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|Headquarters||Vernon Hills, Illinois, United States|
Tiger Electronics (Simply known as Tiger and Tiger Toys) is 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 were 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 2-XL Robot in 1992, 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". An early 1990s hit was the variable speed portable cassette/microphone combo Talkboy (first seen in the 1992 movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York), followed by the Brain Warp and the Brain Shift. It also licensed the "Lazer Tag" brand from its inventors, Shoot the Moon Products, which was born from the remnants of the Worlds of Wonder company.
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. Director of marketing Tamara Lebovitz stated that "We read all the magazines and talk to all the studios to keep on the cutting edge of what's hot with kids." In addition, as a fairly small company at the time, 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, which were often frustratingly difficult and dauntingly complex for younger children.
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. Tiger also produced a version of Lights Out around 1995. In 1997 it also produced a quaint fishing game called Fishing Championship, in the shape of a reduced fishing rod. Another 1990s creation was Skip-It.
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.
In 1995 Tiger introduced Super Data Blasters, a line of sports-themed handhelds. Each featured the contemporary statistics for players in a specific sport, the ability to record new sports statistics, a built-in electronic game for the sport, and typical electronic organizer features such as an address book and calculator.
In 1998, Tiger Electronics released 99X Games, a series of handhelds fitted with a dot-matrix screen, allowing a wide variety of backgrounds and different gameplay for a single game. Although running a software program stored in ROM, those systems were dedicated consoles, similarly to the TV games of the 2000s. Two systems running the same game could be linked with the included cable to allow 2 players to challenge each other.
Cartridge based handhelds
Tiger has made three 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.
Tiger Electronics has been part of the Hasbro toy company since 1998. 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—the "it" toy of the 1998 and 1999 seasons. The continuing development of Furby-type technology has led to the release of the "FurReal" line of toys in 2003 & the Furby line of toys in 2012.
From 1994-1999, Tiger teamed up with Big Monster Toys to design and prototype some audio games to compete with Hasbro's Bop It line of games. These games were listed under a separate website called tigertoys.com which is now operated by Hasbro. The well known games were: Brain Bash, Brain Warp, Brain Shift and Boogey Ball. They also made an audio game called Bird Brain in 1997 and a Star Wars version of Brain Warp called Death Star Escape. Because of the populatrity, Hasbro bought Tiger and now all Tiger electronic games are now under the Hasbro brand.
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, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Barney, Arthur, Winnie the Pooh, Franklin the Turtle, Neopets, Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, Weakest Link, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Batman Returns, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Sonic the Hedgehog, among many others.
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. Despite as being advertised to have 5 phrases in the movie, the physical toy only possessed 4.
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 also released a British version with voice recordings from host Chris Tarrant. Also, Tiger released an electronic version of The Weakest Link with voice recordings from Anne Robinson.
- Business Week, Issues 3525-3528. McGraw-Hill, 1997. Retrieved from Google Books on December 7, 2010. "Later on this month, Tiger Electronics Inc. in Vernon Hills[...]"
- Kirschner, Suzanne Kantra. "What's New." Popular Science, Bonnier Corporation. October 1997. Vol. 251, No. 4. ISSN 0161-7370. 17. Retrieved from Google Books on December 7, 2010. "Tiger Electronics, 980 Woodlands Pkwy., Vernon Hills IL 60061."
- "Tiger the King of the Hand-held Jungle". Electronic Gaming Monthly (59) (EGM Media, LLC). June 1994. p. 216.
- "Tiger Puts the Bite on Hand Held Games". GamePro (52) (IDG). November 1993. pp. 192–194.
- "Power Peripherals". GamePro (60) (IDG). July 1994. p. 158.
- "COMPANY NEWS; TIGER ELECTRONICS GETS TEXAS INSTRUMENTS UNIT." The New York Times. February 11, 1995. Retrieved on December 7, 2010.
- "Pocket Fan". Electronic Gaming Monthly (Ziff Davis) (78): 26. January 1996.
- http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/crash_bandicoot.pdf Scan of the manual of the 99X Games version of Crash Bandicoot.