Here’s everything we learned from the invite-only event!
On Wednesday, June 18th we had the unique opportunity to participate in a Google Hangouts Q&A session with Hasbro’s Nerf marketing and design teams (reportedly, the first one ever). And while we’ll always have more questions than time (or confidentiality) will allow us to ask, we nonetheless came away answers to some of your questions, as well as teasers for a few items we can expect to see and hear more about later this year.
Before we dive into the full Q&A, we should note that we were joined in the Google Hangouts session by Foam from Above, Shining Foam, Click Click Bamf, Nerf Haven, Basic Nerf, and Adult Fans of Nerf. Many of the questions below were submitted by these fine folks, as each blog was required to submit questions ahead of time, and we were then requested to take turns asking one question each until time ran out. Here are the questions asked by the group, along with the summarized responses provided by 4 members of the Nerf team from Hasbro that were in attendance (the below is being summarized from the real-time notes taken during the session):
- Q: (AFON) What do you think of Mattel’s BOOMco blasters?
A: It’s a very broooad question… and we (Hasbro) don’t want to talk about the competition. We’ve been the leader in the category for a long time, and we are very excited for the products we have this year. Hasbro spends a lot on consumer research. Seems like every 6 months there’s someone new (competitor), but Hasbro has tight marketing support and retailer buy-in, making them the leader in the category. They get information from around the world about competitors to see how consumers respond.
- Q: (Shining Foam) Are built-in rechargeable batteries a possible feature of future blasters? What about the ability to switch between full-auto and semi-auto firing speeds?
A: It’s possible, but it’s an economic challenge–a high percentage of the cost. The partnership with Duracell was noted. No immediate plans for a switch to rechargeables.
- Q: (Basic Nerf) Will we see flagship blasters and Nerf technology going away from the clip system in the future? Have the designers thought that far ahead?
A: It’s tried and true, so will probably never go away completely, though there are ongoing issues (capacity, price points, etc.). Though they do investigate other things, like internal magazines, but they will probably never go away. Clips allow for kids to add-on, etc.
- Q: (Click Click Bamf/Blaster Labs) Does Hasbro see Nerf becoming a sanctioned sport at any point? Why or why not?
A: We see it coming in a sanctioned way, “sooner than you would imagine.” They’ve already started in the UK with 2 sanctioned Nerf arenas, inside a mall in an amusement-type arena. This is the “experiential NERF mall program” we have seen referenced in recent press releases. We might see more information on this in the next week or so.
- Q: (Blaster Labs) Where do ideas for blaster names come from? We know the code meanings (i.e., “REV”=”Revolver”), but what about the actual name (i.e., “Maverick”)?
A: Names come from anywhere and everywhere, but sometimes the legality is the sticking point. Also, are there PR concerns, and are there trademark issues or translation issues? Sometimes it’s simply what the designer originally named it!
- Q: (FFA) When it comes to repainted/rereleased blasters such as the upcoming Longshot and Stormfire repaints, will they have Elite ranges or within the 30′ range, from pre-Elite days?
A: Target-type exclusives (4-5 months) are driving some of the re-shells/re-paints. They tried to pick fan-favorites for another run. ZED Squad is more on the “offensive,” hence the scopes. It’s more about the fantasy and deco, but performance has not changed, except for the use of Elite darts.
- Q: (AFON) With the price of plastic what it is, are alternative materials being looked in to for future blasters? Like plastics that are made from renewable resources?
A: Hasbro engineers weren’t in the room, but they reckoned other product materials would add to the cost, though they are always looking at new materials. They’ve also looked at making darts out of other materials (since users go through a lot of darts, they’ve thought of environmental concerns).
- Q: (FFA) Is Dart Tag a dead property? How about the concept of sponsored tournaments?
A: Haven’t created new product for it, and it is still a Toys “R” Us exclusive. It’s bigger around the world (Singapore, in particular). But in the U.S., it’s just a TRU exclusive. Some of the blasters created at the end (Snapfire, Swarmfire) are among their favorites.
- Q: (FFA) Is N-Force a dead brand or has that just been abandoned in favor of releasing them under other brands?
A: The segment didn’t justify the space at retail, but Zombie Strike made sense to bring it back (i.e., the sword). Perpetual Play is their partner in this for things Hasbro doesn’t produce, even though Hasbro may have developed the ideas (bombs, machetes, etc.).
- Q: (Blaster Labs) Why haven’t we seen more tactical rail-compatible (or similar) accessories, like stocks, scopes, and the like? In lieu of that, what is your opinion on the aftermarket scene (not necessarily mods, but accessories)?
A: ZED Squad is exclusive to Target with these things until 2015 and is a part of this; Hasbro wants to do the right items (but hinted they would expand this in 2015). Don’t want to rush it. They have plans for the future in this area and think you will be happy. When it comes to the second-hand market, you don’t know the quality or how they will attached… Hasbro is the expert and they want to bring the best products to market. They want it to come from the Nerf team, and it’s not being licensed out (so anything that may exist isn’t official). They last few years have been focused more on performance improvements, but they’ve intentionally kept the tac rails to “leave the door open.”
- Q: (Click Click Bamf) Why have we not seen more products with internal magazines (Fusefire, Quick 16, Magnus)?
A: Always looking at that… it’s a bit of a cost savings on the production side. It’s a way to keep the play moving (they referenced the Fusefire as a current model).
- Q: (Blaster Labs) Super Soakers—why the removal of magazines, stock mounts, accessory rails and other modularity?
A: Focusing on foam blasters for accessories for now. But they’re keeping rails on some water blasters for future potential uses. Batteries and other complications need to be factored in with water blasters.
- Q: (Shining Foam) Will we ever see the ability to switch firing modes (single fire vs. rapid fire, etc.)?
A: Defniitely something they have looked at and is being considered.
Unfortunately, the Nerf team was pretty tight-lipped about up-and-coming products, but here are a few take-aways:
- An “ultimate holiday blaster” in “limited quantities” for a September/October on-shelf has been teased. (Unfortunately, no other information is known at this time, but stay tuned!)
- A new, “experiential mall program” (Nerf-sanctioned events) are coming soon to the U.S. (like the U.K. pilots).
- There were hints of a renewed focus on accessories for 2015 (“we think you will be happy”).
We appreciate everyone who took time to submit questions on Reddit, and only regret that were were not permitted to ask more than a couple of questions from the many that were proposed. We would also like to provide a sincere thank you to Hasbro and their fantastic PR agency for the opportunity to participate in this event. We’re looking forward to our next interaction with the brilliant minds behind the planet’s favorite foam blaster products!