The early history of laser tag is rich in unique stories from enterprising and creative minds that made the best of the technology they had available.
One of the strangest cases of this has to be the story of the Zillion franchise, which was made by a video game company to promote a light gun but ended up producing one of the earliest home versions of laser tag.
The convoluted tale begins in 1986 with the Sega Light Phaser, a light gun created in response to the NES Zapper, itself created primarily so Nintendo’s console could be released in arcades and revive the light gun genre.
This light gun, only released in the United States, had a design that would be used the next year in a Sega-financed cartoon by the name of Red Photon Zillion, although to this day nobody is certain whether the Light Phaser inspired Zillion or the other way around.
Regardless, the Tatsunoko Production anime was relatively popular in Japan and led to a spin-off movie and two spin-off games, neither of which ironically used the Light Phaser as a control method but were both critical successes and sold modestly well.
Sega attempted to export the show, but the only place where the entire 31-episode run was aired was in Brazil in Portuguese, but it proved to be such a success that the company Tectoy based in Sao Paulo reached out to Sega to sell merchandise based on Zillion.
Their first product was the Zillion Laser, a home-based laser game, and it was such a runaway success that Tectoy was given the exclusive distribution rights to Sega’s video game products in Brazil as well, a relationship that means that Light Phasers and Sega Master Systems are still being sold by Tectoy as of 2023.
All of this helped to contribute to the worldwide success of laser-based games, a trend that has continued to this day with indoor arenas.