Monday, April 16, 2012

Pocket Weighs In on Elite News

This was posted on Urban Tagger's Facebook Page (which is their only outlet of information right now). Take a read if you wish.

"A few years ago, when I first seriously got into Nerf, the guy at my local Toyworld tried to explain to me that Nerf blasters in Australia had essentially been "detuned" due to our rather strict regulations. He went on to explain if a Nerf dart could shoot through a sheet of aluminium foil. then it was considered a safety risk. I do know we have very strict regulations here, hence the whole "No airsoft" thing, so it actually DID make some sense, but at the time I took it with a grain of salt as I was importing several blasters from the US and found no real performance difference between the US vs the locally bought blasters and so just chalked it up as just nothing to worry about.

Nerf's upcoming release of the new N-Strike Elite series (and I do shy of mentioning them as it seems whenever I do I get legal trouble regardless of how widespread they are on the internet) ARE essentially mostly repaints of old blasters. Add some new accessories to make them look a tad tougher, but we end up with them continuing the ridiculous trend of releasing old blasters as NEW ones ( Lumitron-Praxis, Thunder Storm/Lightning Storm) by merely repainting them and adding "bits". What did excite the fans though was the prospect of an upgraded dart and firing mechanism with talk of a 75 ft stock range. Boom, right? All of the promo material, the videos- the marketing spiel essentially said "N-Strike Elite outperforms N-Strike".

Nerf announced this morning that the blasters available in the US WILL meet the promised 75 feet hype, however several other countries (Australia included) have been confirmed to receive "detuned" blasters to meet the countries' strict safety regulations.

You can't blame Nerf for having to do this- as a "Nanny State" type of country, Australia has some pretty intense laws on all sorts of things that question our ability as grown ups to think for ourselves. That being said, Nerf is first and foremost a child's toy, and therefore I doubt the voters (ie parents) are really going to be fighting to have THIS one overturned in a hurry.

What I have a gripe with, is the marketing of the N-Strike Elite blasters and the fact they LEAD with the new performance increases as its main selling point. As I said, these strict laws Australia and other countries have are nothing new- they've been around for years and all manufacturers selling in Australia would have to adhere to them. Hasbro would have known of these regulations (the argument for why air restrictors exist in the first place was to detune the blasters for child use) ever since they defined the toy blaster market many years ago. They can't feign ignorance on this; they would have had to have known adding extra kick to their blasters was going to cause an issue with their international sales.

At the end of the day Australia is SUCH a small market compared to the US- I know in some industries the whole of Australia's sales can amount to the same as ONE single store in the state of Texas. Obviously the US is going to be Hasbro's main market and if they'll care of US customer needs first and foremost. But I can't help but feel irked that these companies still fail to realise that in this day and age, marketing goes global (especially with their FB page) and to make claims without considering their international market is poor management of customer expectations.

What WILL happen is there will now be two versions of a blaster- the US more powerful version, vs the detuned international version. WHAT A MESS.

Obviously, no-one with half of a clue is going to want to buy the lesser model and they're definitely not going to be willing to pay any higher price for the "Elite" badge given there's going to be nothing 'Elite' about it anymore other than it having some new accessories and a different colour. We're going to see a whole bunch of Americans seeing dollar signs and eBay making a mad killing on the grey market; and that's assuming Australian customs (who are absolute nazis) will even allow them to come in (are we even expecting Australian customs to be trained enough to know the difference between a US origin N-Strike Elite blaster vs an International one?) In Australia we're used to paying more money for the same item; I'll be interested to see if customers however are willing to pay more money for a lesser performing item.

Let me illustrate it in an example- If I walk into a local toy store and had the inclination to buy a Raider, I'd buy a Raider. If I had the option to buy a Rampage (essentially the same aesthetically and functionally as a Raider) because I knew it performed much better than a Raider, I might go to that instead. 

In fact, i'm probably NOT going to want to buy a Raider now because of that very fact. Who wants to spend money on a same same but inferior item? Traditional N-Strike sales suffer.

However, what this means is in turn using that logic... I'm probably not going to want to buy a LOCAL Rampage either if I know it has been detuned,.. when I KNOW a better version is out there and a browse on eBay might get me one from the US. ESPECIALLY if the local Rampage:

1) costs more than the Raider (probably) and
2), costs the same/more as the US origin Rampage (probably)

SO I'm going to import, if I can be bothered. But you know what probably is more likely to happen if performance is all that matters to me? Mod a (cheaper) Raider. That uses my existing darts.

Another point I'd like to make- do you think the N-Strike Elite series actually NEEDED to be made in the first place? Regardless of what country you're from, is it really important for a stock blaster to go that far for a kid? What you do with your blaster is up to you once you own it, modding exists for that very reason and even though these proposed new blasters are claiming 75ft ranges, it's not in any shape or form going to stop people from cracking them open and seeing if they can make them go even further. It's human nature to want more, to be curious about constant improvement; It's a novel idea that Nerf "listen to their fans" but I guarantee once a modder, always a modder and those screw drivers are going to be coming out as soon as the boxes are open. And I really am interested to see what it IS that makes these blasters perform better, and how Nerf has detuned them for international sales. If it is just a matter of adding/removing air restrictors and a better functioning dart, I'm thinking fans might think that to be a tad.. under whelming.

