Monday, December 2, 2013

Tek Recon: Another Lesson Not Learned

Roughly 3 months ago, a new kind of blaster hit retailer shelves called "Tek Recon".  Featuring unique tacti-cool looking blasters, round ammo, and optional smartphone integration, this project started off as a KickStarter.  Admittedly, I haven't really paid much attention to it for a couple of reasons, of which I will share with you.

I'll start with a question.  In the last couple of years, has there been a new breakaway product that has taken the projectile-based blaster market by storm that hasn't fired a foam dart?  Xploderz had water-based gel pod things.  MaxForce had precision spit-wads.  Yet, after less than a year into their release, Xploderz has flat-lined without much following and Jakks Pacific pulled the plug on the MaxForce lineup.  Perhaps I'm blind to it, but I don't see Tek Recon having any better of a result than those two.

Now take a look at App-Based gaming.  Many have tried it, Nerf included, but that feature hasn't really taken off either.  While Tek Recon isn't reliant on the App functionality, as they have been advertising their product with and without the App (which Lazer Tag should've done), it's not a strong enough feature to carry the lineup.  They're great blasters with excellent performance and nifty features, but something is missing.

Here's the bigger hurdle I see... and why I think Tek Recon hasn't caught on.  Fans who are likely to be interested in a product like this don't want to start from scratch.  If you're starting out in a game like Airsoft, you can get an AEG and join up with other folks who already have 'em.  It's been a popular game for many years, so products are readily available and there are long-standing communities built around them.  If you're starting out in a game like Tek Recon, you and everyone else who want to join in need to start from scratch.  There's no following to promote it... but it's gotta start somewhere.  Often times, where it starts is on a small scale that just doesn't get off the ground.  How many MaxForce groups did you see meeting up each week to compete in target practice?  The non-standard ammo keeps something like this from taking off as a legitimate contender in its' market.

A better question would be "how did Nerf, Airsoft, and Paintball get started?" and honestly, I don't have a good answer for that.  I have no idea how these types of shooting games got popular and continue to have a strong following.  Then again, didn't people think that by the year 2015 we'd have flying cars?  Somehow, in the next couple of years, I don't see Marty McFly boarding his hover-converted DMC-12 DeLorean any time soon.  What happens with most industries, and with society in general, is we get used to replacing one thing with the same thing.  Familiarity is preferred over change.  In order to REALLY jump out, you've gotta have a product that meets a need other products can't.  That's why alternative projectile-based blasters haven't been successful. It's the same concept as a Nerf dart blaster, so why not just stick with Nerf?  Oh wait, yeah.  I'll just stick with Nerf.  That's what happens.

It's partially what has hurt Laser Tag's ability to be a bigger contender than it is.  Unlike Nerf, where it doesn't matter who built your dart blaster as long as it can shoot darts, there's no cross-compatibility with the signals that Laser Tag blasters send and receive.  In order to play along, you've gotta have a blaster that will work with the others in the game.  A player with a Light Strike blaster can't join a Battle Tag game because the signals and features of that system aren't the same.  However, Laser Tag is different enough in concept from a projectile-based shooting game like Nerf, Paintball, or Airsoft because it's an electronic system that focuses coded infrared light into a beam that can travel hundreds of feet to be received by another player's equipment.  This is why I think there's a lot of potential to make Laser Tag as a whole (not as a company-by-company product) very successful.  The trouble is getting companies to be okay with their product being used on the same field as another.  Nerf vs AirZone.  Tippman vs Spyder.  CYMA vs G&G.  These brands can be played on the same field because they have interchangeable ammo, options, and the game can be played out the same way.  It's the same shooting concept for Laser Tag, but we go from physical matter being hurled forward to a suped-up version of Flashlight Tag.  If manufacturers, Laser Tag or otherwise, could realize these big points, they'd likely not bother wasting time on their current endeavors.

Back to our friends of Tek Recon, I think it's a neat product, don't get me wrong... but there's a reason I haven't even purchased a blaster to check out and review.  It's a lost cause with a game that won't catch on because it's too similar to what fans already have.  In the short run, yeah.  I bet they've sold a bunch of blasters, but there's no good long-term plan for this.  To me, there's value to a game that can be enjoyed long into the future.  Part of the reason I made the heart-wrenching decision to go from Laser Challenge-brand to Lazer Tag-brand was because there was a foreseeable future of cross-compatible blasters.  Nerf and Laser Tag are different enough to me to be enjoyed apart from eachother whereas adding Tek Recon to that list would really just serve well as a YouTube Review and maybe a laser tag recasing later on.  That might happen when the Havok goes on clearance like the MaxForce Shadowhawk did a year ago.  In the meantime, I just hope I can get proven wrong about this whole thing.  It'd be nice to have a flying Subaru!


  1. These are junk. I've got one and it can't even shoot the rubberband diagonally across my small apartment living room to the door without dropping. The rubberbands are also the perfect size and mass to take someone's eye out, if you were dumb enough to shoot at someone's head within the 10 feet effective range. The stock is real wobbly as well. The smartphone holder is junk as well, at least Nerf did proper diligence on making sure your expensive phone doesn't drop on the pavement and get destroyed with Lazer Tag.

    1. Yeah mine hasn't faired as well performance wise either, the range sucks in rapid fire and it's too tough to use in range, and even then I'm not too impressed with it. And as for me, smartphone mounts are out the question because all mounts seem to only fit the same generic iPhone and not the hulking mess of Androids out there. They are well built and cool looking but I see no surprises in why it hasn't caught on.