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Inside Planet Eclipse
Monday January 18, 2021

Our new series of articles "Paintball Manufacturers" is about the big brands in the scene. We take a look behind the scenes of the world's top brands and show you how they came about and how modern companies in the paintball industry work today. To do this, we visit the manufacturers at their locations and also offer you intimate insights into areas that you would probably never see otherwise. Who knows, maybe you will get to know your favorite brand a little better this way or discover one or the other company secret that has remained hidden from you so far. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all manufacturers who were willing to open their doors to us and give us such deep insights into their company and the company's history.

In our first contribution to the top manufacturers of the paintball scene, we start directly with a real heavyweight of the scene. Today's interviewee is none other than Antony Leadbetter, the head of Planet Eclipse. Most people will probably know him by his nickname "Ledz". Anyone who knows Planet Eclipse as a brand today knows that they always take the time to thoroughly test new products before they release them. Only what is absolutely marketable and tried and tested is finally published and delivered to the end customer. This is one of the factors for the high quality standard of PE products. Planet Eclipse is therefore usually secretive when it comes to requests for insights into their own business. But the guys from England made an exception for us and not only provided us with great pictures for this article, but also a lot of interesting information. But since we want to give you a complete picture of the Planet Eclipse brand in this article, we'll start at the very beginning. Here is the Planet Eclipse company history in a nutshell…

Ledz and his partner Julian started the company back in 1991. They both played on the same paintball team, the Banzai Bandits, and worked part-time at the local paintball shop in Manchester. When the wife of the shop owner at the time became seriously ill and the shop was to be closed, Ledz and Julian decided to turn their passion into a profession and bought the shop. Another employee on site was Jack Wood. He was also an enthusiastic paintball player and financed his engineering studies with a job in the paintball business. Together, the three and their team were on their way to conquering the pro leagues in the UK.

LEDZ: We were always looking for that certain advantage. Jack has always had the ability to analyze a problem and find a solution. So we started to produce some marker parts for ourselves. All in very small amounts. In 1993, the Banzai's placed third in the Mayhem Masters, one of the largest and most prestigious tournaments in the world and definitely the largest in Europe at the time. This has given us a solid place among the best teams in the UK and the world. From then on, players wanted the parts that we used in our markers. So we started producing and selling these parts. All we wanted at that time was to try and make our gear better. Or in some cases just that it works. We started customizing and tuning all types of markers like Sterling Pumps, Spyders, Automags, Autocockers, Bushmasters, Shockers, Impulses and Angels. The product that finally made us known worldwide was the Eclipse EBlade. During the arms race for faster and faster markers, the Cocker was no longer up to date until we developed the EBlade. This was the product everyone wanted and it changed Planet Eclipse in a big way. We went from a small custom house to a full-fledged manufacturer. In 2005 we took the plunge and developed our first complete paintball marker – the EGO. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

PBS: A cool story. Even we as the editorial team did not know many of these details until today. After all, 1991 was a long time ago and in paintball years it was probably a little longer. Ledz, what have you changed in recent years?

LEDZ: Actually nothing serious. We never stand still here. We're always trying to evolve and are very careful about where we're going and what we want. In the last two years we have entered two new segments: MagFed and Field Rental Markers. This has taken us in different directions and opened up new avenues for us. MagFed has been a great success for us as we seem to have hit the right spot. We are having a lot of fun establishing ourselves in the MagFed world. Players keep asking us what's next for Planet Eclipse in MagFed… We'll keep looking at things, but we're super happy where we are right now. The field rental marker EMEK100 is also a new segment in which we have not been active before. Apart from the odd paintball park that decided to use Planet Eclipse markers as upgrades. Now that we are in the primary rental marker space, we feel that first time players are having a much better and more fun experience which hopefully will encourage them to come back to the paintball park for more games . Paintball park owners say they have less maintenance and downtime to deal with on the field, allowing umpires to focus on making the day fun rather than having to switch gears. We don't yet know where the journey will take us in the future. We have several doors ahead of us. Some will remain locked, some we will break open and take a look inside, others we may smash and leap through, shouting "Surprise!"

PBS: OK, so you're not giving your cards too much away just yet. Understandable. Let's go a little more into the brand at this point. Ledz, what exactly does the Planet Eclipse brand mean to you?