To be honest, I'd have bought the new Elite series because they are new and they have cool attachments. I'm never one for crazy performances given the way I play, so that was never a main sales point for me although that being said I am also not keen on the idea of spending money on something i KNOW exists elsewhere for cheaper and IS natively better. (it's like buying a non turbo model of a sports car that is renowned for its turbo performance, whether you drive it hard or not)

Nerf could have released the same, "detuned" blaster everywhere and they still would have sold because they're new. The idea of the extra performance actually doesn't make a whole lot of sense for me as it ends up harming potential sales worldwide rather than increases them and for me suggests the same disregard for non American players we've been used to. It's actually the reason why we set up Urban Taggers in the first place- to cater for the lack of information and consideration for blasters in Australia. This Elite series just seems to have aggravated the old wound again."


  1. "Regardless of what country you're from, is it really important for a stock blaster to go that far for a kid?"

    No, not for a kid. Kids are Nerf's bread and butter market that gets them through and puts cash in pockets. However, they are not Nerf's most influential, fastest growing and most potentially valuable market with the most buying power - mature players, including HVZers, urban taggers and office warriors, ARE the "Nerf Nation" we keep hearing about.

    If you don't notice lately, Nerf has slowly been leaning away from the toy market toward answering to the demands of more mature audiences, probably starting with N-strike itself back in the early 2000s. Vortex, New Dart Tag, the latest N-strike offerings... all very clearly influenced by community demands for performance. Just compare modern N-strike to Buzzbee's child-oriented offerings, and the difference is quite clear in the adult sized ergonomics and focus on functionality and quality that Buzzbee and friends lack. As much as Nerf counts on the toy market to carry most of the sales, the sporting market is an undeniable player in Nerf's business strategy. As Hasbro has stated, their intent is to makes Nerf a "lifestyle brand".

    Thus NSE.

    You may argue that NSE is superfluous due to modding, but a good many of those players whom 75' stock ranges would appeal to do not mod for whatever reason. For an HVZer who just wants a working weapon, doesn't want to cough up the dough to get one professionally built, and lacks the knowledge to mod themselves, I can see NSE having a significant allure. You go to a store, buy a box and get performance. No parts changing, no aftermarket, no extra costs or extra waiting. A lot of casual players don't mod just because they don't give enough of a damn to go to all the trouble, and just end up accepting their guns' poor toyish performance. NSE gives these people somewhere to turn, so please don't bash it. As a usual human in HVZ, I am looking forward to the effects of players being able to purchase hi-po guns from mainstream retailers, although personally I mod and can build things far beyond what NSE guns will do.

    Furthermore, I don't know why the fact that people WILL end up modifying NSE guns anyway despite the improved stock performance holds any relevance. So what? You seem to have this idea that NSE is meant to make modding obsolete and that its failure to do so somehow makes it less valuable to parts of the community... which makes little sense.

    Just remember that not everyone is a modder. Modding takes skill, however simple in many cases, and it is an inconvenience. Increased stock performance DOES in fact have a large market, and you being a blogger who focuses on the serious/adult nerf community and doesn't favor hardcore modding I would expect you understand what I mean.

    As to the detuning of the guns for certain markets, that is unfortunate but it is not hasbro's problem - it's the fault of idiotic governments. While I would rather Hasbro have simply avoided badging the products as toys in those markets or even just not sold them locally in those markets at all, I certainly am not going to go overboard and flame Hasbro for releasing the guns at all.

    "Nerf could have released the same, "detuned" blaster everywhere and they still would have sold because they're new."

    That's illogical, and I don't very much like that sort of all or none attitude. Why should the rest of us be denied our 75' stock guns because some international market is a retarded nanny state? That's not Hasbro's problem and it's not in Hasbro's business interest to "level the field" like that.

  2. One thing many keep overlooking... Max Force blasters got in to Australia no problems at all, and they shot 100 feet (claimed), yet Hasbro had to detune NSE to meet the requirements of our government?

    I dare say a small paper pellet with little weight probably needs a pretty decent muzzle velocity to reach out to 100 feet. So what ARE the regulations that make 75ft Nerf blasters limited to 50 ft, but do not limit100ft paper pellet blasters?

    1. It probably has to do with overall stopping power- firing one of those pellets out of a longshot could probably hit 200.

  3. Yes that has been the goal of liberal nannies for some time, to steal our freedoms and stop us from deciding if us or our kids can handle 75 ft. blasters. This banning of modestly high-power blasters just proves once again that, if we let liberals get into power and make laws, they will not only ban and steal our real guns, but also ban and steal our Nerf blasters.