Nerf Launches Its Own Sport Using Hit-Detection Gear and Lots of Blasters

Nerf launched a new sport Thursday that combines blaster shooting with elements of team handball and basketball. Nerfball makes use of the company’s Pro Stryfe X blaster and — in 2024 — hit-detection gear in order to create a game with multiple ways for teams to score points.

The game takes place over four quarters, during which players can score by either putting a ball through a hoop for six points or by hitting opposing team members with a Nerf dart for one point. When a player gets hit by a dart, they have to go to a “respawn zone” at the back of their side of the field before continuing play. 

The Nerf Stryfe Pro blaster and Nerfball.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

At a Hasbro event leading up to New York’s Toy Fair, I got to hold an early version of the Nerfball, which has grooves to make it fairly easy to carry. Footage of a Nerfball game that was on display at the event shows players dribbling it like a basketball, but that wasn’t permitted during my brief hands-on.

The Nerf Pro Stryfe X blaster shoots a lot of darts quite quickly.

Bridget Carey/CNET

During my demo, I also got to use the $120 Pro Stryfe X blaster on a target, and its motorized shooting feels closer to a paintball gun than the comparatively slower-paced shooting of the blasters meant for younger players. While one could play Nerfball by focusing on just shooting other players for points, I wouldn’t want to be blasted from close range. The game recommends all players wear protective eyewear, to which I’d heartily agree.

While players can hold the ball, it must move every 25 seconds whether the possessing player moves with it or passes it. While exact rules and the field layout can be scaled, the Nerfball rulebook recommends that each quarter take about four minutes in length — making a Nerfball match a fairly fast-paced game. Much like other field sports like soccer, Nerfball assigns players to Defender, Midfielder and Runner positions. After four quarters are up, the team with the most points wins the match.

For Nerfball’s debut, Hasbro set up an exhibition game called the Battle in the Bubble, which shows a field filled with barriers and obstacles that players can hide or dodge behind. Nerf also has goal nets for Nerfball, that require tossing the ball up high in order to score points. The high-up goal posts lead to some basketball-like gameplay styles for players that can make a shot from further away. The Battle in the Bubble match can be viewed on the Nerfball website, if you want an extended look at how a Nerfball match plays out.

In Nerfball, a goal scores six points.

Hasbro

Nerf says hit-detection gear for Nerfball is on its way in 2024, which will allow for real-time scoring as players get hit by darts. That gear will use proprietary foam with what Nerf calls “XO-Nano technology” that’s capable of detecting when a player is hit by a Nerf dart. For now, the Nerfball rulebook requires an honor system, in which a hit player must raise their hand before running back to the respawn zone.

Nerf has plans that create several ways for players to try out the new game: The full arena experience is being created at the Nerf Action Xperience entertainment center at New Jersey’s Garden State Plaza mall, starting there in 2024, with other locations coming later. Nerf will also have a line of Nerfball gear for players to set up in their own backyards or parks, providing another game option for Nerf meetup groups.

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