LEDZ: I think that we are such a small team where most of the staff still play. Some of us even at a very high level. So we know what we want as players. We play with and alongside players from all over the world. So we want them to have fun using our products. We're not perfect, but we try to have as few things go wrong as possible. We want our teams to win, and we want to be an integral part of their success, not help them get beaten. We try very hard to listen to what players want from their gear, and then we try to do it our way, the Eclipse way. The EMF100 MagFed marker is a great example of this. When we decided to jump into the MagFed world, many traders told us that unless we get the bottle right out of the back of the marker and make it look like an AR15, we're failing. But we've always believed that function is more important than form – there's no point in looking great if nothing works. So we always make sure our products work first, and then we make them look cool. We've been told so many times that we'd fail with the EMF100 MagFed marker. But today, after about a year and a half in the market, it seems that there are a lot of MagFed players who would rather play trouble-free paintball than just look good.

We've always had some pretty simple golden rules that we apply to the products we make. All of our designs must be reliable, easy to maintain and practical. When we get these three things right, we know that people all over the world, whatever the weather, are having fun with our products and, in short, that's the whole point of what we do. We have always adhered to this and it is crucial to our success.

PBS: While we're on the topic of products: What are your bestsellers and brand ambassadors from a current perspective?

LEDZ: It's hard to say, because we've expanded our range in recent years and now we really offer almost everything. Starting with the EMEK Rental, a marker for paintball parks, to the EMF100 for the MagFed area, to leisure and tournament sports, where we have the mechanical models EMEK100 and M170R to our electric range, which starts with the ETHA 2 starts and also carries the models GMEK 170R, GEO4, EGO LV1.6, as well as our current high-end model, which includes CS2 Pro. We believe that all of these markers perform very well in their segment and we are proud of each and every one. I personally love my LV, but I've been an EGO man from the start. I'm also very active in MagFed now though and my EMF100 is getting a lot of kills in both Magfed and Mech events.

PBS: Interesting that you mention the change from tournament sports towards MagFed and Mechanical. The scene is constantly changing and new trends are always emerging. Five to ten years ago the tournament sector was very strong, today it's more MagFed than trend. Where is the Planet Eclipse brand at home today? Where do you see yourselves in the future?

LEDZ: Up until a few years ago I would have said 90% sup airball. That's where we entered the market at the time, directly in the pro area with teams like XSV, Bushwackers and Nexus, all of whom used the EGO. We've always focused on peak performance and I think we're very good at developing what the players want and need. However, these needs and desires have changed over the years. There was a time when a marker's ROF was king. The more balls you could shoot per second, the better. Then later it was efficiency. At some point all markers could shoot fast, then it was necessary to reduce air consumption in order to be able to shoot fast for longer. Then it was the paintballs, which were so brittle that they burst if you looked askance. The markers also had to be set and adjusted accordingly. We have always risen to the challenge and always created a solution that hit the mark. Our core goals are reliability, efficiency and maintainability. But if on the way there we can check off a few more points that are nice to have, then we will certainly always try. The woodland scene has traditionally been dominated by the more scenario-based markers with sight rails and all, but since we released the EGO in 2005, a certain group of players have always wanted the best they could in the supairball arena and at the same time in the woods and flats could have anything in between. Players preferred performance over looks. Some woodsball teams like Captial Offense and Blues Crew in the States weren't happy with the older, heavier, high-maintenance markers, so they chose to use tournament markers, or "space guns" as they were formerly known, in the woods and planted them them to devastating effect. Today you see a growing number of players using Planet Eclipse markers in the woods and in every paintball environment imaginable. The Planet Eclipse range of markers is now incredibly versatile. As the Planet Eclipse brand, we want to make it clear that no matter what you play or where you play, we have something for you – with the exception of pumps and pistols. So to answer the question, our brand is now at home in EVERY paintball park, anywhere in the world. Whatever your game, whether it's 50cal, 68cal, MagFed, Mechanical or Electro, we believe we have the best of what's currently available in each category.

PBS: That's a clear message, thank you very much. But if you are already so broadly positioned and have almost everything in your range, what are the prospects for the coming years? What other new products are you planning and what are you currently working on?

