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Year of the tech toys
Interactive TV games could poke the fun out of Barbie and dancing Elmo this holiday season.
August 19, 2004: 5:30 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - They're cheap, easy to use and fun to play for both kids and young parents.

Jakks Pacific broght back retrogaming in its TV plug-and-play Atari and Namco gaming units.  
Jakks Pacific broght back retrogaming in its TV plug-and-play Atari and Namco gaming units.

Interactive TV games, the simple box and joystick variety that you simply have to plug into a television, are the hottest trend in toys this year.

Toy maker Jakks Pacific (JAKK: Research, Estimates) debuted an entire collection of "self-contained" TV gaming systems in late 2003, including the Atari10-in-1 containing 10 classic Atari videogames, and a similar Namco TV games unit that featured classic arcade games, including Pac-Man, Rally-X and Galaxian. They're priced at $25 each.

Citing the success of those two units, Jakks extended the line this summer, adding the revamped Activision TV games unit featuring 10 classic videogames, such as Pitfall!, River Raid and Spider Fighter and Ms. Pac-Man.

Radica Games (RADA: Research, Estimates), the maker of handheld electronic games, also extended its line of TV games this year.

Among its newest offerings are the EA Sports' Madden Football game in which players interact with the game via a wireless football, the EA SSX Snowboard game, and the Monster Truck Game.

Ohio Arts Company this year debuted the plug-and-play electronic Etch A Sketch.  
Ohio Arts Company this year debuted the plug-and-play electronic Etch A Sketch.

"The popularity of plug-and-play games is indicative of what's happening with technology in general," said Chris Byrne, an independent toy consultant. "With prices dropping, toymakers are using technology to make their products more innovative and interactive.

One of Byrne's favorite toy is the ETO, the new electronic plug-and-play TV Etch A Sketch from Ohio Art Company. Launched this summer, ETO has a suggested retail price of $34.99.

Growing up too fast

Kids are growing up fast and they want adult-like "toys" at an earlier age such as personal computers portable DVD players. Toymakers are responding.

The Disney Dream Desk set includes an optical pen and tablet, DVD player, CD player and color printer. (Price: $950)  
The Disney Dream Desk set includes an optical pen and tablet, DVD player, CD player and color printer. (Price: $950)

Disney recently unveiled a self-branded Dream Desk PC for children, priced at $950, that features a Mickey Mouse-shaped LCD flat panel monitor.

Last year, Hasbro (HAS: Research, Estimates), the No. 2 toymaker after Mattel (MAT: Research, Estimates), introduced VIDEONOW, a "tween"-friendly portable personal video player priced at $75. The battery and power-operated handheld player features an LCD screen and built-in speakers.

Kids can choose the programming they like to watch from a library of video discs sold separately for $8.99 each. Some of the popular titles offered are 'American Idol,' 'Spongebob SquarePants,' episodes of ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" and NBC's "Fear Factor."

Play Along relaunched the  
Play Along relaunched the "next generation" of 80s classic Cabbage Patch Kids.(Price:$29.99)

Every year, Jim Silver, publisher of the Toy Book, a New York-based industry trade magazine, reviews new toys and comes up with a list of a dozen "must-haves" for the holiday season. This year, he expects tech toys to take the lead.

"Electronic entertainment geared for kids is especially big this year," said Silver. And last year's retro trend isn't going away anytime soon, he said.

Among this year's retro offerings, Silver is putting his money on the return of the Cabbage Patch Kids, relaunched by Play Along Toys this week. The company had a big success with its relaunch of another classic toy last year when it brought back the Care Bears.

The V.Smile plug-and-learn gaming console from VTech Electronics. (Price:$59.99)  
The V.Smile plug-and-learn gaming console from VTech Electronics. (Price:$59.99)

Finally, both Silver and Byrne also expect educational toys to do well over the holidays.

Byrne singled out the V.Smile Learning TV System from VTech Electronics. This plug-and-play learning console for preschoolers connects directly to the television. The educational games on V.Smile use popular kids characters like Winnie the Pooh and Scooby Doo! to help children learn the alphabet, understand math and build their vocabulary.  Top of page




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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.