TIGER ACTIVATING MUTOIDS IN '98 FOR ELECTRONIC GAMES: AD SPENDING WILL JUMP 20% TO $60 MIL

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Tiger Electronics, boosting ad spending 20% to more than $60 million in 1998, plans to feed its electronic games business with Mutoids, the company's first character-based property developed in-house.

The fledgling Mutoids brand will be launched on three Tiger game platforms, including game.com, a newer Internet-accessible, cartridge-based gaming and communications system. The other two-99X, a line of hand-held games; and Giga Fighter, an extension of the Giga brand of virtual pets that allows Giga Pet owners to link and fight each other-are new for '98.

Mutoids customers also can exchange pertinent data off the Internet via new accessories sold separately.

NEW LEVELS OF INTEGRATION

"Our new products are taking us to new levels of integration this year," said Marc Rosenberg, Tiger's VP-corporate communications, who added that the platforms are compatible with each other.

Tiger will unveil the subterranean, creature-packed world of Mutoids at the American International Toy Fair next week. A multimillion-dollar TV push supports the third-quarter launch, via Posnick & Kolker, New York.

Hollywood is at the heart of Tiger's '98 plans for its Giga Pet business. It has obtained licenses to DreamWorks SKG's "Small Soldiers," a summer event film; Nickelodeon's hit TV show "Rugrats;" and Walt Disney Co.'s "A Bug's Life," the new computer animated film from "Toy Story" creator Pixar, due late this year.

Additionally, Tiger is leveraging its strategic alliance with Nabisco Biscuit Co. to create an Oreo cookie-inspired Giga Pet.

Mr. Rosenberg said that limited-time-only availabilities will be a part of its Giga Pets strategy, regularly rotating in fresh product and innovations.

VIRTUAL BATTLE

Tiger is vying with Bandai Digital Entertainment and Playmates Toys for supremacy in virtual pets, whose emergence has sparked growth and innovation in the $250 million electronic hand-held games segment.

Playmates is spicing up its Nano franchise with two extensions, Talking Nano and Nano Fighter. Two more extensions, one for boys and one for girls, will be unveiled next week.

Bandai has begun extending its Tamagotchi brand into home videos and CD-ROMs, and next week introduces Tamagotchi Angel virtual pets for girls.

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