Today, we continue our reporting, starting with comments from a short conversation with Reed McIntyre, VP Sales at Buzz Bee Toys. Forgive my paraphrasing, but I’ll try to get everything as accurate as possible. Then we’ll cover several more items of interest, and wait for large info dumps from Hasbro and Buzz Bee tomorrow.
Concerning the effects of becoming part of Alex Brands in May 2015.
- Marketwise, BBT was in a bit of a rut. They do the classic suction cup dart blasters very well, but that isn’t always what sells.
- While BBT had their thing, Nerf was expanding with Elite blasters, and Mega darts, going for further distances. Zuru came on the scene with inexpensive and competitive blasters, as well as lightweight darts. BBT needed to grow and adapt.
- Extensive studies led to new packaging, dart focus, etc.
Results of the studies
- Consumers had a three way split with suction tips, distance, and accuracy.
- Blue packaging was most appealing, and illustrated kid models helped balance things in terms of how aggressive it looked, gender-neutral and ethnic-neutral modeks.
- They bolted blasters to a table and began testing all kinds of darts, both from competitors and their own designs, measuring groupings at 30′.
- Last cycle’s Ultra Tek darts have evolved into the new suctions. Long distance darts are more streamlined, though still with a soft tip. PrecisePro darts lose a few feet in distance in favor of accuracy.
- Blasters are green, blue, and red to color-code what darts they come with (suction, long distance, and PrecisePro, respectively)
- Air Max blasters are on the way out. Their version of Megas worked well, did magazines right, and had lots of power, but they just sat on shelves.
- Missile blasters are on hold as well.
- The Sentinel may have a cult following, but that doesn’t equal sales.
- Things may come back if enough demand returns.
The Walking Dead license deal has been their killer app, figuratively speaking.
- Great sales across the board, and now using the long distance darts.
- Retailers wanted a crossbow, and now we have a magazine-fed one coming to shelves.
Kids wanted to use Nerf accessories like scopes.
- Going to be including adapters on select models like the Predator for ensuring compatibility with what kids already have.
A big thanks to Reed McIntyre for somehow managing to answer all my questions without me even having to ask most of them!
Zuru Toys and the XShot Update
Zuru’s products have done incredibly well, not just in home territory (New Zealand/Australia) but in Great Britain as well, shipping millions of blasters last year. Their fully automated factory in China has allowed drastic price reductions for the end consumer. In addition, they’ve been adding to their lineup, preparing new paint schemes (see the white revolver), and active in the blaster community, serving as sponsors for Nation v Zombies both last year and this year.
Speaking of HvZ, they have a new blaster in the works that fires forty darts, all from a single revolving chamber. The darts sit in two concentric circles of 20 each, and a lever on the side picks which ring of darts to fire from. Conceivably a human player could always be reloading on the fly without being too vulnerable, since you can reload one ring while firing from the other.
The Bug Attack line has expanded with their own magazine-fed crossbow. From my time using it, everything about it felt smooth, and the darts had quite a bit of velocity on them.
Note that their magazine-fed blasters have all been retooled to allow the use of competitors’ darts. This was a major gripe with the initial versions of the Max Attack and Hurricane.
Off-Brand Special Finds
Diggin Active, Inc. has several products on shelves, especially at ToysRUs. They include Dodgetag, Micro Missile, and Slimeball. As an extension of the last line, we’re going to see an air-powered Slimeball Launcher, estimated to sell for $25. And from personal testing, it looks to be at least the next Extreme Blastzooka, if not Big Blast, for the NIC.
The prototype on hand had the trigger and pump handle as one. After pumping a few times, you had to push the pump all the way forward before pulling the trigger actually fired the blaster. If it can launch slime balls 50′, just think what it could do with darts!
Currently, based on what was on hand, I’m speculating that it’s a piston-valve tank. A metal rod within the body of the pump moves forward a bit when you depress the trigger, indicating that it depresses a blast button of some kind.
I have more questions to ask. Stay tuned!