Hmmm.. holy crap. 2011 was not just a huge year for Nerf, but for toy blasters in general. Why all the popularity? I really couldn’t tell you. Maybe Hasbro’s N-Strike line proved that kids still like to play soldier, and the creation of pseudo-military looking toy blasters like the Maverick and Longshot showed there was some money to be made. The Maverick is one of the best selling Nerf blasters ever, and with the revolver look and feel Hasbro did good, and they looked to do good again (proven in the amount of cosplay photos I’ve seen). Success breeds competition though, and boy oh boy, were there a lot of newcomers this year. This blog entry is by no means all-inclusive, and I know I’m going to miss a lot, but dangit I’m going to try!
One could say a large bit of news came from the New York Toy Fair , where both old guard and new competitors rose to visibility. Prime Time Toys stepped out from the Air Zone shadow, showing off past creations like the Powerstrike 48. Toy Fair showed their new version of the Gatling Punisher and a new take on the revolver, a Quickfire 12. This was just the start! Since then they’ve released a Quickfire rifle and a new belt-fed rifle. Their ammo is a different take on streamline ammo as well, unlike Buzz Bee darts that still fit most Nerf blasters. I would expect more from this company in 2012, as it looks like they’re not done yet by a long shot. Keep your eyes peeled here for more info coming soon.:)
Buzz Bee released a lot of new items as well, notably the Rad 12. Honestly, they released so much I’m not sure I can list everything. The Double Shot got a new look, and a four-shot turreted blaster called the Rogue came out as well. It looked like the Ultimate System they put out didn’t do so well, as I don’t really see many more Sniper Blasts and Ultimate Missile Blasts on shelves.
The Air Zone line out of Toys R Us, combined with the Humans Vs. Zombies game to produce blasters emblazoned with their logo, an eight-shot pistol and a new version of the triple shot. The triple shot also saw a red repaint, sans HvZ flair. Far as I can tell, this is a coup that a gametype involving foam blasters actually gained notice from a mass retailer. So, congrats to the HvZ team for their success, and here’s to more zombie-fighting gear in 2012. I’ve always said “throw your wars how you want to throw them, and let the attendees sort ’em out.” People spoke loud and clear in this case:)
I didn’t see too much of the “XC” blasters, which I first saw at Toy Fair; but then not much in retailers:
The dark horse of the whole foam weapon business? Zing Toys, with their Zcurve bow and arrow and other rubber band-powered weapons! The Zcurve bow was by far my fave toy of their line, and I hope to see more out of them in 2012:
Some other companies attempted to pull people away from foam shooters. Jakks Pacific came out with a line of spitwad shooters called “Max Force” urging people to “graduate from foam” with their paperwad shooters. The blasters didn’t have a trigger, but they did have a bit of power in them, getting upwards of 80′. Sadly, the accuracy left something to be desired and reloading clips was a pain in the rear end. Aesthetically, they looked really cool, but the functionality was a real task to get used to.
Speaking of functionality if I had to give a goose egg this year to blaster design I would give it to Xploderz, one of the new lines that fires evaporating “gel pellets.” Nevermind that their commercials are misleading in how the blasters function, they’re just poor blasters. Unreliable loading mechansim, poor accuracy, bad placement of hand grips and components, limited allowance of motion, and delayed gratification with a toy right out of the box. And these things are pricey, upwards of $50 for the longer range models. Seriously, buyer beware.
Razor, of all companies, jumped into the blaster game this year just as 2011 comes to a close. Their Vapor line fires gel pellets as well, but I think they do it better. For instance, their first blaster, the Atlas 250 (first seen at this here blog) has a 50 round capacity per reload for a PISTOL, but also goes with a more traditional (and comfy!) trigger design. Definitely worth watching, make sure to check Amazon.com and Zappos for products! Of the newcomers in new projectiles, I think Razor might have the better of the products.
Wowwee, of Paper Jamz fame, released a new version of laser tag, called “Light Strike”. A little pricey to start, but once you get going it’s a lot of fun. With different modular accessories and other battle field items like the Intelligent Targeting System and target vests, there are a lot of ways to play, you just have to figure out how for yourself 🙂 Full link (including pricing) to the proper review: http://foamfromabove.blogspot.com/2011/10/light-strike-heres-go.html
Ultimately, though I like to think we all started with and still use Nerf. They had a big year, from the continued success of the Dart Tag line, http://foamfromabove.blogspot.com/2011/11/holiday-buying-guide-dart-tag-pt-1-to.html, to the release of the Vortex series and numerous repainted blaster schemes (Whiteout, Gear Up, new additions to the Sonic series)
to expanding the Super Soaker and N-Force lines:
N-FORCE VENDETTA DOUBLE SWORD
NERF N-FORCE VANTAGE Short Sword
NERF N-FORCE KLAW HATCHET
HYDRO CANNON .
NERF SUPER SOAKER TORNADO STRIKE
NERF SUPER SOAKER SCATTER BLAST .
NERF SUPER SOAKER POINT BREAK
NERF SUPER SOAKER CLIP SYSTEM Refills
Even having something for collectors, two different versions of the Barricade Rev-10, one with an Optimus Prime paintjob, and another with Bumblebee. So, lots going on with the worker elves at Hasbro this year! Nothing new on the lazer tag front yet, but 2012 is well on its way now. Not to mention licensed material, like this Transformers: Dark of the Moon blaster, as well as some of the toys from this year’s big Marvel movie blockbusters like Thor and Captain America.
WHEW! So. Much. What does this mean for 2012? The market for toy blasters and other foam weaponry just might get a bit more competitive! What I hope to see? Blasters that have a VARIETY of functions, not just the same ol’ one dart, one pull kinda deal. Much as I loved the Nerf line, they all fire a dart 25-30 feet, or a disc up to 60. But functionally they tend to feel the same. Pump-action, priming slide, it’s all too familiar territory. Semi-auto, single-action, or full-auto. The pistols fire within the same range as the “higher powered” blasters. I understand that there are regulations, but give us something to work with. I will say there’s at least one contender out to try this out, but I can’t say much more than that. I hope to see a revisit to blasters more Blastfire and Lightning Blitz, and less like the Hornet. Nerf’s still top of the game, but I hope there will be less repaints and reshells for 2012. Wow me again, Hasbro. Before one of the other companies beats you to the punch!
I’ll be back for 2012, and even more importantly, I’ll be back at Toy Fair this year in February. I’ve got some more news to put out, but that will wait after the Mayan Spaceship invasion 🙂 Take care everyone, be safe, and weather allowing, get out and play!