Friday 5 – 5 Nerf Features I wish would come back

Friday Five: 5 Nerf Features that I wish would Make a Comeback
VasTheStampede

  1. The Blast Button
  2. Semiauto spring blasters
  3. Integrated clips (the black and yellow Dart Tag line)
  4. Integrated “Secret” Barrels
  5. Non-slamming Air Pump Blasters

With the new Nerf Rebelle Cornersight coming out later this year, I was reminded of the old school Nerf Sneakshot. What other old school features would I want to see come back? The list above, and the explanations… are below.

BLAST BUTTON – Many years ago, Nerf made a blaster called the “Blast Fire” or “Blast Fire DX” (depending on which version you got) which had a neat little feature: you would prime the blaster, pump the air (5-6 times, maybe more), and you had either 5 shots in quick succession or could hit the “blast” button on top of the blaster to shoot all/remaining darts at once. It was a cool shotgun effect, and one I wish they would explore again, even though in the current line I’m not sure it will. Nerf did multishot a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t quite the same as this, or the Hornet that followed, and the Lightning Blitz which didn’t even bother with a single shot function.

Picture from SG Nerf, the Blast Fire in all its glory. Blast Button is on top.

The successor, the Hornet. Blast Button is on the side. Picture from NerfWikia.com

SEMIAUTO SPRING BLASTERS – During the Nerf Dart Tag line (black and yellow incarnation) there was a really cool pistol called the Sharpfire (yep, same name as the modular pistol out now) with a semiauto/power selection option. Yep, true semiauto trigger pull fun! No priming, no pumping, no accelerator trigger, just squeeze the trigger. The blaster could go from a higher power/slower trigger pull to a weaker setting/faster Rate of Fire setting, but it made dual wielding easy, and quiet (no motors, ma!) Nothing else has come out since then with a true semiauto function again though, and that’s kind of a shame as I thought it was a really fun blaster. Unfortunately, one of the ones I bought didn’t have the same power as the other no matter what setting, so there were some manufacturing issues it looks like on this blaster and given the mechanics involved I’m not terribly surprised. Still though, I would love to see something along these lines again.

INTEGRATED CLIPS – Yes, yes, I know the Han Solo blaster is out now, the Rey blaster, the Mega Magnus, etc. but the integrated clips from the black and yellow Dart Tag line (on the Speedload 6, Quick 16) were really interesting and I found them to be a lot of fun. For starters, the Speedload and the Quick didn’t have to prime before loading. A lot less clumsy of a mechanic than the other current blasters. You could load the blaster, prime it, and even get an extra shot out of it (much like you can with the Fusefire, if you have one). I got to the point where I could feel the breech and just load the blaster without even looking at the clip while running; with half the blaster pulled out for the Magnus and co., that’s a bit more fumbling around if you ask me. The dart tag blasters of this line were much considerably bigger and thicker because of the clip and the positioning, and the clip had jam issues (the best darts were blue tipped dart tag darts, even the older dart tag darts had issues loading with these new blasters), so hopefully if Nerf went back to this design it would come back stronger than ever.

INTEGRATED “SECRET” BARRELS – Nerf made a couple of “Secret Shot” blasters waaayyyyyyyy back, which had the main shooting barrel, but also a hidden second barrel either in the handle or on top. The first Secret Shot was a spring pistol, the main barrel in front and the version with the handle in the bottom. If you didn’t know what it was, it looked easily like an ammo holder. But then if you were in a game and went with the “I surrender” well, much hilarity was to be had if you made the shot. ­čÖé The Secret Shot II was an air blaster that had a flip-down barrel on top that you could use after firing the first shot, but had to pump the blaster again between shots as opposed quickly pulling a priming arm. There’s the Rebelle Secret Shot now, but there’s no hidden barrel, just the flip-out function of the blaster itself. And I don’t consider blasters like the Modulus stock blaster as part of this classification because it functions as a separate blaster, and has to be removed before shooting. Especially the Secret Shot I, this function was fun, but also pretty sneaky, and I like that.

(old school video review from Ahtanie, a Singapore Nerfer)

The Secret Shot I. The ammo holder on top also worked as a selector for whichever barrel you were using, and you had to flip it in place.

