… by looking at 2022.
It’s here, the end of the year. 2022 brought A LOT of different things to blasters and related toys, and the field is bigger than ever. I’m going to focus on the “main” blaster brands you can find in US big box retailers, but Amazon sellers and direct to consumer vendors, I see you too.
2022 Blaster Brand Power Rankings
Top of the Power Rankings this Year is Nerf.
I’ll say it. Nerf and Hasbro can be criticized for their prices, their designs, the barrage of new ammo types introduced, etc., but the main event in blasters I still have to say is in Potato Head’s house. Nerf had A LOT of lines come out this year. Rival isn’t dead. Ultra had new models. I couldn’t even keep up with all the Nerf Elite 2.0 releases, Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite, Dino Squad, and everything in between. Hyper got new releases, and Gelfire is new to the Nerf line but another segment for them to put a foothold in. (There’s even more on the hroizon, and the future predictions will be on another post,)
That’s a lot of blasters. Not even mentioning Nerf LMTD. And there’s the rub. Nerf LMTD opens the doors so much wider than I think anyone but the people at Nerf understand (and their lawyers). If you had told me 5 years ago I would own a Nerf Aliens Pulse Rifle, I’d have called you a liar. And… I now own a foam dart firing blaster from Aliens. With more on the way, the Halo Needler certainly is grabbing attention even now. Technically, Nerf Ball was announced as well, it’s just more Nerf to go around.
So Nerf is not only claiming a lot of real estate on toy shelves, but on literal land too. They have campaigns and marketing all over the place with deep pockets to go along with it. From potentially having limitless IPs to make legendary blasters for, to having a wide variety of blasters and lines to choose from, and experiential attractions, Nerf has the spread and the reach to easily claim being the strongest brand even now.
Fave Nerf blaster from 2022 –
TIE: Aliens Pulse Blaster & Nerf Elite Moto Blitz
Tied for 2nd –
Dart Zone & Buzz Bee Toys
Dart Zone – Fortifying their Position
Dart Zone had HUGE year. They’ve taken the niche of “pro” level blasters and games and really carved a piece of it for themselves. They offer a variety of darts but the darts are usable in other blasters for the most part. The Tomcat can’t use full length darts, but the 1.2 and Nexus Pro are compatible to use both half and full length ammo. The only drawback was I couldn’t use a majority of the pro blasters at some nerf wars I attended. The blasters shoot pretty strongly and a majority of the attendees were kids of other players.
However, I’d be remiss not mentioning the whole tournament Dart Zone held as well. Across multiple states, even attracting players from Singapore, it definitely made noise. The other grumblings I heard are a story time for another day, but as I wasn’t an attendee everything I heard is hearsay. All the same, well done on them for even doing it.
Getting the license to use Jurassic World on blasters was fantastic for Dart Zone too. I know I always wanted a dino hunting blaster from watching Jurassic Park, and their Jurassic Pro fulfilled an age old want.The other non pro blasters like the Pyroraptor and Blue Blaster were fun too, but the real theme came out with the Pro. I also really liked the Vulcanator, the wacky design reminded me why silly blasters are great to own, and not to take this hobby too seriously.
Fave Release: Dart Zone Vulcanator
BuzzBee Toys – Not Just Bolt Action
Buzz Bee Toys is never to be counted out. Typically they have a few solid performers every year, but they don’t have the production output that Nerf has. Abraham’s M4 blaster, the Thermal Hunter, and other past releases from other years were great,
This year was no exception. the Alpha Auto 72 is one of my favorite blasters this year, no doubt about it. It has high capacity, drum fed, good range, and I definitely managed to get tags with it. And it was still a regular strength blaster, so I could use it anywhere I played. Buzz Bee also released fun looking blasters like the Pixelator and Tornado, but the Alpha Auto hits so many positive notes for me. Cost, Capacity, Functionality, and aesthetics are all there. Well done this year, Buzz Bee.
Fave Released Blaster: Alpha Auto 72
I love the Zing brand. Marshmallow Blasters is under their label now, they make a consistently good product, them being at this spot on the list isn’t a knock on them. Someone had to go here, and the other lines had so much going on in comparison.
The new Dominator bow and battle packs are great for outdoor play, and their continued efforts to capitalize on archery tag continued this year, and I’m here for it. But, that’s about all I have to say blaster/launcher wise this year. Zing makes so much more than bows, but it’s not a lot I can factor into this list. That being said, I look forward to what they have coming up and will definitely get my bows and arrows out once the weather warms up for me.
Fave Release: Dominator Bow
I don’t have a lot to say about XShot this year. I haven’t heard from their PR team since the Faze Clan blasters dropped, and all I know is they released a new Skins line since. But like every year, XShot has multiple color refreshes (in the Skins line this time, the Faze Clan blasters were the third recolor of the Orbit and Meteor I’ve seen). One year the new model was the Crusher, this year I think there are two new models? Maybe one? Everything else I already have in last year’s color.
Sure, everyone does it but they also have multiple new products. I haven’t seen that from XShot yet. The entire line is budget friendly and has impressive power from what I know in past experience, but this year I just don’t have much more to report on them and I don’t have the budget to buy more of the Same Thing.
And there really is SO MUCH MORE available on the internet! Amazon, Direct to Consumer, and Amazon make all these other different toys available. Foam blasters that no one else is making, gel blasting toys that are super realistic, and so on. Buyer beware on safety, because there’s no guarantee these toys adhere to the same strict US toy safety guidelines but there is definitely some impressive product out there.