We took a deeper dive into water blaster statistics back in 2012, asked ourselves "When and How Did Super Soaker get 'Nerfed'" and even joked about the Accuracy of the Nerf Super Soaker logo. We even split the History of the Super Soaker from the History of the Nerf Super Soaker, but still clung to the hope that newer water blaster models bearing "Super Soaker" as part of their name would live up to their legacy. Given the trends over the past few years together with the lackluster offering for the 2015 Nerf Super Soaker product line, it is time that we must finally recognize the undeniable fact:
Super Soaker is dead.
The remainder of this article will note various highlights during the rise and fall of the Super Soaker brand.
As many may know, the product we know best as the Super Soaker SS 50 was not originally named that way. After Larami Corporation agreed to develop Lonnie Johnson's prototype into a mass-produce consumer item, it was introduced as the Power Drencher to minimal fanfare in 1990. Perhaps the name wasn't catchy enough or perhaps trademark protection wasn't available, but for whatever the reason, the name, "Power Drencher" only lasted one year, replaced by the brand name, "Super Soaker" with a large TV commercial launch in 1991. (See also: History of the Super Soaker and Pre-History of the Super Soaker)
As noted, the Super Soaker brand was launched with a concerted marketing push in 1991. For the launch, three Super Soaker models were available: the Super Soaker SS 30, the Super Soaker SS 50, and the Super Soaker SS 100. The speed at which the public took to the Super Soaker line was remarkable to say the least. Looking back, the launch of the Super Soaker line more-or-less displaced the former reign of battery-powered water guns.
"Wetter is Better"
As sales and profit allowed Larami Corp. engineers to develop the pressurized air technology further, the Super Soaker brand did not simply rest on its better performance over motorized water guns.
Over the next years, Super Soaker models got larger, more complex, and held more water. For the original series, the biggest beast that was made available was the Super Soaker SS 300. The three-chambered backpack fed water blaster represented the ultimate soaking machine in 1993 and for several years to come.
In 1994, the Xtra Power (XP) line was unveiled. With 2 to 3 times the power over the original Super Soaker models, the XP-series permitted the avid water warrior to outsoak even first generation Super Soaker users. To support the increased output from the larger XP nozzles, the Super Soaker models also grew larger, holding more water in their reservoirs. All the XP-series Super Soakers outperformed any non-XP Super Soaker with the exception of the Super Soaker SS 300 which was later rebranded as the Super Soaker XP 300, though we have yet to see any actual pictures of an XP 300 beyond some catalog images.
What most people didn't realize was that Larami Corp. became a subsidiart of Hasbro Inc. sometime between 1994 and 1995. Those paying a little more attention will realize that Super Soakers sold in 1995 and beyond were stamped with "Larami Ltd." as opposed to "Larami Corp.".
Peak Performance - the Constant Pressure System (CPS)
Just when air pressure performance seems to have peaked, a new Super Soaker model appeared with minimal advertising on store shelves, the now legendary Super Soaker CPS 2000. Featuring a pressure chamber comprised of a stong rubber bladder, the incredible performance of the Super Soaker CPS 2000 more than quadupled the output from even the heavy hitting Super Soaker SS 300. Unfortunately, the power level seen in the Super Soaker CPS 2000 has not been seen since. Rumours have it that the power unleashed by the Super Soaker CPS 2000 could cuase permanent eye damage, but evidence to support this claim remains purely anecdotal.
From Cool to Concern
From 1998 through 2000, a number of larger water blasters that made use of the CPS technology appeared. Lighter-class water blaster such as the Super Soaker CPS 1000 and Super Soaker SC 500 proved even smaller-sized blasters benefitted from CPS-technology while a beast of a blaster, the Super Soaker Monster XL, satisfied those looking for a behemot and earned Super Soaker a place in the Guiness Book of World Records for largest water gun. While the Super Soaker brand still produced many air-pressure and pump-action water blaster models, the CPS-class blasters definitely dominated in terms of capacity and power.
However, even back in 2000 to 2002, avid water blaster users began to comment more on an apparent reduction in top level performance. While no one expected every water blaster to be a heavy hitter (there is a size constraint - one needs a certain-sized blaster to be able to have enough internal space for a powerful chamber and reservoir). However, though Super Soaker power had been steadily increasing since its conception and release from 1991 to 1996, no model since the Super Soaker CPS 2000 ever matched its power, let alone out-perform it.
Rise of the "Gimmick"
Instead of focusing on better power, capacity, or improved performance, later year Super Soaker models appeared to focus more on additional features. This isn't to say that there were no gimmick-based blasters during the rise of the Super Soaker brand, but there were always plenty of solid performance-based blasters available that the gimmick-based ones were considered amusing, not worrisome. In 2003, the Super Soaker line introduced the world to the E.E.S. series (Electronic-Enhanced Soaking), basically being three models that featured sound effects sometimes with additional light-effects such as the Super Soaker E.E.S. Turbine. Thankfully, at least the blasters performed decently, being air-pressured, but the thought of using batteries for something that did not enhance water blaster performance made many wonder why. Many had hoped that 2003 was merely an "off" year. However, by 2004, it appeared that the gimmick-based water blaster was now the trend with the largest of the new models being the likes of the Super Soaker Triple Aggressor, the Super Soaker Hydro Blade, and Super Soaker Helix.
