Is Airsoft dying?
That is the question for the last couple years you hear in forums which are dead and facebook groups. Airsoft is not dead but it is not in the same shape it was several years ago. The golden years were when the Chinese guns came in, high-end guns were elevated even more and there were players and fields everywhere. The landscape of Airsoft has dwindled but it is not “dead” by any means when you look at it as a whole. In the US the scene has cooled down but in Europe and Asia it is very popular and growing and do not forget South America like Brazil and Argentina which is just starting as of 3 years ago to go mainstream.
Looking at the US scene and asking stores they will say it is hard for sales but they are only relaying the message they see but doing very little to fix it. Being reactive and not proactive results in failure for the future. In the sport or industry of Airsoft we have the Players, Stores/Brands and Fields as the key aspects. If the players are bored they will not buy or play. The stores and brands are always releasing new products and trying to connect with the players and get their hard earned money. The fields are growing and shrinking in the industry, a perfect example will be Lions Claws and Milsim West. Lions Claws “milsim” was around for years and the players got bored of the same gameplay they have on the weekends at the local parks and then Milsim West showed up and gave the players something new and immersive. The players saw the need to go to Milsim West events and their money is going there and not the Lion Claws events and now the Airsoft scene has one main venue.
Now when we look at the stores and brands on how they are trying to connect with the players and build that same need to get them off the couch and out in the stores spending their money.
Taking a quick snapshot of some of the main players in the Airsoft industry during the middle of October 2017.
Posting new gun and product videos as a Facebook video for a teaser and then actual Youtube videos for the fans. These videos help the new and old players keep up to date on what is coming out and maybe some older products that need to be highlighted. The Evike jar of BBs is several times a week in the facebook feed, a simple guessing game but generates so many hits and interactions on the facebook page and keeps the players always logged on. AirsoftCON was a big event and covered by Evike and reposted to have the out of state fans see what happened. Most of the little things like links back to the website and store are posted but not spammy which is a good thing.
Now a different take on keeping the Airsoft players interacting on Facebook is the Airsoft GI take on things. Posting more than 80% firearms or video games but certainly not Airsoft related topics. Creating a community or culture based on the things Airsofters like and then interjecting with Airsoft would make sense but that is not the case here really. Now when there are some Airsoft product pictures posted there is very little text or even a link to direct back to the website and gather potential sales. So creating hype with likes and shares and then dropping the sales pitch and it bombs in a sense. To compound this on their Facebook page the constant “1 cent deal” postings which caused so much upset due to lack of reading by players now it just devalues the same models they are claiming cost $300 but you can get it for a penny. Confusing for a new player and especially a parent being told to order something for their kid. Airsoft GI has the energy but it is being wasted on these random posts. Airsoft GI is posting about the new Russian PKP support gun they have USA exclusive for but not that much when it should be bigger news and get more screen time than the random stuff.
Jag Precision and Echo1USA
Nothing has been really posted and they have fallen off the map when it comes to the Airsoft Industry. The GAT and Troy rifles have been posted and maybe a handful of posts all year so far. Nothing to see here. The JAG Arms Scattergun was going to be the hot gun of the year but that was short lived and let many dissapointed after a brief use. Final chapter in the JAG Arms Scattergun saga and its failure.
ASG (Action Sports Games)
Posting more pictures of the UK Airsoft Players and game pictures. Less product placement and more focused on the players and them having fun on the field. In terms of posting they are doing very little but still being active. Don’t let this fool you since ASG has a wider reach than the USA stores when it comes to the interactions with the players on the field, Europe and the USA.
Posting Airsoft games and groups showing the fun aspect of it all, notice the location and ideas of what is “cool” based on their location to others. The reviews posted on the Facebook page keeps it still all brand focused to give their fans everything G&G they need, great stuff right here. Again like ASG G&G seems to be posting more about the “fun” than just focusing on the “sales push” like others. A constant amount of postings for their worldwide fans.
