The R Zone Console and When Tiger Electronics Took on the Game Boy One Headband at a Time.
From Pit Fighter to Double Dragon and even down to Sonic, there was a time when should a console game be successful enough it would be blessed with it’s own LCD version. Primarily made by Tiger Electronics, these handheld, battery loving toys were primitive, one level remakes of their console counterparts. Sporting a single background, liquid crystal display with a limited moveset, they were a cheap stand in for a Game Boy when on the move.
LCD Gaming Evolves
Remarkably, in a world of Game Boy and Game Gear, Tiger LCD games had been doing extremely well. Eventually, despite the low price tag of the devices and the high level of playability, people did start to move away from these toys.
The R Zone console was the evolution of the LCD handheld. Going literally head to head with Nintendo’s Virtua Boy, it worked by projecting the game image onto a mirror in the wearers view. This all sat on a very odd looking stretchable headband. Looking more like gym equipment than something you should game with, the adjustable eyepiece sat at the front. The game cartridge itself would slot into a module also in the headband and featured its own LCD screen. The joypad also plugged into the head module. Basically, everything was on your head.
Which in turn, caused mass headaches, dizziness and eye strain in its users. Despite a seriously low retail price ($30, the same price as a NES cartridge at the time) it was essentially just a normal Tiger LCD, albeit with swappable cartridges, attached to a headband. Sale were poor and slumped even further after the Christmas period.
Advertising the R Zone
The licensing of the games catalogue was actually not bad at all. Blockbusters movie tie ins, Disney hits, Sega classics. However, whereas handheld Tiger games stood with black LCD graphics on a lightly coloured background, the R-Zone was an eye blistering red on yellow.
- DOUBLE DRAGON NES GAME COVER Slim Fit T-Shirt
- Price: $17.36
- Double Dragon (Neo Geo Title Screen) Canvas Print
- Price: $58.58
The advertising campaign was also slightly misleading. Adverts showed clips from the console counterparts and only slight, adjusted screen shots from the R-Zone itself. Even Tiger knew it looked bad.
A year after release Tiger updated the system. Realising the headband idea was dead in the water, Tiger redesigned the R-Zone to look more like a normal handheld console. This time it had colour.
In 1997 another updated version was released named the X.P.G. This stood for Xtreme Pocket Game and was the first of the R Zones that actually looked appealing in design. However, it was too little too late. By now the Game Boy Pocket was appearing on the scene. Gaming had moved on and LCD games were a throwback to yesteryear. Both LCD and the R Zone were dead and buried.
The following year, Tiger would make it big with the Furby home robot. This would be the first commercial attempt at a toy company to mass market a home robot. It ended the year being the must have christmas toy
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Images courtesy of Evan-Amos - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36879712