The end of the game.com
The end of the game.com
The game.com handheld video game console was released in 1997 by Tiger Electronics, to compete head-on with Nintendo's Gameboy. While the system failed miserably on the market, disappearing shortly after its debut, it remains a curious footnote in the history of video games. This website exists, quite simply, to help demystify the obscure machine and its games.

· Read interviews with game.com developers · View ending sequences of game.com games

Here you'll find some interviews conducted with former game.com developers, covering topics ranging from ease of programming, to development kit details, to interaction with Tiger Electronics and its subcontractors, and more.

Interview: Matt Scott / Byte-Size Sound

Brandon Cobb: How were you first introduced to the game.com system, and what were your initial thoughts of the machine?
Matt Scott: I'm not sure how I first found out about it; I believe someone I had worked with previously on handheld systems (like the Atari Lynx) found their way to Tiger, and sought me out for audio work. I thought the system had potential, but I seem to remember thinking it was trying to do too much with the stylus and calendar functions.

Cobb: You developed a sound engine for the game.com which was put to use in two commercially released game titles: “Centipede” and “Frogger”. What can you share about the development process? Were there any particular difficulties along the way?
Scott: I honestly can't remember much about the development process. It was probably similar to the Sega Game Gear, which I did a lot of games on; editing text files in Brief, either long note lists for songs or unpredictable pitch-varying commands for sound effects.

Cobb: The game.com game “NBA Live” was also slated to use your sound engine, however it was ultimately cancelled and never released to the public. Do you know why the game was cancelled? What are your feelings about its cancellation?
Scott: I wish I could tell you, I have no idea. I got paid for it and my involvement ended. The best guess I have is that I have heard that the three games I did were quite late in the game.com development lifetime; maybe NBA Live wasn't finished before orders came down from on high to abandon the whole thing. I seem to have saved files from my work on pinball games, Sega Genesis, Game Gear, and Turbo Duo games, but I can't find anything on the game.com stuff. Searching my inbox (which I never empty, either), I see a guy named David Rogers emailed me in 2004 asking about NBA Live, and he was the one who told me that it hadn't been released. I told him if I ever ran across my old game.com floppies in my attic, I would contact him. I never did, because I eventually DID go through all the floppies in my attic, and the game.com data surfaced went to somebody else (see below).

Cobb: The original game.com system design allowed for two different game cartridges to be inserted into the machine at once. If either “Frogger” or “Centipede” is started while another game cartridge is simultaneously inserted into the machine, these games play at a much slower rate than normal. However, their audio plays at the normal, correct speed. Was this a known bug? If so, how and why did it occur?
Scott: Nope, never heard that one before.

Cobb: How would you describe your experience with the game.com development kit? Were the tools and documentation provided to you adequate, or was there a steep learning curve involved?
Scott: As I recall, there were some bugs in the development system, but nothing I hadn't seen before (or since). I don't think the learning curve was very steep.

Cobb: What sort of interaction did you have with Tiger Electronics and their game.com software team?
Scott: Okay, I do have one fun story for you. A few years after the game.com development had ended, I contacted the developer I had done the games for (a subcontractor of Tiger) and asked if he wanted the development system back. He told me that I should mail it to Tiger directly, postage paid (i.e. make them sign for it and pay the postage). I don't think he had a high opinion of Tiger at that point. So I did - and they refused delivery! They didn't want to pay the $10 to have their development kit back. The box ended up in my basement for years, and I eventually sold it on ebay in 2006. for $416 to a guy in Flagstaff, AZ. I then found the development software and he bought it for an additional $300; I may have made more from that sale than the three games!

Cobb: Did you have the chance to do any additional programming for the game.com aside from your contributions to “Centipede”, “Frogger” and “NBA Live”?
Scott: Nope.

Cobb: The game.com was a commercial failure. What factors do you believe caused or contributed to this?
Scott: Again, my memory of the system wasn't too good, but I recall they made all the typical mistakes a company new to video games can make: they cheaped out on hardware, treated their developers like crap so nobody wanted to do a second game for them, paid everybody late, and never advertised their product. It was like working for Atari all over again.

Interview: Al Baker / Programmer of “Frogger”

Brandon Cobb: How were you first introduced to the game.com system, and what were your initial thoughts of the machine?
Al Baker: Through [Thomas Fessler of Handheld Games]. He periodically was using my services to program various computer games and this was one of them.

Cobb: You worked as lead programmer on the game.com version of “Frogger”, for Handheld Games. What can you share about the process? Were there any particular difficulties along the way?
Baker: Back then the process was actually very simple. Games were not nearly the major productions they have become even on handheld devices. I was given specifications as to how the various levels would work. Tom and I (and I really don't remember whose ideas dominated) came up with a level designer so that we could change the way all the levels worked without reprogramming them. I implemented the levels and Tom used his marvelous ability to see what worked and didn't work to make the levels “fun”. We kept tweaking until we were done.

Cobb: The original game.com system design allowed for two different game cartridges to be inserted into the machine at once. If “Frogger” is started while another game cartridge is simultaneously inserted into the machine, it plays at a much slower rate than normal. Was this a known bug? If so, how and why did it occur?
Baker: I was/am unaware of the bug. If it was noticed, it was long after we had turned it over to Tiger, or at least after I was no longer involved. Tom might know more.

Cobb: How would you describe your experience with the game.com development kit? Were the tools and documentation provided to you adequate, or was there a steep learning curve involved?
Baker: It was very easy to use and by then I was so used to working with game development kits, both hardware and software, that another one was “ho hum”. It was what it was. However, I would have remembered if it were particularly difficult to use.

Cobb: What sort of interaction did you have with Tiger Electronics and their game.com software team?
Baker: Reasonably close. We had several meetings at their offices here in the northern Chicago suburbs. If we had any questions, they were there to answer them. There weren't many since the documentation was very good. They were not new at this and knew what developers needed.

Cobb: Did you have the chance to do any additional game.com programming after “Frogger” was completed?
Baker: Tom and I had some ideas for additional games, but I don't remember any of them getting off the drawing boards. Tom would know more.


"The end of the game.com" created by and © Brandon Cobb. Presented for your enjoyment by OlderGames.