[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tiger Game.com

June 21st, 2010 by Benj Edwards

Tiger Game.com Manual Cover - 1997The original touch-screen game system.

Pop quiz: which video game console first featured a touch screen? (Hint: It’s not the Nintendo DS.) How about this one: Which handheld console first supported Internet connectivity?

Believe it or not, Tiger Electronics — a toy company famed for its cheap electronic games — came in first on both counts with the Game.com in 1997. (Sega Saturn was the first home console to support Internet in 1996).

I was a Game.com early adopter, having bought one close to its release. The wonder of its primitive touch screen alone seemed to make up for its deficiencies at the time, so I was pleased at first. The unit shipped with a built-in version of Klondike Solitaire and a Lights Out game cartridge, both of which showed off the system’s touch capabilities well. But my infatuation with the Game.com turned out to be brief.

As I bought more games for it (almost all from the clearance bin at Toys “R” Us), I began to realize that every single one was terrible. The screen was muddy and blurry and the games were slow and choppy. It soon became apparent that Tiger was aiming for its usual low-end of the electronic gaming market by focusing on low cost (both in development and hardware) verses quality.

The Internet on the Game.com wasn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds. Sure, it supported “checking your email” and uploading high scores to the Tiger website, but a user had to access the ‘Net through a text-only terminal emulator cartridge — and then only via a serial cable that linked to a stand-alone dial-up modem.

It was a messy business. Being text-only, the user had to type in commands to whatever ISP the user chose (assuming they provided shell access) with the stylus on a tiny on-screen keyboard. Tiger did provide its own ISP that made the process slightly more user friendly. While far from practical, having a terminal emulator was an amusing capability. I used the Game.com call some BBSes around in 1997 for a chuckle.

Overall, the Game.com has its amusing eccentricities — like built-in Solitaire and the whole modem thing — but 99% of its games were horrible, horrible travesties of programming. It’s no surprise that I named the Game.com as one of the “10 Worst Video Game Systems of All Time” for PC World last year.

(By the way, if anyone owns the Tiger brand Game.com modem, please let me know.)

[ From Tiger Game.com Instruction Manual, circa 1997 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what are the best games for the Game.com?



7 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tiger Game.com”

  1. Justin Says:

    Wow, that’s fascinating. I also read that touch screen technology, including multitouch, has been around since the early 80’s.

  2. arlandi Says:

    does Tiger ever release anything more advance based on this Game.com device?

  3. Don Holmberg Says:

    I have one of these… I always thought that it would have sold better if it had a PDA cartridge, giving it things like note taking, calculator, etc.

    But yeah, the games were pathetic.

  4. Benj Edwards Says:

    Arlandi,

    Tiger released a smaller, stripped down Game.com a year later called the Game.com Pocket Pro. It featured a slightly better LCD screen, only used two AA batteries (versus 4 on the original), and only had one cartridge port (verses two on the original). It also commonly sold for only $30, I recall.

    But to truly answer your question, Tiger never released a more powerful successor to the Game.com

    By the way, the Game.com did have some pseudo-PDA functions built-in, but they were extremely lightweight. There was a calendar, a calculator, and a “phone book.” The phone book was the only app that would store user-inputted data. The Game.com had a CR2032 lithium battery to preserve that memory (including saved high scores) during main battery swaps.

  5. GamesOgre Says:

    It seems like the early users of certain technologies rarely get it right. I wonder though if Nintendo looked at the Game.com and said to themselves, “Good idea, but we could do that a ton better.”

    Another cool example of early touch technology is the Turbo Touch 360 controller for Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. It’s not the best, but it’s definitely an original d-pad and fun to toy around with.

  6. iBulk Says:

    Hey,

    If you’ve seen the Wikipedia article for Game.com, I was the one who took the photo of the modem (and necessary software to use it). I am an idiot. See, I had these items in the top shelf of my closet, and I heard Hurricane Katrina was gonna wipe us off the face of the planet (and my mom decided it wasn’t a big deal so we weren’t gonna leave…), so I thought, ok, better document this while I still can. For humanity.

    I took the modem and such off the top of my closet, put it on my bed (you can actually see, if you look at the older revision of the picture before someone cropped the boxes out like a jerk, the game.com itself holding the boxes up, leaning on them from behind), and took a photo. Pleased, I went ahead and put it up and in the article. I’d documented the modem that _nobody_ had! Cool.

    Well, afterward I was lazy and did not put them on the high shelf, but on a medium height shelf, and didn’t think about it. When Katrina came and flooded the house, it got high, but if I hadn’t removed the items from the closet, it wouldn’t have touched them. By deciding to document this stuff (and be lazy about it), I doomed the modem and software. I guess we threw it out or it got washed out, because I really don’t remember seeing them afterward in the cleanup. It saddens me greatly, because I remember having to mail order the items (maybe it was phone order? it was a printed piece of paper that had the item numbers on it and how much they cost and I _think_ I had to mail in a check, but maybe it was over the phone, I don’t know). The modem was something like $99.

    Sigh. Anyway, you just got yourself the history of one of these rare things.

    (The games I had were Lights Out and Jurassic Park)

  7. Benj Edwards Says:

    That’s an amazing story, iBulk. Thanks for sharing it. I’m sorry for your family’s loss in Katrina!

    At least you took a photo of the modem — that was more than we had before. I hope another Game.com modem turns up somewhere some day, but be glad you documented it as well as you could at the time.

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