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The Future (Part 1): Will 2014 Be the Year of the Bow?

We take a guess at one direction foam-based blasting may be heading this year.

With Toy Fair 2014 now just days away, we thought we’d take a final stab at some predictions for the future before we’re officially brought in the loop. In this two-part article, we’ll highlight what we think might become two particularly noticeable trends both this year, and into next. These prognostications should be taken as the hunches and guesses that they are—not as official product news from Hasbro, or anyone else. That caveat aside, let’s take a dive into what we believe might be one of the most predominant themes for foam-based blasting in 2014: bow-type toys—recurve, compound, crossbow, or otherwise. Put simply, we think 2014 might be “The Year of the Bow.”

It may have started as early as 2010, with the crossbow-touting, zombie-hunting character Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead TV series. But if The Walking Dead was the lone arrow shot across the cultural bow in 2010, three big-budget box office releases in 2012 were the full-on deluge of Hwacha rocket arrows aimed directly at the youth of the nation. First up was the gladiatorial Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games (March, 2012) then the fun-but-inaccurate arrow feats of Hawkeye from The Avengers (May, 2012), followed by the curse-laden CGI Princess Merida, from the Disney film Brave (June, 2012). Combined, these three films generated over two billion ($2,740,000,000.00) in box office revenue. And, not surprisingly, the toy manufacturers were ready to capitalize on that success.

Discounting all of the non-foam, toy bow-and-arrow sets that were unleashed with the success of the aforementioned films, we have recently begun seeing a veritable tidal wave of foam-based bow-type blasters, including the following from Hasbro alone:

  • Agent Bow | Rebelle | NerfNerf Rebelle Pink Crush
  • Nerf Rebelle Dolphina Bow
  • Nerf Rebelle Guardian Crossbow
  • Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow
  • Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow Phoenix
  • Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow Vine
  • Nerf Rebelle Star Shot (unannounced)
  • Nerf Rebelle Agent Bow (announced for 2014)
  • Nerf N-Strike Blazin’ Bow
  • Nerf Elite Mega Thunderbow (announced for 2014)
  • Nerf Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow

And the above doesn’t even take into account the offerings from other manufacturers, including the Zuru X-Shot Stalker and Zombie Stalker bows, the Zing Air Storm series (Z-Curve, Z-Bow, Z-Tek Crossbow, Z-Tek Bow), Zing Hunterz series (Z-Curve, Z-Tek Crossbow, Z-Tek Bow), Zing Air Huntress series (Z-Curve and Z-Bow), and Zing Zombie Slayer (Z-Hunter Bow), or the Foam Strike series from Monkey Business. In fact, if you type in “Toy Bow” at Amazon.com, you’ll be greeted by 350 pages of results… in comparison, a search of just “Nerf” results in a mere 14 pages. Clearly toy manufacturers have spotted an opportunity. And we think there may be even more to come.

Blazin Bow | N-Strike | EliteKnowing that Hasbro, at least, typically takes at least 3-4 years for a new Nerf product to be developed (according to Nathaniel Marunas, author of “The Ultimate NERF Blaster Book,” the Mega Centurion was first discussed at Hasbro in 2009, but took until 2013 to be released), one could easily surmise that Hasbro began thinking about developing new bow-type blasters around or perhaps slightly before the release of 2012’s bow-related blockbusters. So, if 2011 was the start of development, for example, it wouldn’t be crazy to think that new, bow-type blasters might start appearing in and around 2014. And sure enough, two of the handful of pre-Toy Fair announcements for new 2014 blasters were bows: The Nerf Rebelle Agent Bow, and the Nerf Elite Mega Thunderbow.

Crossfire Bow | Zombie Strike | NerfThe question, of course, is just how much Hasbro (or Buzz Bee, Zuru, or any other blaster manufacturer) is expecting the toy bow market to grow, and whether or not the trend that started around 2012 is sustainable. We know that films like The Hunger Games and The Avengers are both on for multiple sequels, so those will inevitably create spikes in interest that may be enough to sustain a larger bow market for several years. It’s our guess that Hasbro (and others) have made note of this, as well, and we may not have seen the last of new foam-based blaster introductions.

From our perspective, we’re happy to see new innovations in the genre. But we don’t necessarily see bow-based blasting as having strong appeal to the core, Nerf-blaster type customer. Bows can be unwieldy, have slow rates of fire, and like their real-life counterparts, are generally less useful overall than other weapon choices. Still, bows do provide an interesting and entertaining alternative to the usual plunger-based blasters. And unless we’re completely off-base, we have a feeling we will be seeing many more of them to come. So whether we’re ready for it or not, 2014 may well be remembered as the year that bow-based blasting finally came into its own.