Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Predicting the Future

In the wake of losing another great Nerf blog, I started reading through stuff that had slipped under my radar from the Southern Brisbane Nerf Club (SBNC) site.  I came across this box art that I had missed, which shows the ZombieStrike Crossfire Bow in it's green colors but with an N-Strike Elite-designed box.  On the right of the box there's a "Zombie Strike" logo and some undead dudes wandering around.  SBNC weighed in on with interpretation of this odd box art.

What we've seen is a gradual progression from concepts to stay the course for N-Strike Elite towards this ZombieStrike lineup.  The ZS gear started off as a Target Exclusive with only the HammerShot and SledgeFire in the lineup.  It's been speculated that the rest of the ZombieStrike blasters we're seeing were originally intended to add to the N-Strike Elite and Vortex lineups respectively.


Nerf has really exploded recently as far as product lineups go.  In 2013, there's N-Strike Elite, N-Strike Elite MEGA (well, it's really just a variant of Elite), Vortex, Rebelle, Dart Tag, and ZombieStrike... and they're all Dart Blaster lines.  Granted, the Dart Tag line has been reduced to a Toys R Us Exclusive at this point, but that's still 6 different Dart Blaster lines on store shelves.  On the one hand, Nerf Rebelle has it's own unique designs whereas the ZombieStrike Lineup has it's own two blasters... but then a bunch of recolored N-Strike Elite-worthy recruits.  Obviously there was a shift in marketing mid-way through, and I originally expected other lines to die off in their wake.  However, there's still unique blasters coming out for Elite and Vortex like the Revonix and the RapidStrike while the other lines continue to push forward.

Here's the question this poses: where's Nerf headed now?  Sure there's all kinds of blaster designs out there but in the end, they're all just foam dart blasters.  There's the N-Strike Elite vs Vortex tacticool war going on, a girls-only Rebelle tangent (I suppose they could fight against their N-Strike brothers?), a smoldering Dart Tag league, some MEGA darts trying to reach their advertised ranges, and college students embracing the HvZ games like no other.  But then... anyone could really use any of those blasters for the other points of focus.  A girl could shoot her BFF with a Vortex disk.  Someone could take the Firestrike and put Tagger Darts in it to stick to his opponent's shirt.  A Human could defend himself from the Zombie Horde with a RapidStrike.  However, Nerf seems pretty confident that, in order to achieve this, you need the box to tell you how to use it.

That's my biggest hangup, I suppose.  It's not just the future for Nerf, but the overall ideology that's killing creativity.  I used to work my butt off using Legos to look like something I had seen.  A Star Wars X-Wing, a Time Machine from Back to the Future, heck, I had a Lego "Metal Gear Rex" from Metal Gear Solid that I spent months making.  No special parts, just pieces that I had from other sets.  But now there's a special lineup for everything with molded parts that create exact replicas of what you would've been stuck trying to make on your own.  Thinking for yourself?  Naw, that takes too much effort.  People want handouts now, and I anticipate Nerf (like everyone else) to be gearing their expanded product lines to cater to that.

On the one hand, yeah it's nice to have neatly organized lineups with matching colors and a style of play in mind.  For sports, for style, for search & destroy missions of utmost importance!  But on the other, it just seems like they're focusing too much on making specialized blasters for specific roles.  If they changed their marketing from "here's what one blaster could do for one thing" to "here's what one blaster could do for a LOT of things", I think it'd open more doors for people to use Nerf for more applications instead of being limited by what the box says.

So where's the Future of Nerf headed?  It seems pretty clear that, regardless of what lineup is getting attention or what trend is in that they're just gonna make all sorts of names, colors, and products to fill specific needs.  In the end, trying to predict what will happen to N-Strike or Vortex or whatever is pretty much in vain.  Would the Fusefire looked better as a Vortex blaster instead of a rebranded Zombie Strike blaster?  Perhaps.  But I bet you the color of that blaster won't stop someone from using it alongside other Vortex Blasters.  Just like how this Crossfire Bow I've got will still be an awesome addition to my dart blaster collection.  They'll all get modded, repainted, and utilized by the few folks left who still like being creative.

8 comments:

  1. I agree, the days of the Recon or Spectre days have ended. Nerf is putting out more specialized stuff instead of encouraging stuff. Granted the Zombie Strike line is cool and is an interesting twist to the previous N-Strike Elite product that honestly had no creativity. Its gotten to the point where Nerf is running out of ideas. When the original N-Strike was out, everything to me was a new creative blaster. Now its reshells and overly specialized guns. No doubt Nerf will keep making good quality stuff but the marketing and creativity has regressed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dont you just miss the vintage days?

      Delete
  2. I would dispute that N-Strike blasters are individual, almost all have very similiar internals, just slightly different shells, the only mechanical standouts being the Longshot, Vulcan and stampede. I think the latest mechanisms show incredible creativity, the Rapidstrike is an excellent design, with better quality components and case form than any previous nerf blaster it's size. The Strongarm is also very clever, as well as giving great power for a pistol. I agree the re shells suck, and the add ons to the ZS range are pretty pointless. The great thing is that you now have massive choice in your load out! You want a semi auto pistol, got that, you want a direct plunger pump action blaster with big ammo capacity, got that, you want pistols, there are so many we almost lost count and nearly all of those blasters will hit 50 ft!
    The future of nerf is wars, bigger, leaner, better, almost stock blasters and more players, cos if you can't find at least 1 blaster in the current ranges you like then Nerf ain't for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Specialization makes it more appealing to certain kind of players, so "MORE CASH BABY YEAAAA!" but Hasbro seems to be lazy on ideas, like Hot Wheels, they just throw 100 repaints of the same thing, but at least HW has changing style, in here it isnt even camo, just the background colour, and with camo they would get even better, but it seems that it is maybe a bit too expensive, and if the consumer doesnt like it for being "too war like"? thats Nerf, showing lame ideas, lame repaints, and even lamer guns, we need the Strongarm to have lower range than the Retaliator or youre just throwing cash to the burner, at least the Magnus doesnt seems to have the range of the Centurion, and hopefully, more accuracy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems that the end of your comment is suggesting that blasters should be 'balanced' (like a computer game) in range based on size or cost. I'd disagree with that, since it seems better all round if the blasters can fire as far as they legally can (here in Australia, anyway). The blasters can be balanced through capacity and fire rate, which they more or less are (Roughcut and Strongarm OP).

      Also, they can't do camo, since they'd get banned in Australia and a few other territories.

      Delete
  4. I like the idea of having a large mix visual styles for blasters, and the fact is I'm going to use my Hammershots in Capture the Flag and my Revonix 360 in zombies games anyway. Having the different lines is better, in my opinion, than having repaint series, like Clear and Sonic (though Whiteout was pretty slick), since you get different blasters, even if it is only a few shell changes and the odd gimmick.

    ReplyDelete