Highlights from the Other Major Blaster Brands at Toy Fair '16

  • 01 of 07

    Nerf was the talk of the town, but other brands still came out to play

    http://i.imgur.com/NddEDvd.jpg
    Toy Fair 2016.

    With 415,000 square feet, 1,200 exhibitors, and buyers from more than 7,000 retail outlets, the 113th North American International Toy Fair in NYC is the definitive toy event of the year. And make no mistake about it--Hasbro's epic, nearly unprecedented reveal of more than 20 new Nerf blasters prior to Toy Fair 2016 virtually guaranteed them a "win" for most talked-about blaster brand at the show. In fact, had they chosen to hold back even half of what they put on display, we would...MORE still be talking about it for weeks--or months--to come. So whether it was the need to make a statement about their place in the market versus new competitors, better prepare retailers for fall stocking, or simply to stoke the fires among fans, the Nerf name simply dominated at the show--and it wasn't even close.

    But that doesn't mean other brands didn't have anything to show. And while most of the other blaster brands may not have shown enough to merit their own, individual stories, we did want to corral some of the more interesting items from each company. Remember to hit the Show All button at the bottom to reveal all of the slides at once.

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  • 02 of 07

    Buzz Bee Ultra-Tek and The Walking Dead

    Buzz Bee The Walking Dead
    Buzz Bee The Walking Dead.

    And the award for best blaster showing at Toy Fair '16 that wasn't Nerf goes to... Buzz Bee Toys? You read that correctly, and that's why Buzz Bee is the first company we're mentioning in this report. We'll get to Mattel's Toy Fair Fail in a moment, but for now lets focus on the fact that Buzz Bee not only showed up this year (under parent company Alex Brands), but they brought with them prototypes of several new blasters, including the entire Walking Dead series we...MORE exclusively debuted on this site back in December of last year.

    We have official details and exclusive, high-res imagery of the blasters shown at Toy Fair, which we'll post in a separate article. But for now, we'd like to focus on our hands-on impressions of the new models, especially the Ultra-Tek Destiny! This new, harmonica clip-fed blaster was shown in prototype form, and it was hitting (mostly) the right notes. Imagine for a moment that you could combine the air-powered, crazy-fast firing of the BOOMco Rapid Madness with clip-fed, Nerf-compatible dart loading, all at a price that undercuts both Nerf and BOOMco. That, friends, is the fantastic Ultra-Tek Destiny! This is a blaster where the function goes a long way to overcome what is a rather homely form, so I've uploaded a brief firing demo from one of the product's designers that was showing it off at the booth. We noted the similarities to the Rapid Madness and were reminded that sometimes the challenging of designing a product isn't simply in making it work, but in making it work at a specific price-point. Buzz Bee appears to have done that with the Ultra-Teck Destiny. And we can hardly wait for it to hit store shelves later this year!​

    Other blasters shown at the Buzz Bee booth included the motorized, clip-fed Ultra-Tek Cyclonic, which had a light-up, rotating barrel and a claimed range of 72 feet. This one felt a tad gimmicky, but we appreciate Buzz Bee adding another clip-fed blaster to their line. Buzz Bee also added the Ultra-Tek Night Tek to their product range, which appears to be a re-shelled AirMax 6 with a "night vision" scope of some sort. The AirMax 6 is one of our all-time favorite Buzz Bee blasters, though this Night Tek model looks a little less sleek, and the night vision thing is probably nothing more than a gimmick.

    But the stars of the Buzz Bee booth were surely the Walking Dead blaster prototypes and associated packaging. We'll have a separate article with high-res imagery posted soon, but on-hand at the show were the clip-fed, bolt-action Walking Dead Rifle with scope (72 feet), the double-barrel, break-action Walking Dead Double Shot shotgun (35 feet), the clip-fed Walking Dead M16 (72 feet), the six-shot, automatic advance Walking Dead Revolver (72 feet), a 14 Count Walking Dead Dart Refill Pack, a Walking Dead Hatchet, and a Walking Dead Sword. It appeared as though the design theme for the line had more to do with mimicking the red color of The Walking Dead comics logo (and working in additional orange elements required by law) than creating anything particularly realistic-looking. The prototypes we saw also had stickers rather than paint, which was disappointing, but these blasters would all have great potential for cosmetic modders, so we have no doubt they'll find a supportive fan base. The packaging looked great, as did the overall booth display, so kudos to Buzz Bee on having acquired this property. We'll have a more detailed write-up on these, soon.