PUMP BLASTERS (non-slamming air blasters) – There used to be plenty of these, blasters you would pump, and then pull the trigger to fire, and I already mentioned a couple (see the beginning for the Lightning Blitz). Air pump blasters were slower because of the pumping action needed between salvos or shots, but they were super satisfying in some cases, too. Hearing the “pop” from an airtech blaster as you shot was nice (the 2000 was a popular one) and you almost felt like you got some real range stock. The Super Maxx 3000 was another good entry with this functionality, and for awhile was a primary of mine until wear and tear got the better of it. Nerf gave the fans what it wants in speed though, and possibly reliability (air bladders and seals were problems for these blasters as they got used) with the current spring/flywheel lines, and so the only real air blasters they use are those that “slam” function, like the Demolisher missile launcher, the Thunderblast, and one of the attachments on the upcoming Tri-Strike. Gone are the days of shooting 20 darts from a Wildfire, then scrambling to reload WHILE pumping the air back into the blaster. At least, from Nerf blasters.

Buzz Bee still has their “Air Warriors” line full of new air pump blasters, including the “Destiny” as featured below. Previously, they also made blasters like the Range Master and even the popular Panther which utilize air pumps in their play pattern. Hope for air blasters like this are not gone, just elsewhere.

Questions? Comments? Do you want to see animal-shaped blasters again like the Manta? Comment below!

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K’Nex K-Force Blasters Continue at New York Toy Fair (ICYMI)…

K’Nex K-Force continues into 2016! The construction set blasters introduce turrets and motorized blasting with the new crop of blasters coming out later this year.

K-10V Building Set
Build your own K-FORCE Build and Blast K-10V blaster that fires up to 75 feet! Set features 83 pieces including, K’NEX rods and connectors, 1 blaster chamber, 1 quick fit grip, 1 preload ring and 5 foam darts. Customize and create your own K-FORCE blaster or combine with the K-FORCE Build and Blast Mini Cross Building Set (set sold separately) for an awesome downloadable combo build! All K’NEX rods and connectors are made in the USA. Suggested retail price is $14.99. Ages 8+. Available Spring 2016.


 K-25X RotoShot Blaster Building Set

Get ready for rotating blaster action with the new K-FORCE K-25X RotoShot Blaster

Building Set from KÔÇÖNEX! The K-25X RotoShot blaster allows you to construct an incredible blaster, and then fire off 5 shots without reloading! Set includes 1 NEW RotoChamber, 5 foam darts, 1 quick fit grip, 1 preload ring and downloadable instructions for 4 additional custom blasters and targets. Models can be built one at a time. Compatible with the entire K-FORCE Build and Blast line. All K’NEX rods and connectors are made in the USA. Suggested retail price is $39.99. Ages 8+. Available Fall 2016.

Super Strike RotoShot Blaster Building Set 

Rotating blasting fun is what you will get with the new K-FORCE Super Strike RotoShot Blaster Building Set from KÔÇÖNEX! The Super Strike RotoShot blaster allows you to build an amazing blaster, and then fire off 5 shots without reloading! Set includes 1 NEW RotoChamber, 5 foam darts, 1 quick fit grip, 1 preload ring and downloadable instructions for 4 additional custom blasters and targets. Compatible with the entire K-FORCE Build and Blast line. Models can be built one at a time. All K’NEX rods and connectors are made in the USA. Suggested retail price is $39.99. Ages 8+. Available Fall 2016.

Flash Fire Motorized Blaster Building Set

Blast darts as fast as you can with the K-FORCE Flash Fire Motorized Blaster Building Set! Build your blaster and then load the clip with up to 10 darts, and the new motorized rapid fire chamber will fire darts as fast as you can pull the trigger! Set includes 1 motorized rapid fire chamber, a 10 dart clip, 10 foam darts, 1 quick fit grip and downloadable instructions for 6 additional custom blasters and targets. Compatible with the entire K-FORCE Build and Blast line. Batteries required, but not included. Most models can be built one at a time. All K’NEX rods and connectors are made in the USA. Suggested retail price is $49.99. Ages 8+. Available Fall 2016.






 
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A Nerf Blogger Had Writer’s Block in 2005. What happened Years Later…. Might Surprise you.

The Nerf Ambassador Meetup at #NerfHQ (Hasbro Headquarters/offices, not the old forum)
Vas The Stampede

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Seriously, surprise.
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Whereupon the blogger (and others of his ilk) visited the home of Nerf blasters, and learnt about production, design, marketing, safety standards, the future, and many things Nerf. Rival, Modulus, Zombie Strike, Doomlands, Rebelle,┬ádarts, Rounds, foreign markets, and what it means to be Nerfnation. MORE AFTER THE JUMP.´╗┐

Sorry about the clickbaiting title, I just couldn’t help it. But seriously, folks! I know I say this a lot, but when I started this blog in 2005 (and barely posted then, but it was up!) I can’t believe some of the opportunities afforded me. And the latest… visiting the Nerf offices in Rhode Island, was fantastic.