The Final Teasers
In 2005, three years since the last CPS-based Super Soaker had been released, Hasbro Inc. introduced two new CPS-based blasters: the Super Soaker Flash Flood and the Super Soaker Aquapack Devastator. While the Super Soaker Aquapack Devastator provided decent performance for a light-calibre CPS-based blaster, the Super Soaker Flash Flood, with its dedicated "Flood"/riot-blast nozzle, brought back memories of the days of the Super Soaker CPS 2000 even though the Super Soaker Flash Flood's did not achieve as much power or range. However, seeing CPS-based blasters again gave people hope that this was signaling the return of truly performance-based water blasters from Super Soaker.
In 2007, Hasbro Inc. released the Super Soaker Hydro Blitz which remains an oddity even to this day. Despite being a large, heavy Super Soaker with decent capacity, the Super Soaker Hydro Blitz had horrid ergonomics (handle-based pumping?) and its design all-but-neutered the power of its large CPS-based chamber, forcing its pressure to either be pushed out through a small nozzle or being used to fill a lesser-powered CPS-based firing chamber to yield bursts with far less user-based control. Had the Super Soaker Hydro Blitz used a standard water blaster layout and given a better selection of nozzles, this could have been a great water blaster. Instead, the Super Soaker Hydro Blitz served to represent the lack of understanding and appreciation Hasbro Inc. had for CPS technology. The Super Soaker Hydro Blitz was the last CPS-based water blaster made under the "Super Soaker" brand.
Discussed in greater detail in the article, "When and How Did Super Soaker get 'Nerfed'", in 2010, the line was rebranded as "Nerf Super Soaker". Beginning with the release of the triggerless Nerf Super Soaker Shot Blast in 2010, the products released under the Nerf Super Soaker brand sacrificed performance for looks, making water blasters look more like dart blasters, but failing to perform like true "Super Soaker"s.
To add insult to injury, Hasbro unveiled the motorized Nerf Super Soaker Thunderstorm in 2011, going full circle as it was the original Super Soaker which put an end to the reign of the motorized water gun. The new Thunderstorm did not show any significant improvement over the performance of water guns from the mid-1980s, still requiring 4AA batteries to achieve sub-par performance when compared to the majority of pressurized water blasters.
To put things in perspective, with over 30 new products released since 2010, only 5 feature some sort of stored energy (this includes the Shot Blast's temporary storage), only two (2) use air pressure technology that made Super Soaker perform so well in the first place, and only one (1), the Nerf Super Soaker Hydro Cannon, used CPS-technology. Moreover, while some point to the Nerf Super Soaker Hydro Cannon as Hasbro's attempt to create the next generation CPS-blaster, it's actual performance is even worse than that of the much more compact Super Soaker Flash Flood. Compare those numbers to the 4 models that use motors to generate streams and 18+ models that merely use pump-action to blast water and one quickly sees which technologies Hasbro has opted to focus on for the Nerf Super Soaker line.
The choice of motors and pump-action is not actually surprising given the fact that Hasbro has opted to try to force water blasters into a similar size mold and styling as their Nerf Dart Blasters. Simply put, thinner bodies and barrels with limited sized clip regions physically limit how much water can be held by a blaster. Angular, thin shapes constrict the ability to include any meaningful pressure chambers (which are best when rounded/spherical). While it may be possible to create smaller-sized CPS-based chambers for these water blasters (Hasbro owns the patent), possibly due to costs and lack of percieved demand, they have opted not to pursue this route.
To add insult to injury, not only had Hasbro opted not to make use of air pressure or CPS-type technology, but in 2010, they exercised their right as the patent holder to successfully block Buzz Bee Toys Inc. from using related technology for the Water Warriors brand of water blaster. While perhaps the right thing to do from a business perspective, this injunctive action basically eliminated consumer access to higher-performance water blasters for the remaining duration of the patent. Hasbro had diminished its largest competitor, but also lowered the bar on what consumers could expect from a water blaster.
None of the Nerf Super Soaker models coming in 2015 interest me from a performance viewpoint. While capacities and some stream ranges may vary somewhat, considering that all of the new models are pump-action or piston-based, unless their pumps have been further degraded, their performance would be more-or-less equivalent to similar 2014 models. Why there are no new pressurized water blasters bearing the "Super Soaker" name is a question only Hasbro can answer.
With the sense that the Nerf Super Soaker brand has done more to undo the legacy the original Super Soaker brand brought to the world of water warfare, I simply cannot consider it as a continuation of the original. Perhaps it's taken me 6 years to accept it, but the Super Soaker died in 2009. It merely took 6 years of hope and dismay to confirm this.
Thankfully, the soul of Super Soaker still lives on, just not at Hasbro.
For iSoaker.com, while I will likely continue to collect various Nerf Super Soaker models, I no longer plan to extensively review every new item available. Instead, I plan to only fully review notable items and, of course, any model that actually uses some sort of pressurization, be it air or elastic pressure based systems.