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Unplug and play videogames

Plug and play videogames — starting with the Atari 2600 game pack in a facsimile controller popularized by Jakks Pacific a few years back — have become a phenomenon. Games integrated into controllers have resurrected many classic game collections from Activision, Konami, Sega, Intellivision and Namco to name a few. The controllers have also progressed far beyond retro to highlight primarily kids’ media properties such as Marvel and DC Comics heroes as well as Spongebob Squarepants.

As an Intellviision fan, I was a bit disappointed with the plug-and-play units despite their strong sales, although the second generation offering includes a decent edition of Deadly Discs, one of my favorite games for the original console. At last year’s E3, I spoke with Blue Sky Ranger Keith Robinson about doing an Intellivision version of something like the Atari Flashback 2. Keith told me that he would love to do it and that an engineer has it ready to go, but it’s all about making the business case.

The new generation of these devices, though, have integrated LCDs so you can play them on the go without the television. Retro brand Coleco currently has several of these at Target, and Performance Designed Products is expanding its VGPocket line to include a few products downmarket from the VGPocket Max that’s recently been price-reduced at Radio Shack. In addition to two Disney-themed products, the Tablet ($29.99) and Caplet ($39.99) will include 25 and 35 games respectively and both can connect to a TV for big-screen viewing Each also has some classic arcade games included. I’m looking forward to trying

Even low-end products eventually go mobile, and these products are good enough to give a Game Boy Micro a run for its money. It will be very interesting to see what Nintendo has up its sleeve for that franchise after the Wii dust settles next year.