Last update: 26 SEP 2006
Lazer Tag Branded Gear
Please note that this page is filled with personal opinions and "as far as I know" type information -- it should be taken as solely the opinions of the author, and may contain some factual errors. In short, it is for entertainment purposes only.
Also please note that the brand and model names mentioned are covered by copyrights and trademarks, and the designs are covered by patents. These may not be used for any commercial purposes without the express written permission of the owners of said brands, copyrights, or patents.
All of the photographs and text are mine, except for the picture of the Tag Master Blaster at the end (which is Hasbro's property) and one picture culled from an eBay listing. Feel free to use my text and photos if you wish, though I would ask that you include one or both of the following links back to these pages if you use this stuff in another web page:
TagFerret's Lazer Tag Home Page
TagFerret's History of Lazer Tag Branded Gear
Worlds Of Wonder
I am unaware of any model numbers having been assigned to WOW gear, I believe they were simply assigned names. This makes it a little bit tricky to be entirely certain that I have the order of release perfect. The following is based on the copyright dates shown on packages, molded into the plastic, and/or printed on the instructions for the various models:
The Lazer Tag brand name was created by Worlds Of Wonder (Freemont, California) in 1986.
It was released in the late summer / eraly fall season of 1986, and for the first three months was available only as an exclusive item through The Sharper Image, a company that specialized in high-tech gadgetry:
The first item released was a basic set consisting of a Lazer Tag "Starlyte" pistol, a StarSensor, a belt and holster for holding the Starlyte, and a harness with a fabric area across the chest to which the StarSensor could be attached by Velcro. The right-side strap for this panel also had two red hash-marks of Velcro to which white strips of Velcro could be attached, indicating either red team or white team.
The basic set was soon joined by the StarCap, a baseball-cap style version of the StarSensor which featured the ability to take tags from essentially 360 degrees.
Next in line was a StarVest, which was a fancier version of the basic harness to which the StarSensor was attached. Note that the StarHolster and the StarSensor did NOT come with the StarVest, they had to be purchased seperately (often on eBay and other auction sites sellers will mistakenly indicate a StarSensor comes with the StarVest due to the picture on the box).
In the second year of production, WOW added the StarHelmet (essentially a hard version of the StarCap) which had been shown on the cover of The Sharper Image in late 1986, but had not actually been available at the time.
They also produced the StarBase, which acted as a target, goal, home base, and other functions in the more advanced games.
The StarTalk Walkie-Talkies were added to the line in 1987 as well. Featuring a cool flip-open cover reminiscent of the communicators from the original Star Trek series, they also had a flexible antenna which was a rare thing for radios of the time and definitely a plus for playing Lazer Tag. I don't have any tech specs on these at the moment, but hopefully I will some day.
But the ultimate piece of Lazer Tag gear was the Starlyte Pro rifle, featuring roughly twice the range of the pistol and the ability to fire in sustained rapid-fire bursts.
The ones shown below are missing the red shoulder strap which they originally came with, and the upper one is missing the battery cover. Nearly every Starlyte Pro you will find on the various auction sites is missing one or both of these, and many also have a broken latch piece in the retractable buttstock, causing it to not be able to lock into the extended position (fortunately this is an easy thing to fix).
In a tragic mishap, a young man was killed by police while playing Lazer Tag at night in a schoolyard near Los Angeles, California. One of the reasons given at the time by the officer as to why he shot the young man was that in the darkness, the black Starlyte pistol looked like a real gun. To prevent any further such tragedies, the Starlyte Pro rifle (which had originally been intended to be made in black plastic like the Starlyte pistol) was changed to an all-white color scheme.
There are a number of pictures of black Starlye Pro rifles floating about on the internet. Most of these are scans of the early WOW advertising sheets, which were photographed and printed before the shooting and thus showed the black prototypes rather than the white production models. A few are pictures of repainted Starlyte Pros. There were no actual production black Starlyte Pros ever sold or, as far as I can determine by talking to the Manufacturing Engineers who were present at the time, even made as test-shots from the molds. There were at least three all-black prototypes built, of which only one is still known to exist today:
That's me holding it (and, sadly, that is my back yard...) but I do not own this prototype -- I wish I did!
The shooting incident also prompted Worlds Of Wonder to blacken-out the small windows near the muzzle of the Starlyte Pistols, through which the firing light could normally be seen. This was done because the principal reason given by the police officer for why he fired on the young man was that when the young man whirled on him in the darkness, holding what appeared to be a gun-like object in his hand, and that object suddenly emitted a flash of light, the officer's reflexive training kicked in and he returned fire purely on the instinct to protect his own life. For this reason, I VERY STRONGLY discourage anyone from modifying any type of tag gear to include a muzzle flash simulation if there is any chance that the gear will ever be used in a situation where police or security people or an armed homeowner may encounter the players unexpectedly.
