Monday, June 1, 2015

Epitaph for Vortex

In 2011, Nerf came out with a new lineup that shot Foam Disks that was unlike anything they had released before.  Boasting "Xtra Long Ranges" and featuring SciFi alien advanced tech looking designs, the Vortex blasters were completely new to the Nerf world that had centered around foam darts.  The initial launch included 4 blasters, each with unique abilities, that ranged from a small pistol to a full-auto rifle.

When they were launched 4 years ago, the Vortex line was pitched as an opponent to N-Strike (Elite blasters hadn't come out yet).  With the disks out-shooting the darts by a large margin, seeing a matchup between Vortex and Nerf was an interesting battle to play out.  I organized a game pitting both types against each other.  The games were fun and I was excited to see where the N-Strike vs Vortex battle would go next!

Not too long after the Vortex launch, fans got a glimpse of N-Strike Elite.  They started off as fan favorite blasters redone in sharp blue and white paint jobs with ranges that rivaled those of the new Vortex line.  Suddenly, one of the major focus points of the Vortex lineup -Range- was already on it's heels less than a year into the lineup.  Although the N-Strike Elite lineup wouldn't be released until late summer of 2012, fans were already looking forward to high-powered versions of familiar dart blasters.

Vortex still managed to hang around during Elite's initial release, but the "N-Strike VS Vortex" bit was nowhere to be seen and there seemed to be much more focus on the Elite blasters. We got a few more blasters that were still holding true to Vortex innovation. There was Dual-Disk blasting, a clever drum-fed blaster, and then that drum turned on it's side like a crazy revolver thing. While N-Strike Elite continued to pump out Tacticool designs with the same dart-blasting tech we already knew, the unique systems of Vortex sort of got pushed aside.

Aside from a couple of ZombieStrike-branded Vortex blasters, the lineup flatlined. In February of 2015, Blaster Labs put up a formal petition to send to Hasbro to keep Vortex going. They noted at an All-Access Event in 2014 the following:
"...on the wall behind the Nerf designers and marketers at Hasbro HQ, they clearly had Elite, Mega, Zombie Strike, Rebelle and Super Soaker brand marquees on display, but not Vortex. When we tried to pin-down two Nerf execs for an answer this time, we were given a more nuanced explanation that Vortex had been oversaturated in the market, and it basically needs time to cool down (i.e., clear shelf space of models that didn’t move as quickly as planned). Therefore, retail reception to more in the Vortex line is not likely to be strong, which would tend to make a better case for integrating Vortex into other lines (like Zombie Strike)."
While this doesn't confirm the discontinuation of disc-based products, it does affirm that Vortex has more-or-less bit the bullet.  Or Dart.  Or whatever you'd like to call 'em.

Surprisingly, the fan-led Blaster Labs Petition is still sitting at 449 signatures on their Petition of the 1,000 they were looking for.  This seems odd considering that there seems to be a lot of fans still pulling for Vortex.  Blogs, websites, and YouTube channels alike seem to be teeming with support for the brand, but fewer than 500 that have put their names on this petition doesn't bode well. 

There's a laundry list of reasons fans have noted in support of Vortex.  Among them have been durability of the disks used for ammunition, range and consistency in performance, and the innovative designs being used.  Still, I think the Nerf Dart camp isn't just bigger because darts have been around longer, but Vortex still seems to be something that fans and hobbyists have trouble getting into.  Outside of paintjobs and torsion spring upgrades, there's not much you can fiddle with on a Vortex blaster.  They are admittedly more complicated than say a Firestrike or Retaliator or Stryfe.  I can understand marketing reasons not to get behind it, but if all the hype and hopes for Vortex seem a little idealistic or empty at times.

With the 2015 lineup littered with N-Strike Elite, Rebelle, MEGA, and ZombieStrike, I'm not expecting a comeback or resurrection of Vortex any time soon.  And if fans can't rally behind Vortex to get it going again, then we really have spelled the end of Vortex.  That's my non-refundable 2 cents.

1 comment:

  1. You completely forgot the Rival line which is basically replacing both the dart tag and vortex line as it uses a new type of ammo in order to get around the limitations of the elite dart(like the vortex disk to streamline), boosts an impressive 100 ft/s velocity claim, and it is meant for an older audience with team based games like dart tag's design.