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  • 03 of 07

    Mattel BOOMco

    Mattel BOOMco Halo Brute Spiker
    Mattel BOOMco Halo Brute Spiker.

    Mattel's showing of BOOMco at Toy Fair was (nearly) a bust. After last year's glorious reveal of both the Spinsanity and several all-new Halo licensed models--all shown off in a dedicated BOOMco display area at Toy Fair proper in the Javits Center--this year's paltry showing of just two BOOMco models in a dank, dark, and extremely crowded cellar of a pub nearly a mile-and-a-half from the rest of civilization simply felt "off." Actually, it just felt like a big waste of time,...MORE and it raised more questions about the brand than answers. For months, we've been hearing rumors of BOOMco being killed off, retailers pulling the toys from shelves, and other suggestions of the brand's demise. And we've repeatedly inquired with our sources at Mattel, only to be told BOOMco is alive and well, with many new models on the way. But this pathetic Toy Fair outing--particularly in light of Hasbro's impressive Nerf showing--did little to assuage our fears. And we certainly left unconvinced that the brand isn't undergoing some type of rework to become simply a line of licensed blasters, which would be an utter shame.

    Nonetheless, for fans of the Halo video game series, Mattel did provide two, Halo-inspired models that drew quite a bit of attention. Here's the official product info for each:

    BoomCo. Halo Brute Spiker (SRP: $19.99) – Featured in the upcoming Halo Wars 2 and includes the QwikClip system, designed not to jam, for quick-fire action and rapid reloads. Comes with authentic, intimidating Brute Spiker blades and includes 6-dart QwikClip and 6 darts.

    BoomCo. Halo UNSC MA5 Blaster (SRP: $49.99) – One of the most iconic, go-to weapons of choice for the Master Chief. Includes true-to-game features – rapid-fire action, interchangeable clips and extra QwikClip storage in stock. Its size, speed and QwikClip compatibility make it a must-have item.

    We've followed the launch of Mattel's BOOMco brand since day one (well, long before that, actually), and have sung its praises for nearly as long. So while we've nothing against licensed blaster tie-ins, we are desperately hoping Mattel has more in store for the brand and its supporters than just products derived from TV shows and video games. Because not everyone is a Halo or DC Comics fan, and a blaster brand like BOOMco needs more than two new, derivative models when competitors are showing ten times as many.

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  • 04 of 07

    K'NEX K-Force

    KNEX K-Force Three-Barrel Blaster
    KNEX K-Force Three-Barrel Blaster.

    Back in January we exclusively revealed the all-new line-up of 2016 K'NEX K-Force blasters, so it was a special treat to finally get to see the production versions of all the new models in-person. First up was the K-Force Flash Fire Motorized Blaster. The first motorized blaster in the K-Force line-up was a lot of fun, with a claimed range of up to 75 feet, and the ability to fire off shots as quickly as one can pull the trigger. The fully modular aspect of all the K'NEX blasters is...MORE completely unique in the category, and really opens up possibilities for those who are willing to go beyond building the blaster on the box. But even if you don't stray far from the instruction sheet, kids and adults 8 years of age and higher should have a lot of fun with the rapid fire chamber (the motorized core with a see-through casing), as well as the all-new clip system (included is a 10 dart magazine, also clear). We can attest to the fact that the Flash Fire launched shots much like a typical Nerf flywheel blaster (such as the Stryfe), but we're told the K-Force clip system is not Nerf compatible, and a big downer was the fact that the rapid fire chamber has a physical on/off switch on the chamber, which is the only way to activate the flywheels (which stay spinning until the switch is turned off). It's a definite departure from the on-handle "acceleration trigger" Nerf employs, and even a step down from older Nerf models like the Barricade, which had an on/off switch near the clip. But honestly, the overall "fragility" (for lack of a better term) of this large-ish blaster is likely to keep many from considering it for anything but casual, build-and-shoot living room fun. And for that purpose, the idea of combining Nerf-style blasting with LEGO-like building will be hard to resist. At a $50 MSRP for what amounts to both a blaster and a building set, it's not a terrible value.

    The other, significant blaster shown in the K'NEX booth was the K-Force Super Strike RotoShot (too many names, K'NEX--it should have just been the K-Force RotoShot). This model featured the all-new RotoChamber, which permits the firing of 5 shots in sequence without reloading. A half-pull of the priming handle rotates the cylinder, and a full pull primes it for blasting. It's an interesting process of cylinder advancement and firing that was actually kind of fun, and didn't seem to hamper rate-of-fire significantly. The added tactile qualities may have even made it more enjoyable to use than the motorized Flash Fire. And at an MSRP of $40, it's a bit less expensive, as well.