One company that has been regularly associated with the Lazer Tag brand name through the years has been Hasbro. In later years they would buy Tiger Electronics while that company held the Lazer Tag license in 1998, and even later Tiger Electronics as a division of Hasbro would manufacture the Lazer Tag Team Ops line, but Hasbro's first brush with Lazer Tag was the G.I. Joe Lazer Battle set, which was fully signals-compatible with the WOW gear and was produced under license from WOW:
There was a ton of merchandise put out in the hyper-marketting campaign surronding Lazer Tag, the vast majority of which (lunchboxes, bedsheets, tableclothes, pajamas, novels, cartoon shows, etc.) have nothing to do with the game itself, but are simply "lifestyle items." One exception was a pair of books published by TSR, a company that produced rule books for a large number of roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, as well as hint books and strategy guides for many of the top computer games of the day. The two books were "Lazer Tag: The Official Game Handbook" (item #8050, 95 pages) and the "Official Lazer Tag Tournament Book" (item #8053, also 95 pages). The Official Game Handbook was focussed mainly on home play aroud the yard and neighborhood, while the Tournament Book concentrated more on team building and games that could be played in a more collegiate environent, such as in a gymnasium or on an athletics field.
Shortly thereafter, just before WOW entered bankruptcy, they also made a small number of new Starlyte pistols and StarSensors in white in order to make them less gun-like or metallic in appearance. A very few of these still exist, they are amongst the rarest of Lazer Tag collectables. I have seen only two all-white Starlyte with StarSensor sets and know of two others. All four of these white sets came from the same former WOW employee and none of them have any packaging, so I don't know if the box photography was ever updated to show the color changes. I have never seen a package showing white Starlytes or StarSensors. I did once purchase one white Starlyte pistol, badly scrathed up and yellowed with age and without the matching StarSensor, as part of a large lot of WOW gear on eBay so I do know that some were sold at retail.
1989 - 1992
WOW declared bankruptcy in 1989 and though they continued to operate for another 2 or 3 years, they were never able to emerge from bankruptcy. Many of the people who had created WOW and Lazer Tag went their own ways even before WOW finally closed their doors in 1991 or so. But the world of creating toys is a relatively small one, so everybody remained in touch with each other.
In 1991 Paul Rago, one of the original founders and VP of Marketing for WOW, formed his own company to develop toys and license them to other manufacturers. He called the company "Shoot The Moon" (after the saying "Shoot for the Moon -- even if you miss, you will still land among the stars"). Later that year he convinced his old friend and fellow WoW founder David Small (who had been VP of Engineering at WoW and had since joined Lewis Galoob Toys in South San Francisco, California) to join him. David agreed, and in early 1992 Shoot The Moon became a partnership. They purchased the rights to the Lazer Tag brand name they had created, and began planning what they could do to bring it back.
1993 - 1996
Shoot The Moon waited and watched for an opportunity to bring Lazer Tag back to the shelves. At one point they began working with Toymax to develop the new Lazer Tag system. But ultimately, Toymax decided to develop their own system (Laser Challenge) using a lower-cost approach than the STM design.
Tiger Lazer Tag (TLT)
STM continued to develop their approach, and eventually signed a deal with Tiger Electronics of Vernon Hills, Illinois, to re-introduce Lazer Tag. The ultimate result was the return of Lazer Tag branded gear, now being manufactured and marketted by Tiger under license form Shoot The Moon.
Although this gear was not compatible with the WOW gear and had some problems, it did have a couple of distinct advances over the WOW line. Theoretically achievable range was increased, the ability to continue firing after being tagged out was eliminated, and the expensive, bulky, and fragile hand-tuned receiver was markedly improved and cost-reduced while eliminating the need to tune it at the factory or re-tune it in the field.
Model 7-930-4 "Deluxe Sport Pack": This was the first item in the Tiger Lazer Tag line, a two-player set containing two of the first model "Striker" pistols. These were originally designed for a +/- 5 degree IR-LED, so they did not need a lens to focus the IR. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of that IRLED was unable to produce consistent results, so at the last minute the part was changed to a +/- 10 degree IR-LED which really should have had a lens, but it was too late to add one and still meet the delivery dates. This meant you really didn't have to aim that carefully, and what's worse, the range was cut in half down to about 100 feet under good conditions.
