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Paintball is drying up

Sad news for paintball lovers – the sport is drying up, at least according to a report by Felix Gillette in Bloomberg Businessweek. He cites a recent study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association that says the number of Americans who play paintball dropped from 5.1 million in 2008 to 3.5 million in 2013. And the sales of paintball equipment went from an estimated $240 million to just $139 million during the same five year period.

Gillette traces the paintball craze back to 1981 when a group of New Hampshire friends turned agricultural paintball shooters farmers use to mark trees and livestock into an impromptu capture-the-flag game in the woods. And the rest, as they say, is paintball history.

The craze peaked in 2004 when Spike TV had a weekly show called “Paintball 2Xtremes” that was based on a magazine of the same name. Featured on the inaugural episode were highlights from an international tournament held outside of Pittsburgh as well as a Blues Brothers-themed event. Disney World even got in on the fun with a series of competitions at its Wide World of Sports complex in Florida And the National XBall League championship finals was broadcast nationally in December.

But in the short span of 10 years the game of paintball seems to have fallen prey itself to all sorts of things, such as the downturned economy and the rise of extreme weekend obstacle course competitions like Tough Mudder. Did people finally get tired of watching the paint dry? Brand consultant Landor Associates’ North American chairman of the board Allen Adamson sums all this up with one sorry remark – “Paintball, as a category, has fallen out of fashion.”

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