Keeping up with the times and community Elite Force is always posting to be the most grounded in the Airsoft Community. Reposting old content is usually frowned upon but they are sharing an old Halloween PSA for safety and several stores were sharing that to spread the word. This is great since it promotes safety for the community and shows the “sport” has some sort of guidelines. During the same time the other pages checked out did not post or share anything, a simple post to change lives. The rest of the posts by Elite Force were general and focused on their brand but that really stuck out amongst the others. Don’t forget their upcoming Airsoft Glock release and you can read more about it here. Looking at how Elite Force is keeping the players safe during Halloween but the other stores have been sharing the cartoon video of how Airsoft was happening in the streets, maybe their way to teach but the message will not get to the masses.
Now looking at the wide range of these Airsoft pages we see the effort in some and lack in others. Posting with a purpose or just posting stuff does have an effect on sales if you think about it. Take a look at the pages yourself and compare to see the trends they each have and how they differ from the others and you make the call of which is more popular and more successful.
When we look at the pages and the content is most of the times a generic script is used and repeated on every product so after a while there is no difference and the players are bored and do not care about this new G&G, CA, G&P, Elite Force rifle since they all look the same. This is the missing link in the Airsoft scene, the “need” and if you know anything about marketing the need is crucial for a buyer to be tipped towards your product but making them feel like it was their decision.
The players see the end of their journey at the field for the Milsim West event or local weekend event but they are not sure what to get and why so many questions but not answered and guided towards what they need. If they pick the wrong rifle and platform, use it and fail or underpowered at the event they might not have enough for the current season to buy the parts or upgrades and they wasted time and money so they quit.
How do we fix this all and get everything back on track for success for all parts of this industry?
Well for starters the “industry” has to be more uniform and actually work together. It is very rare for the industry to really come together and work on a project, I can think of 2 times that has happened on a grand scale and with 1 link between them to unify but that is gone. For starters, the stores and fields need to think outside their little bubbles and realize they have fans all over the world watching them. Post and share upcoming games to cover all the media. It’s simple as having an email chain of stores and media to post and share the local games. Using some sort of simple structure on what to post and what is allowed, larger games are key nowadays. This must be a free thing and not a buy in like the failed Airsoft Safety Foundation which has a large buy-in and no results. So now that the Airsoft Players as a whole know about upcoming games and see how they are popular there is some urgency to buy some new gear or parts maybe.
The second step in the right direction actually needs a real review to give the players real and honest info. So many M4’s on the market and the reviewers never talk about the inside but they claim a snappy trigger response but why is that. The reviewers need to step up their game and actually do work for their “fans” and the free stuff they receive. The sponsored players and reviewers are always praising the products and will never say anything bad about the product. Along the same lines they will not give a clear usage or even say it will be good or bad for this or that type of event to better help the newer player that has no idea on their first purchase. Reviewers are lacking a certain bridge from noob to milsim expert and the new players want to get there but have no idea how to get there. Give the new players the guide on what is needed and WHY and that will help build the ranks of the new players becoming better and then helping others to maximize the community.
Embrace the “noob” player but you were one just a few months or years ago. Having a player spotlight not on a ‘cool’ person but a ‘new player’ in their early days and then a few months later to show their progression would be the best thing for the newer players. Progress in their new gear and their confidence gained on the field, priceless. Downside is it would take work and nothing in terms of free gear but that is why nobody does it but it would help the coomunity grow and spread the love in ALL areas of Airsoft and not just the Milsim side.
In conclusion, How to fix Airsoft
The stores and brands have to get back on track and work together to build an empire and not just their little mud hut that they are all doing now. Working together to get the info out on upcoming games and events to create the need for more products. The reviews must give the buyer and player all the information in a video form or website since most of them have no real information and value to qualify for a new purchase. The end of 2017 is upon us and with some simple changes there will be some serious results in a good way and we will all see the places that take charge and others that continue to struggle.
What are your thoughts on this? Comment below, thanks for the read!
Written by Brian Holt