 
NOW- I can’t talk about everything I saw there. Other bloggers (Nerd Drop, Click Click BAMF, Shining Foam, Lord Draconical, Blaster Labs, Nerf Haven) were there as well,┬áso THERE WILL BE SOME OVERLAP. If you’ve already read those sources, great. Also, we all also signed a non-disclosure agreement (hereafter referred to as NDA).
 
WHAT I CAN TALK ABOUT IS GREAT (as far as I can say about prototypes.)
 
Coming this Spring 2016 (maybe sometime around January, hopefully earlier in time for the holidays)
 
 
Dual-Strike

There is A LOT I like about the Dual-Strike. First and foremost, it fires regular Nerf darts AND Mega darts at the flick of a switch. The idea is a fine one, and long overdue given the breadth of ammo available. This begs the question about when/if we get a disc shooter combo in somewhere, but that’s a whole different story. My initial impression was that it felt like a solid build, the priming arm wasn’t awkward, and the almighty selective switch did its job. In a lot of games recently I found myself carrying a Mega blaster, but also something smaller for darts. This eliminates having to carry the additional sidearm, and increases mobility. I definitely hope this is something they continue to tinker with and we see more of in the future. I’ll have plenty more to say when I finally get a production model. In general, I like and even prefer using Mega blasters on some level because of the wider surface area of Mega darts, which to me means an increased probability of hitting my target. They may not have the ammo capacity of an N-Strike┬áblaster with a drum on it and may be longer to reload┬ácompared to swapping a new magazine in, but those are issues that I address with my play style. The Dual-Strike now tells me I can go with my preference but I don’t have to have that normal streamline blaster carried on me as well in case I run out of Mega darts during a game with none in sight.
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Nerf Zombie Strike Crosscut

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THIS. This blaster has the added roleplay element of the zombie-slicing buzz saw partnered with the blaster, and that’s all there is to it. The lower trigger “revs” the soft foam buzz saw, which stops spinning instantly upon contact with anything. More trigger pulls = higher revs and louder noise. Not really much to say here, except some good style points afoot for being able to tag with the saw first THEN shoot. Another interesting idea, although personally I would have liked to see the saw blade rev up and then launch out. ­čÖé It’s a fun gimmick for me, and one I might use once┬áin awhile just because.

Nerf Rival. 4-4.5 years┬áIN DEVELOPMENT┬áto get this blaster line worked out. Appealing to an older age group.┬áHigher power. These are all things that I’ve seen groups asking for over the years from Nerf and here it is, 100 FPS right out of the box┬áand decent accuracy. I can’t even begin to imagine how much D was poured into the line, but they went through the play testing and everything┬á with the applicable groups that’s what they assured us. In my own experience with the toy industry, selling something this powerful in the toy aisle can be a bit difficult. But given from what I’ve seen in recent weeks, the Rival line isn’t pushed to the “sports equipment” aisle like I’ve seen with past brands. While I don’t enjoy the prospect of buying new ammo, I do enjoy the┬áprospect of higher velocity gameplay that this offers. I have a few more opinions on the subject, but that’s for another post!

And that’s the new stuff we can talk about for now. Other parts of the trip covered the design, production, marketing, and testing that takes place in the facilities. Along with getting a bit of history walking through the hallowed halls of Hasbro. I couldn’t remember the last time I was on a field trip, but this was definitely one of the best.

DESIGN

Trivia: The way I understood it, all roads for a Nerf blaster lead to Marty’s (Master Model Maker) desk. It is at his workstation that all the pieces are printed, worked out, and come together. He not only has to account for SAFETY GUIDELINES but also how to take the concepts/designs worked out and make them fit together in the first place. Amazing. Thank you, Marty. The design folks were great enough to walk us through making mockups, coloring, different piece variations, and what it takes to get the blasters to shelves. The 3-D printing setups were also hard at work if you can imagine, and we were able to literally watch parts grow.

PRODUCTION/MARKETING

First, Nerf has marketing concepts/campaigns and possible blasters lined up through about 2017. Just let that sink in, I’ll be right here.

Let’s put something else out there:
THE BULK OF NERF’S BUSINESS IS IN THE 8-10 YEAR OLD AGE RANGE.┬á┬á

Yes, they may diversify their market (Rival, Koosh are such examples) but their main sales come from the 8-10 year olds, it’s their imaginations they’re trying to capture and their sales they are trying to earn. To do that, they need to make TOYS THAT THEY CAN SELL TO KIDS.