    K'NEX also showed off several other models due to hit store shelves by fall of 2016, all of which can be found in our initial product intro. But one blaster not found anywhere outside of Toy Fair was a massive, three muzzle contraption that (when it worked) would fire three darts simultaneously with a single trigger pull. Unfortunately, this model will not be for sale--it was just to serve as inspiration what else is possible to build using parts from various K-Force kits. It was cool, if a little fragile, but definitely a sight to behold. We look forward to seeing K'NEX continue adding to and refining the K-Force product line.

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  • 05 of 07

    ZURU Toys X-Shot

    ZURU X-Shot Predator TK-3
    ZURU X-Shot Predator TK-3.

    What's new with X-Shot from ZURU Toys? Beats us...  the company only showed products from their existing lines, including the more recent clip-fed X-Shot Hurricane and X-Shot Max Attack models, as well as the Hydro Series water guns we revealed here exclusively earlier in the month. But just because there weren't any new products (well, ok, we did see the diminutive X-Shot Predator TK-3 for the first time), doesn't mean we didn't walk away with any new information. One discussion...MORE centered around compatibility with Nerf products going forward--the current X-Shot clip blasters aren't Nerf clip compatible, but we received confirmation that future models will indeed feature cross-compatibility--a huge win for fans of the newest X-Shot models.

    In addition to new product talk, we were given behind-the-scenes info on how ZURU plans to shake-up the blaster business with some revolutionary manufacturing techniques. Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to share exactly how ZURU will be doing things differently, but suffice to say they have made substantial financial investments that should soon begin to yield dividends for both ZURU and blaster fans alike. We'll share more as we're able.

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  • 06 of 07

    Zing Toys Air Storm

    Zing Toys Product Display
    Zing Toys Product Display.

    We've routinely enjoyed our visits to the Zing Toys both at Toy Fair each year, but the same "drink beer, shoot toys into the air" shtick is starting to get old. Even the layout of the Zing Toys booth itself hasn't changed much from year to year. So this time around, when the only new products we encountered were two existing models with "Firetek" LED lighting added, we didn't waste a whole lot of time before we moved on. We sure wish Zing would do the same with their...MORE product lines.

    That being said, Zing DOES make very fun backyard toys, and Firetek is an entertaining novelty. So for those who just can't get enough illuminated blasting, here's the official press information on the two, new products:

    Firetek Zyclone:

    Illuminate the night with the Firetek Zyclone Zing Ring Blaster! This new addition to the Firetek brand comes with a hand-held launcher that flys up to 100 feet. The Zing Ring Flyers are constructed of soft, durable foam for a safe spin and cool catches with amazing accuracy. 

    Firetek Crossbow:

    The new Firetek Crossbow from Zing is now blazing with LED light up power, perfect for day and night target practice. The Firetek Dartz shoot over 45 feet with a special scope for supreme accuracy. 

    Hopefully, next year Zing will surprise us with some truly new products that aren't simply derivations of the same, band-powered products we've seen for years now. Last year we were given a sneak peak at prototypes for a whole new water gun product line, but those blasters were nowhere to be seen this year, so we assume they were abandoned. And that's a shame because more competition in the blaster space is definitely a good thing. And we'd love to see what a fun company like Zing could do in this field.

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  • 07 of 07

    That's a wrap. But that's not all.

    Hasbro at Toy Fair 2016
    Hasbro at Toy Fair 2016.

    The excitement of Toy Fair 2016 may be over, but the year in blasters is just beginning. We know suspiciously little about what Mattel might be cooking up with BOOMco, and although we loved what we saw from the Buzz Bee Destiny, it was just a prototype. We also didn't see many of the new products ZURU has in the works, and Zing seems stuck in a rut (sorry, guys, adding FireTek to existing products won't cut it). We should also note that time didn't permit us to see what Dart Zone...MORE might be cooking up, so we're hoping for a few surprises there later this year.

    All this to say, with the exception of Nerf's massive product reveals and Buzz Bee showing a few interesting models, there's quite a bit we don't know about what else might be heading our way this year. And that's both good and bad--while it's exciting to be surprised by new models, it also gives precious little time generate interest. There's a reason Hasbro's Nerf brand is on top--they've mastered the hype creation game and backed it up with good products. We hope next year more competing brands do the same.