Still, it was well-received by the toy buying public and Lazer Tag was succesfully resurrected as a brand.
Model 88-063, Star Wars "Rebel Alliance Long Range Walkie-Talkies": While not technically a Lazer Tag item, these also came to Tiger from Shoot The Moon, and they were the very best walkie-talkies on the market at the time. Over 1/3 mile real useable range, using FM and squelch for noise-free operation, they were a perfect accessory for Lazer Tag games. It didn't take long for them to be bundled with LT gear.
Models 88-093 and 88-094, Star Wars Rebel Infantry Blasters: These were versions of Han Solo's "broomhandle Mouser" blaster from the Star Wars movies, along with chest sensors modeled after the gear worn by the rebel forces. Model 88-093 was the single-player "Rebel Infantry Pack" and 88-094 was the 2-player "Rebel Infantry Deluxe Pack."
Tiger had secured the toy rights to the Star Wars properties near the end of the year, and this was the first of many SW themed LT models.
The blasters for this set came in 3 different color schemes -- Orange, White, and Gray. The gray is somewhat rarer then the white, and the orange is the most common. The Rebel Infantry Deluxe Pack came with one orange and one of either white or gray. I don't know if the gray was replaced with the white for safety reasons, or if the gray was exclusive to certain retailers.
(photo from eBay)
Model 88-101 "Rebel Command Assault/Communications" pack: This exclusive package was sold only through FAO Schwarz. It contained two of the Star Wars Rebel Infantry blasters and chest targets plus two of the Rebel Force Walkie Talkies in a very impressive big box:
Model 7-941 "Sport Pack" was a 1-player set, containing the same model Striker as Model 7-930-4, but having a stationary target instead of a second Striker.
This was the big year for Tiger Lazer Tag. Success with the original Striker prompted investment in a number of new designs, and Tiger's succesfull bid to license the toy rights to the Star Wars properties meant that Lazer Tag and only Lazer Tag would be able to do Star Wars themed tag gear.
Model 7-930-4* "Deluxe Two Player Sport Pack": First on the agenda was to correct the problem with the original "Striker" 10-degree IRLED. That was adressed by adding a small lens to the barrel, tightening the beam down to about +/- 4.5 degrees and giving the new model a range of 250 feet under good conditions. Photography on the package was not re-done at first, so at least the early versions had the new lenses "Photoshopped" onto the old pictures. This may or may not have been changed later, I have never seen a proper picture of the lensed Strikers on a box.
This model also included a new button (the small one near the speaker) which could be pressed at the start of a game to turn off the constant "gleep... gleep... gleep..." safety chirp feature if the player so desired.
In addition, the webbing strap that formerly secured the Tagger to the user's wrist was eliminated. I'm not sure idf this was done for cost, safety, or user feedback reasons.
* No new model number was given to this upgraded Striker or the packs containing it, at least not that I am aware of. It simply replaced the old model (unlensed) Striker in production as a "running change."
Based on model numbers, it would appear that a sucesful first year caused "Lazer Tag" to be given it's own category number at Tiger. This might, however, be more of a reflection of the organizational changes brought about by Hasbro's acquisition of Tiger Electronics during 1998 (I like to think that Lazer Tag was part of what made Tiger Electronics so valuable to Hasbro...). All future Lazer Tag models would begin with 05- if they were purely Lazer Tag devices, or continue with 88- as the first part of the model number if they were Star Wars licensed items.
Model 05-101 "Stinger Pack": This model featured a receiver that could be placed either on the gun or into a target vest, depending on the prefered style of play of the user. This allowed for the gun to be disabled or not when the player was tagged-out, making it more flexible. The lens was also increased in diameter and decreased in beam angle, resulting in ranges of 300 feet or more even under very bright sunny conditions. The styling was a nice blend of sci-fi/fantasy and menacing battle technology, and it did well (even though the ergonomics of the grip were terrible).
Model 05-102 "Assault Set": This were blockier-looking guns with a seperate chest sensor. The basic intent here was to develop a lower-cost system. By simplifying the plastic and painting (reducing manufacturing steps needed to build it), and reducing the number of photodiodes from 3 to 1 per receiver, costs were reduced enough to have an item on the shelves at close to the same cost as Laser Challenge while maintaining better sunlight performace. This model had a range of about 100 feet.