That being said, the discussion of high-end blasters akin to the Transformers “Masterpiece” line…. BLASTERPIECE if you will came up. The real question is what would make it compelling (performance is already upped in the other brands, so this will require some thinking.) Personally, a retro blaster (Manta Ray, Stinging Scarab, Perceptor) with Elite ranges would be nice. Or even a high-quality durable Crossbow redux. But they haven’t come to a definite conclusion on what a high-end blaster line would mean and until they do it’s still just an idea.

The team also took it upon themselves to show us prototypes, and fascinating isn’t a strong enough word about┬áhow I felt about seeing the evolution of current blasters such as the Hammershot and Slingfire.

Variations of the Nerf Zombie Strike Slingfire on the table

The stories. Oh, the stories.

Zombie Strike was a tough marketing sell as we found out and was in development for years before release. Finding a good 8-10 year old friendly balance with a theme like that was the challenge, and how to make it work. It was a gamble that kids would buy into it from the perspective of many people. Zombies were a hot trend when the line finally did come out, and the rest is history. The zombie theme still works for Nerf, and they continue to support it. Doomlands is them rolling out another stage of their storylines, hopefully to recreate the success of Zombie Strike with a post-apocalyptic flair.

Rebelle was another wary sell, but Nerf wanted to test uncharted waters.┬áYes, I heard some of the complaints with the initial “core” launch being in purple and pink┬ábut that┬ácame out of observational ┬áresearch with younger females (which also showed distinct differences in how they used blasters compared to boys). And from what I’ve read (not from Nerf sources, I mean business analysts) the line is a success. The fact the line is still being supported (and moving away from purple/pink, now that the main launch is out) is a testament to the line and its reception. The things they’ve learned in play testing are continuously being adopted into their plans.

I also mentioned the Nerf Nuke from ThinkGeek, definitely not likely in the future. Sorry, y’all.

Nerf does like to take current trends/products and add their own twist. That much is clear when we see new takes on blasters that have similar mechanisms such as the Jolts and bows across the brand.

The folks from the┬áRebelle team showed us some of the video they take during their playtesting sessions in their specialized “Fun Lab” and Armory, which is a shooting range of sorts, and it was very different from what I expected. It’s pretty much a big observational area where they can watch how kids play with products. I saw a lot of target practice, not a lot of player vs player, unless that’s video we didn’t see. Girls definitely seemed to show more teamwork than boys, fulfilling distinct roles they identified for themselves. Not so apparent on the male side of the results.

One of the biggest questions for me was the lack of direct Nerf involvement in many of the grassroots Nerf/foam blaster only arenas popping up around the U.S. (Detroit Dart Club, Dart Wars, Strikezone Arena, Rochester Nerf League, etc) and beyond many of these places to play with blasters are opening up in some form or another, which are great when available parks/good bunkers are in short supply. The answer is “if you build it, they will come”, meaning that there has to be a very good proof of concept and practice before Nerf gets into the business. With as many active arenas as I see now, there are plenty of candidates.

Overall it was a pretty good visit for me. Heck, the fact that I visited at ALL still surprises me. After all the years doing the New York visits and everything, there was a sense of validation I had for being a one man band with an idea and a 3.1 megapixel camera in 2005. But there I was, in the belly of the beast walking the Main Street of Hasbro. As┬áa┬áKid Eternal, this is one of if not the highest point of my blogging “career”. BIG thank you to the execs for letting this visit happen, which hasn’t happened for the fan community in almost 10 years, to look behind the curtain at our toys. I know it’s a risk but words can’t express the appreciation for how you welcomed us in over the past few years to culminate in this.

THANK YOU SO MUCH TO THE FOLKS WHO WERE A PART OF OUR TOUR:

 
The PR folks (you know who you are) – you brought me in
 
 Michael Ritchie, VP Sports Action
Dean Carley, VP Product Development, Nerf
Eric Huban, Sr. Director, Global Brand Strategy & Marketing, Nerf
 Brandi Cooper, Sr. Brand Manager, Nerf
Brian Jablonski, Director Product Design, Nerf
Kevin Dakan, Director Product Development Engineering, Nerf
Capucine Rebuffe, Director Global Brand Strategy & Marketing, Nerf Rebelle
Aaron Mead, Senior NERF Armorer, Sports Action Design & Development
Curt Mahlstedt, Director Product Design, Nerf Rebelle
Maria Silveira, Director Global Consumer Insights, Global Consumer Insights (Fun Lab)
Brian Tolson, Manager Product Development Services, Design and Engineering Development
Marty Fura, Master Model Maker, Design and Engineering Development
 
 
It was kinda like this: