Tiger Electronics had a very successful line-up of standalone LCD games. Over the years, Tigers managed to secure licences of various games such as Megaman, Castlevania, Double Dragon, etc. The success of their LCD games was due to the combination of two factors. First the low price point was making these games very attractive. While the Tiger LCD consoles were sold for $20USD, you had to pay at least $30USD for a handheld games cartridge plus the price of the console itself. But the main selling point was the effectiveness of the gameplay. The games were simple and yet addictive. These two factors made them a perfect fit for a younger audience.
Although Tiger was able to dominate its own market space, the customers were slowly moving away of these type of handheld. To continue its dominance, Tiger had to come up with an alternative. The idea to create an LCD handheld with interchangeable cartridge was a win-win solution. Not only would they be able to appeal to this market segment but they could reduce the cost of their games even further.
While Nintendo were working on their Virtual Boy, Tiger got the idea to market its newest console as a Virtual Reality handheld. To achieve such claim, they decided to project the game on a glass using a mirror and use the color red, the same color used by the Virtual Boy.
During that period, Tiger acquired the Texas Instruments toy division and agreed to manufacture and market electronic toys for Hasbro and Sega. The deal with Sega would also translate to more Sega licences being released on their future console.
The R-Zone was shown at the American International Toy Fair in February 1995 and was released just in time for Christmas of the same year.
With the holiday just around the corner, Tiger launched an aggressive advertisement campaign that was borderline misleading. The R-Zone was advertised as a Virtual Reality console and customers were lead to believe that the systems were capable of producing 3D images. With next to no hands on review available, the system did fairly well for the first Christmas. The story changed drastically after the holiday once the children had the opportunity to try the device for the first time. Not only, the customers realized that there’s was no Virtual Reality nor 3D images involved , but the HeadGear was causing headache, dizziness and sore eyes in addition to being rather uncomfortable and awkward to use. .
Tiger reacted quickly and created a new version of its handheld called the R-Zone Super Screen in 1996. The new version introduced an additional feature called the “Super Screen” which was basically an overlay that would give a color background to the games. The R-Zone also removed the mirror which removes the constraint of looking to the device at a specific angle. Although the R-Zone Super Screen was a major improvement over the HeadGear model, the device was still very bulky and didn’t generate a lot of attention. For a while, the two models were sold together and cartridges were available with a “bonus” super screen background.
Tiger came up with a last version in 1997. The X.P.G. (which stand for Xtreme Pocket Game) was is probably what they should have released in the first place. The system now projects the game directly in a mirror which make it portable and comfortable. The new approach sadly mean that Tiger had drop the support of the Super Screen background, which was a great addition to the original design. Sadly, the X.P.G came way too late in the life of the device as Tiger decided to completely abandon the R-Zone development altogether.
Although it was not planned as a replacement for any model, there’s also a fourth model called the DataZone which is in fact a PDA that has the ability to play R-Zone cartridges. This version is the rarest of the four.
Ultimately, the R-Zone marketing was its own demise as it sold the handheld as a new innovative devices instead of an improved version of their LCD games. The R-Zone never stood a chance if compared to the other handhelds of the time, but could have done well on its own if Tiger would not have tried to sell it as the hot new handheld of the time.
The R-Zone was such a commercial failure that little to no information exist on the exact number of games released. Games came in two formats, with or without the super screen. Again, there’s no official information on which came had a super-screen release, but we will indicate the one we have confirmed in the list below.
We have confirmed the existence of 27 games. Although some are common, some of them are extremely very rare are they were produced in such small quantity. The Mask of Zorro and Footbnall are confirmed to be regions exclusive but others could be as well.
Many list on the internet includes theses 3 games, but not proof of their existence was ever produced.
- Star Trek
- Nascar Racing
Finally, we have one game that was announced in 1995 before the released of the R-Zone and that was never released.