Model 05-103 "B.L.A.S.T." Bazooka: This was without a doubt the biggest, baddest piece of consumer Lazer Tag gear ever built! It looked for all the world like a Stinger Missile, the kind that were shootiing down Soviet helicopters over Afghanistan. It had a wide, short IR pattern that made clearing rooms or the front yard a breeze. But wait, there's more! It also could be operated in "Mortar Mode" in which it fired in a flat 90-degree arc while simultaneously protecting it's sensor from frontal attack, or in long range "rifle mode" which used a red-dot style scope and could realistically achieve over 350 feet in broad daylight. It had a vibration motor and very deep, loud sound effects including a great digitized voice that announced "Mortar Mode! Bazooka Mode! Rifle Mode!" as you changed configurations.
Every kid on earth wanted one of these, I think. Unfortunately, at $89.95 (or was it $99.95?) not many could afford it. But it was WAY COOL! The commercial for this item promised to turn your average 8-year-old into a "One Man Army" and that just about says it all...
Model 05-104 "Deluxe 2-Player Stinger Pack": This contained two of the same model Stinger as found in the model 05-101 set.
Model 05-105 "A.T.W.": These little red "pocket pistols" were an attempt to produce a version of TLT for a dramatically lower price than normal. Laser Challenge had a low-end unit that was half the cost of a set ot TLT (and still 5-10 dolalrs less than the "Assaut Set" models), and this was hurting TLT at retail. In addition, there was a lot of consumer interest in a version that could be carried unobtrusively anywhere, so this seemed to be a good way to "kill two birds with one stone". It was not good outdoors in bright sunlight though, as it used a 3-pin "TSOP" style receiver rather than the more advanced (and more expensive) triple-photodiode, coil-biased receiver normally used in TLT. One neat feature it did have, though, was a little fold-out "foot" on the butt plate, which allowed them to stand on their own so you could use one as a target for target practice.
Model 05-106 "Deluxe Two Player Assault Set": This was the 2-player version of the model 05-102 "Assault Set."
1999, Attack of the Clones, the final year of TLT...
Star Wars Episode 1 came out, and was merchandised to a degree never seen before and hopefully never again. Every single new TLT item in 1999 was a Star Wars Episode 1 model, and that Christmas season was dismal as the consumer backlash against the hyper-marketting of SWE1 came home to roost.
Not that there weren't some cool LT designs, there were. It's just that they were expensive (that Star Wars license doesn't come for free, it's probably the single most expensive movie license in history), didn't do anything new, didn't do all the things the new Laser Challenge V2/ELS system did, and the buying public was sick of Star Wars by the end of the year when most toy sales happen. This is not a good combination for keeping a toy line going.
Model 88-401, "Star Wars Episode 1 Battle Set": This was a 2-player set, with a Captain Tanaka's Blaster and a Destroyer Droid Blaster. Styling was very true to the Star Wars designs, and the blasters featured genuine licensed Star Wars sound effects.
Model 88-402, "Naboo and Droid Fighter Battle": This was my favorite of the E1 models. Two space ships batted it out at close range. When one finally took its 10th hit, Blammo! -- it blew apart into pieces. When you moved the ships they made engine-whining dogfighting sounds from the movie. Like the ATW model they used 3-pin "TSOP" style receivers so they weren't much good outdoors, but they really weren't meant for outdoors anyhow. They were best used indoors. Though not marketted specifically as a Lazer Tag item, they were fully signals-compatible with TLT, minus the super-strike.
Model 88-404, "Star Wars Episode 1 Naboo Assault Set": This was another 2-player pack featuring blaster designs from the movie. For people into realistic-looking tag guns, these are about as realistic as one is likely to get any more, at least in consumer gear -- the Star Wars designs were directly inspired by real assault rifles available at gun stores. This probably wasn't a great idea given the political climate of the times (in fact today they would not meet toy safety laws), but still -- they did look cool, and political correctness was the least of the line's worries at this point.
I have seen variants on the packaging of these Naboo Assault Set blasters, in which the front of the box is open so that you may touch they toy itself. I am not sure if these was exclusive packaging for a particular retailer or if it was a regional package, or if it was simply a variant. There may aslo be single-blaster versions of these open packages but I have not yet been able to verify this.
Crash and burn. The year the music died. All that.
With the poor showing of the LT line in the 1999 Christmas season, following on several quarters of less-than-hoped-for sales of TLT gear, Tiger pulled the plug. Many interesting designs were left at the altar, but realistically they probably would not have ammounted to much given the stagnation of the line by then.
Not that all the bad news was in the Lazer Tag camp. The compettitors were not faring much better, though for different reasons. Lazer Tag (the brand) and lasertag (the sport in genral) were passing from the public consciousness, being replaced by home video game systems and an increasing interest in paintball.