LEDZ: Wow! How can I even begin to answer this question at this point? As of this writing, we have just witnessed the launch of the first approved vaccine for Covid-19. The truth is that it will be a long time before things get back to normal. Everything we had planned for 2020 just fell flat in our faces one way or another. At a certain point we didn't know if everyone was going to die or if we'd be able to get food and toilet paper so paintball wasn't very high on the priority list. So you sort of go into survival mode and take fewer risks. Product orders are being scaled back as employees are not working and it is simply impossible to move the products around the world because the planes are not flying. Also, we're in the middle of a Brexit mess, so we feel a bit like a boat without a rudder and have no control over all these things, which is not a good position in business. Still, we're a pretty positive and intuitive bunch of people, and we're moving on as best we can. We are now planning production far into the future and we have some new cool products to work on, but the timeline keeps getting extended due to many different factors. We're still pushing forward and hope to steer paintball in the right direction into 2021 and beyond. 2021 is our 30th anniversary, which we didn't think we'd achieve when we started this journey and we're so thankful we're still on this epic journey. Whatever 2021 brings, we will do our best to bring the best products to as many players as possible across the planet.

I wish I could give you an exclusive preview of some of the new products here, but that's just not how we work. Like I said, we're working on all sorts of things. But even a horde of wild dogs couldn't get that information out of me. Good things just need rest and time. For example, I have a project that we have been working on for about six years, and that I only released in mid-December, on December 14th, 2020 to be precise. We are working on that now. But what I can tell you is that we will soon be releasing a new sports edition of the EMF100 which, with a little bit of colour, brings variety. That looks pretty nice. The CF20 Magazines are almost done, or they may be by the time you read this. I've been using them for ages now and they are a real asset to the EMF100 and MagFed Sport. We will launch the PAL QD Loader for paintball park operators in 2020. The EMEK is super popular for both field rental use and the mech scene, but we want to perfect the rental experience for paintball parks and the PAL QD Loader is the next evolution in the quest for the perfect rental marker . The CS2 mech frames have just come back from the anodizing so they will be ready to be assembled by January 2021. The first batch of Speedster Loaders has evaporated very quickly and customers seem very happy with it. A lot of people were surprised that we released a cheap loader and not a high-end loader, but we felt that the entry-level loaders needed to be brought up to date, so we did just that. I think that's all I can tell you at the moment. I don't even have a new hot sauce planned for 2021, I should probably get on with clarifying that! My friends who make the hot sauce promised me a spicy cranberry sauce for Christmas, but it still hasn't arrived.

PBS: Well, there was definitely some interesting news for our readers. Thanks for that Ledz. Of course, we understand that you can't tell us everything just yet, and of course there should remain a little excitement and joyful anticipation of the new products for 2021. Finally, tell us at which tournaments and events we can meet you as the Planet Eclipse brand in the coming year.

LEDZ: 2020 was a rather difficult year to be present at events. We didn't want to push our technicians and staff into participating in something they don't want to do 100% and don't feel safe doing. In Germany we were present at the DPL events of the first and second Bundesliga, at the EBG and also at the SBG as well as at the X-Days. Despite all the circumstances, we managed to be there at some of the most important events to support our players. We will try to do that again next year. The DPL is still an odd concept for us as there are so many different events in different locations and dates and while we would love to attend every event we just don't have the capacity or resources to go on site nationwide be. Fortunately, our markers are highly reliable and just work. We are also considering attending Helldays and the Advanced Scenario Challenge 2021 and depending on what the NXL does we will of course be back there as well.

PBS: Let's make it clear: Planet Eclipse will be present again in the coming year at the big events that are big and well-known. Of course we are happy about that. Are there actually one or more teams that, from your point of view, particularly represent the Planet brand or stand for the brand?

LEDZ: I don't want to name a specific team here because there are so many teams doing so many different things for us. In Germany we have teams like Risk Factor Heidelberg, Sandbaggers Düsseldorf and Green Monkey Kings Stuttgart that represent us in the highest national leagues, just to name a few. We also have teams from abroad flying the PE flag on German soil, such as Breakout Spa and the Lucky 15's, both of which are among the top teams in the German Paintball League DPL. Also supporting some of the world's top pro teams like X Factor, Impact, Revo, DMG, Infamous, TMG, NYX, TonTon, Carnage, Firm, SWAT, Raskals…etc. The list is long and illustrious. We are honored that so many teams have chosen the Shoot Eclipse theme and we thank them and all of our customers for the trust they are putting in our brand.

PBS: That's a nice closing sentence. We end this interview with that and say many thanks to Ledz and the entire PE crew for their time and all the information about the Planet Eclipse brand.

There will be another episode in this series in the next issue. Then we will interview another manufacturer from the industry for you. Stay tuned…

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