Tiger Electronics, Ltd. (also known simply as Tiger and Tiger Toys) was an American toy manufacturer, best known for its handheld LCD games, the Furby, Giga Pets, and the 2-XL robot product, and audio games such as Brain Warp. When Tiger was an independent company, Tiger Electronics Inc., its headquarters was in Vernon Hills, Illinois.
Randy Rissman, Gerald Rissman, and Arnold Rissman founded the company in 1978. It started with low-tech items like phonographs, but then began developing handheld electronic games and educational toys. Prominent among these was the 2-XL Robot in 1982, and "K28, Tiger's Talking Learning Computer", (1984) that was sold worldwide by K-Mart and other chain stores. Tiger also achieved success with many simple handheld electronics games like "Electronic Bowling" and other titles based on licenses, such as RoboCop, Terminator, and Spider-Man.
However, the company's cash cow through much of the 1990s was their line of licensed handheld LCD games. In a 1993 feature on these games, GamePro attributed their success to the following three factors:
- Tiger's effective licensing. Tiger was able to pursue desirable licenses quickly and aggressively. This allowed them to release licensed games while the properties they were licensed from were still at the peak of their popularity.
- The low price per game. Tiger handheld games sold for roughly $20 each. By comparison, most handheld games of the time cost over $30, and would require a separately sold system (an additional $50 or more) to play it on.
- The simplistic, addictive gameplay of the games. While older gamers tended to find Tiger handheld games one-dimensional and boring, for kids aged five to twelve years old their simple and easy-to-learn mechanics were more appealing than other video games of the time.
In Fall 1994, they introduced a specialized line of their handheld LCD games, called Tiger Barcodzz. These were barcode games which would read any barcode and use it to generate stats for the player character. The line was a major success in Japan, where there were even reality shows based around gamers competing to find the best bar codes to defeat other players.
In 1995, Tiger acquired the Texas Instruments toy division. Tiger agreed to manufacture and market electronic toys for Hasbro and Sega.
Merging with Hasbro
Tiger Electronics has been part of the Hasbro toy company since 1998. In 2000, Tiger was licensed to provide a variety of electronics with the Yahoo! brand name, including digital cameras, webcams, and a "Hits Downloader" that made music from the Internet (MP3s, etc.) accessible through Tiger's assorted "HitClips" players. Tiger also produces the long lasting I-Dog Interactive Music Companion, the ZoomBox - a portable 3-in-1 home entertainment projector that will play DVDs, CDs and connects to most gaming systems, the VideoNow personal video player, the VCamNow digital camcorder, and the ChatNow line of kid-oriented two-way radios. They also released an electronic tabletop version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link.
Tiger is most well known for their low-end handheld gaming systems with LCD screens. Each unit contains a fixed image printed onto the handheld that can be seen through the screen. Static images then light up individually in front of the background that represent characters and objects, similar to that of numbers on a digital clock. In addition to putting out some of its own games, Tiger was able to secure licenses from many of the day's top selling companies to sell their own versions of games such as Street Fighter II, Sonic 3D Blast, and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Later, Tiger introduced what they called "wrist games". These combined a digital watch with a scaled-down version of a Tiger handheld game.
Tiger has made three notable cartridge based systems. The first was Quiz Wiz, a highly popular interactive quiz game system. Players would insert a cartridge and play using the corresponding quiz book. The second was the R-Zone. It employed red LCD cartridges, much like Nintendo's Virtual Boy, which were projected via backlight onto a reflective screen that covered one of the player's eyes. The third was the Game.com handheld system, which was meant to compete with Nintendo's Game Boy and boasted such novel features as a touchscreen and limited Internet connectivity. It was a commercial failure.
Hasbro, previously shy of high-tech toys, was very interested in the development of the cuddly "Furby". With Hasbro's support, Tiger was able to rush through the development process and get the Furby on the shelves for the 1998 holiday season, during which it was a runaway hit.
From 1994–1999, Tiger invented the Brain Family, which are a line of electronic handheld audio games. In 1994, Tiger released the Brain Bash. The Brain Bash has four inner purple buttons and four yellow buttons outside of the unit. This unit features five game modes and Game One is called Touch Command where the electronic voice issues a command like "One touch one" and the corresponding player has to press purple one and yellow one.
In 1996, Tiger released the Brain Warp. This game is a spherical unit that has six colored knobs sticking out. Three versions of the game's software was made. Two of them were made in a blue base and the third version was made in the black base. A voice recording in the game says a color or a number, or a sequence of colors or numbers, or both depending on the game selected, and the correct knob must be shown facing upwards.
In 1998, Tiger released Brain Shift. This game has six colored LED lights which are red, green, yellow, blue, orange, and white. The game is known for its distinctive low pitched "Orange!" voice which is heard on the last color of a pattern in Stick Shift and in Memory Shift and Who Shift's It?. The player has to use the stick shift to follow the voice commands.
In 1999, Tiger Electronics released an electronic LED game called Boogey Ball. The gameplay is similar to Pac Man, where the player travels a green LED light through a maze of 30 LED lights and either has to avoid the red or catch the yellow light.
Making toys and games for other brands
The company has since become one of the most prominent producers of electronic toys, chosen to produce toys based on a wide variety of licenses.
In 1996, Tiger produced replicas of the Turbo Man doll which was featured in the 1996 holiday comedy Jingle All the Way. It retained most of the features that the film version had, including the disk shooter, boomerang accessory, light and sound jetpack, and a voice box.
- Electronic Castlevania II: Simon's Quest — A simplified version of Simon's Quest in LCD handheld format.
- Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (watch) — A simplified version of Simon's Quest in LCD wrist watch format.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (handheld) — A simplified version of Symphony of the Night in LCD handheld format.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Game.com) — A simplified version of Symphony of the Night for the Game.com handheld console (canceled).
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