Lazer Tag Team Ops
One of the nice things about a line coming to an end is, you no longer have to support it. You can be brutally honest with yourself about it's shortcomings. You get a chance to say "If I was doing this all over again from the start, what I'd do differently is..." and then you get to think SERIOUSLY about the issues in question.
We came to the conclusion that we had done a number of things wrong in TLT. Not that we'd failed, quite the opposite -- the line had made a lot of money while it was going strong. But we hadn't planned it out well enough to keep it going. So in the end, Laser Challenge had maintained sales levels while Lazer Tag had dwindled away to nothing. We weere determined not to let this happen again.
We got to think long and hard about what we would do differently if we did get to do it all over again. We got to look closely at what the compettition had done right, and got to see where THEY had gotten it wrong, too. And no longer being tied to our old platform, we got to think from the ground up about technologies and how they had changed and what they could now do for our new system.
I won't say what items we abandoned, because we might yet bring them back. But we went through a half dozen new ideas for Lazer Tag systems, finally settling on the basic system we wanted to pursue in 2003.
A new deal was made with Tiger, now a division of Hasbro in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Lazer Tag was making a comeback (cue the "Rocky IV" music, please...)
The "Deluxe" model Lazer Tag Team Ops went into production in early 2004, and became available by internet order and on the shelves in the middle of that year. During Christmas of 2004, Lazer Tag Team Ops was one of the hottest and most-requested toys of the season.
Despite some minor flaws, it was received very well. The test markets in the midwest had definitely exceeded sales expectations, selling out almost immediatley. Local clubs, especially in the Pacific Northwest, began springing up and/or converting over from older system to LTTO. This success meant we had a green light to go for full production and to begin developing accessories and new models for the line.
The first LTTO "accessory" was also released in 2004, the "Team Comm Headset" 900-MHz walkie talkies. Functionally they sit between standard walkie-talkies and FRS/GMRS systems. They have a useable range of 600-1000 feet and are based on FM rather than AM transmission so they do not have all of the annoying static associated with most walkie-talkies. The earpieces can be clipped directly to the HUD units of the Deluxe model, or work over-the-ear without the HUD.
The development of the IRT-2X "Drone" model was finished in mid-2004, and the model began production in the fall. It was hoped that it would be on the shelves for Christmas 2004, but various unexpected problems translating the prototypes into finished designs kept us from achieving that. Still, we learned a few things which came in very handy in developing the Tag Master Blaster model, particularly as relates to the receiver and how it behaves when configured in the hidden Worlds Of Wonder compatability mode.
Work on the circuitry, design, and code for the Tag Master Blaster began in late 2004.
The IRT-2X "Drone" model became available at retail in late January. Reviewers agreed almost unanimously that it is overall a better model than the Deluxe, though there were still a couple specific points on which some disagreed with this assesment (the smaller LCD being the most common). It has improved ergonomics and better sights than the original "Deluxe" model, reloads automatically rather than manually, and can be used two-at-a-time while maintaning a single score between them.
Originally the "Drone" was to have been produced in new colors, but delays in getting the new colors approved by the New York State District Attorney caused Hasbro to begin prooduction using the colors which had already been approved for the Deluxe model. Eventually, however, the Drone's original intended colors (blue and maroon) were approved, so all four color variations have made it to retail.
The first "Accessory Kit" also became available early in the year, containing a reflected-dot type "Virtual Scope" and a vibrating "Thunder Pack" for tactile feedback when firing or being hit. They came in two color schemes, matching the original Deluxe colors and the new IRT-2X Drone colors:
The Tag Master Blaster, with an air-launched active IR missile and range of nearly 500 feet in broad daylight, appeared on store shelves just before Christmas:
Click here to return to TagFerret's main Lazer Tag page
Click here to visit the Lazer Tag Team Ops group on Yahoo!
26 SEP 2006 -- Add cover of The Sharper Image and related text to the 1986 section. Update history of black-plastic Starlyte Pro model.
21 AUG 2006 -- Add G.I. Joe Lazer Battle and correct some typos in WOW section. Add photos to TLT section and update some information there.
19 AUG 2006 -- correct year of Tiger's acquisition by Hasbro. Update LTTO information. Add pictures of WOW items. Fix some spelling/grammar problems.
23 MAY 2005 -- note TLT "Rebel Command Assault/Communicators" pack was exclusive to FAO Schwarz (not Costco). Add Team Communicators to LTTO 2004. Add Accessory Kit to LTTO 2005.
16 MAY 2005 -- correct very early STM history, update some TLT model numbers. Add some missing TLT packages (single vs. two-player packs, etc.).