Monday, December 1, 2014

Shelf Watch and Ramble: Z-Tek Range Claims, MIA Pump Guns, Sparse Discounts at Target

Black Friday came and went, and I passed through the nerf section at the Orlando, Florida SODO Target. Nothing really of note, of course. Just a few strange happenings and general observations.

First was this Zing Z-Tek Bow. These are the little brother to the Z-Curve and the new big bad Firetek bow. Historically I caught these things at Targets before, and they had a 100' range claim on the box. Well...

The left box appears to be the newer one. Is this a real performance boost - or is Hasbro not the only spec-distorting manufacturer in the field? Regardless, I am sick of range claims and the Wild West of exactly what parameter is reported as a range claim, more than ever, what with the XD situation right now.

It's about time the regulatory hammer (...deceptive marketing anyone?) should fall.

Speak of the devil.

Triad XD lookin' all Star Wars in blue pinstriped white. From what I hear, they tend to shoot inconsistently, and I believe this is connected to the springs they run - stiffer, with reduced preload. Why that change was made is unknown, but generally more preload runs better than less.

And of course the outgoing blue unit outshoots the above gun out of the box.

Now what DIDN'T I see much of at this Target? Discounts and sales, for one. Black Friday... no big nerf price cuts. I walked past a bunch of the same old price tags. I was hoping to snag cheap build fodder by going to a crowded consumer store on Thanksgiving. Nope.

The other more worrisome part? There was a notable absence of pump guns! Zero Rampages and zero EATs in sight. Gone are these days.

The Alpha has always been a bit spotty in production and availability and this is not the first time someone worries on the internet that it dropped out of production entirely. That once again does not seem to be the case this time, as the gun is easily obtained outside of the US with no indication of a shortage or impending shortage. It can be nailed down to Target (holder of North American exclusivity deal) not restocking - but why is that?

The Rampage situation, on the other hand, is far more ominous than the high-profile EAT shortage. Walmart and Target are both listing the superior pump gun as out of stock or even not listing it at all, and that is never a good sign.

This could be easily explained as the Rampage experiencing an interruption related to the XD repaint or new product development, and the EAT not being restocked because it too is about to be repainted, or because Target's lean and mean holiday shelf approach leaves bigger fish to fry with a coming return to normalcy and full line stock on the shelves - but I am wondering if the reaper has come for the springer primary. There isn't so much a lack of demand within the community, but I suspect there is within the mainstream market, which seems to be steadily going flywheel.

We have seen lots of new flywheel semi- and full-auto products and zero new primary-worthy pump guns in many years - out of Nerf, we had the Rampage (a nicely Elitified 2008 Raider) and the EAT (a slightly upgraded 2010 NSAT). What explains this? Are lagging pump sales to blame for the lack of new models, or have pumps been shafted by corporate inaction? We could have had an aesthetically/ergonomically redesigned, mechanically solid, bottom magwell "EATpage" type of thing, rather than a Stryfoid gimmick or two - that would sell like hotcakes. Wouldn't it? Or does the Stryfoid gimmick somehow win? Perhaps it does. Has feature creep caught up to the non-automatic side of things?

In any case, if either or both of these guns gets axed, I would bet they won't be replaced.

I'm not clear how I feel about this prospect, and here is where my bias kicks in.

If pumps DO get axed, enthusiasts will still be able to get them with how many thousands of them were sold, and the DP system has great parts support and community ingenuity to hack together parts to keep the click-click-boom alive for many years to come - yet in an auto-dominated modern market where the manual springers are mostly excluded from the primary race, game organizers will be soon enough forced to accept electric as a default technology. Anti-electric sentiment and rules will fade (that's good), and incoming players will tend to just go with flywheels.

Flywheel guns, which support high rates of fire, high reliability, good performance and everlasting "solid state" durability (other than wearing out cheap motors), are my idea of the platform SCN needs - supportive of high-tension gameplay, with low cost and low trouble, and practically no ongoing costs or parts support issues in the future like the Stampede has now. If everyone had a Stryfe with FKs and a 7.2 NiMH as a first gun, where would nerf be? Somewhere awesome, I imagine.

In short I have nothing against springers, but I don't hate this scenario as much as I would have years ago.

1 comment:

  1. There were remarkably scarce Black Friday savings on Nerf blasters in Canada, too - not surprising given that the main chains which do Black Friday up here are American.

    If pump blasters go out of production, will we see the proliferation of FK180/6sNiMH Stryfes, or a lot of of low-capacity springers being used as primaries and kludgey hackey flywheel abominations? I expect more of the latter than the former. Just search for "stryfe mod guide" and count how many of the many guides out there recommend some sort of subpar practice - by my count, it's most of them. Thin wire, Trustfires, extra AA holders and alkalines? Check, check, and check. Now, add to that the laziness and proclivity to use locally available materials rather than ordering things online that, in my experience, accompanies noob status.

    Perhaps a do-it-properly-dangit Stryfe mod guide, similar to your Rapidstrike guide, is in order.