solid alternative for those looking for their forum fix. What’s left is an uneven mix, with sites like The Ford Report offering a more traditional ‘hard news’ viewpoint, and World of TB offering highly opinionated editorial content. View from the Deadbox remains pretty much the place to go to get an idea on current thought in the tournament world. Other sites, who I won’t mention by name offer up various video and written content, often unreadable and unwatchable. Such are the times we live in.
Several of my contemporaries within the paintball media have complained that Facebook and Twitter are killing traditional online media. I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment, but I will agree that social media is certainly changing the dynamic of how news is reported. Gone is the 24 hour news cycle. Now it’s more like the 20 minute news cycle, which has it’s good and bad points. For 2013, sites and personnel who integrate and utilize social media into their presentations will survive, and those that don’t will fade into obscurity.
If you voted for President Obama, this is probably where you need to stop reading.
Whatever economic progress has been made in 2012 was despite the current US government’s efforts to the contrary. Speaking to field owners across the country, it’s been a hard year. The economy isn’t growing as it should, and as a result people have less disposable income to spend on paintball. The majority of any growth within the paintball industry this year has taken place mainly in Europe.
The results of the tepid (at best) economy here stateside is that crowds at fields for rec play are smaller and spending less, major events like scenario games are smaller, and even the tournament world is suffering somewhat, with venues changing and less infrastructure being put forth for the events.
Politically speaking there are challenges coming down the pike as well. The Sandy Hook disaster has re-ignited the gun control debate, and given the stance of the current administration, I don’t see anything good coming from it politically. Notorious gun-grabber Joe Biden has been put in charge of a committee to see what can be done to prevent another incident like Sandy Hook, which likely means proposals for more stringent gun control.
Normally organizations like the NRA detest paintball, since we use gun-like equipment designed specifically to be pointed at people and fired. However, it’s only a matter of time before the politically sensitive crowd that serves as home for a majority of the gun control movement to start looking at this game we love.
At the risk of sounding crude, our society as a whole needs an enema. At long last “Jersey Shore” was canceled, sparing us any more of the stupidity that flowed from that show. Sadly, sliding in to replace it is pablum like “Honey Boo Boo”, which I could only stomach around 2 minutes of. Granted, it’s entertainment, but the attitudes and tolerance for the lowest common denominator tend to affect society as a whole, with fans of whatever show adopting some of the attitudes and behavior shown on the shows. So far nothing on the level of “Jersey Shore” or “Honey Boo Boo” has filtered down to the paintball community…yet. I have nightmares about it.
It’s my hope that at some point the grunge and general crap that’s currently passing for entertainment and societal norms will experience a backlash which will snap things back into some semblance of decency.
Speaking for myself, 2012 was a good year. Through Machine, I was given the opportunity to be at the ground level for a brand new gun, and the experience has been educational, to say the least. It’s given me a whole new level of respect for people who design and manufacture the equipment we use.
For 2013, as time and budget allows Ashley, Tinsley and I are wanting to travel a bit, going to fields new to us, and fields we haven’t seen in some time. During 2012 we were mainly limited to Low Country Paintball and Old River Paintball, which thankfully are amazing places to play.
Because of some of the things going on in the paintball community that I disagree with vehemently, look for The Ford Report to be a bit more opinionated this coming year, while still staying true to the core beliefs in reporting the news in a fair, unbiased manner.