Paintball operators have some growth challenges to target in the coming years. Due to shifting demographics and declining leisure time, industry revenue is predicted to grow at an annualized rate of 0.5% through 2021—slower than the previous five-year period, according to a 2016 market research report by IBISWorld.
In order to attract new players and boost attendance, paintball owners should consider doubling down on special attractions that drive attendance and profits, IBISWorld recommends. One thing to consider adding to your arsenal of offerings? A low-impact version of the sport.
While "soft" or "low-impact" paintball is a relatively new trend, this version—which offers all the competitive fun of traditional standard impact paintball with less "ouch" factor—is already taking off in Europe. Players use lightweight markers to fire smaller, .50-caliber pellets at a slower speed, resulting in 68%, or about a third of the impact force than traditional .68 caliber pellets.
Here are four ways introducing this lightweight version of the original extreme sport can give your business a boost:
1. It Can Attract All Types Of New Customers
The adrenaline rush that comes with proving your mettle against friends and colleagues has always been a core appeal of this niche sport, but the painful pellets can be a real deal-breaker for otherwise interested potential visitors.
By removing this intimidating element while keeping all other thrilling aspects of the game intact, you can open paintball to untapped demographics, such younger children and office groups. Think about all the birthday parties, corporate team-building exercises, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or even family reunions this kind of experience could attract.
Low-impact paintball can also be tied to increasingly popular themed or scenario paintball games. For example, a low-impact zombie hunt can be a great way to entice kids, teens and young adults away from virtual gaming consoles (one of the paintball industry's big competitors) and into something closer to the real thing.
2. From Newbie to Fanatic: It Could Help Cultivate More Long-Term Players
In addition to attracting different types of players outside the typical demographic (80% male, most between the ages of 10-19), low-impact paintball lets newcomers ease into the sport in a less intimidating environment. By getting their feet wet in an entry-level version, new players can get a feel for the dynamics of the game and hone their skills before trying more challenging iterations of the sport.
Low-impact paintball can be the bridge that ushers someone from "curious newcomer" to "lifelong fan," and that's important, because paintball participation has been down significantly in recent years, with American players dropping from 5.1 million in 2008 to 3.5 million in 2013. Still, 2013 saw a 1.3% increase in participation, bolstered largely by new forms of the sport—including tactical, scenario-based gaming. While stats for the relatively new low-impact form of the sport are scarce, the future seems to lie in bringing in new types of clientele by expanding play options.
3. It Will Encourage Existing Customers To Bring Their Friends & Family
Just because you're adding a newer, more approachable form of paintball to your list of options doesn’t mean your field will lose its appeal to experienced players. They'll still be able to play standard-impact paintball without interference from novice players. Better yet, your usual customers may even use soft paintball to introduce their friends and family to a sport they cherish. Even parents who used to play, for example, might appreciate the opportunity to teach their kids about the game in an environment that's conducive to practicing and learning.
4. It Could Give Your Business An Edge Over Other Competitors
Because soft-impact paintball is relatively new, adding it to the menu of options could potentially give your arena an advantage over other neighboring businesses that haven’t gotten in on the fun yet. By being the one place in town that offers a low-impact option, your facility can cater to a much broader range of clientele. As low-impact paintball grows in popularity in overseas, it's likely just a matter of time before the trend spreads here. Be one of the first to embrace it!
With so many entertainment options vying for consumers’ free time, it's "become increasingly difficult for paintball fields to compete with video game consoles, television and the Internet," IBIS notes in its 2016 report. By expanding your offerings, young or novice players can enjoy all the fun of traditional paintball—and your business can help cultivate a host of new enthusiasts who will want to return for more.
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