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May 2004 | Vol. III - No. 5




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Finding the Joystick of Youth


If I had every quarter I spent on Pac-Man and Asteroids at the pizza parlor down the street, I could wash all the Levi´s in Texas. JAKKS-Pacific has teamed up with Atari and Namco to ensure today´s kids don´t have to go through this experience. The Malibu-based company recently launched its TV Games video game systems starting with several retro standards.

The idea behind TV Games is simple: portable hardware, with the games pre-installed, that connects right to the television. Just like Pong of old, JAKKS’ Pong comes in something of a console—a joystick with A/V jacks that plug into the TV set. The system also comes equipped with Centipede, Asteroids, Yar´s Revenge, Real Sports Volleyball, Missile Command, Breakout and Gravitar. At $20 for 5-10 games-in-one, it´s enough to make a grown man cut onions as an excuse for tears.

In January, PC World gave JAKKS a “Next Gear Innovations Award” for the TV Games line. The company hasn´t stopped at Atari. Already on the market is a classic Namco 5-game set containing Pac-Man and Galaxian. These particular systems were designed for children as young as 5 years old, but JAKKS also has a surprise for 2-year-olds and up.

The essence of SpongeBob SquarePants, Nickelodeon´s top-rated kids´ show, has been distilled into five Bikini Bottom adventure games, including Bubble Pop, Invasion of the Hooks and Patrick and the Maze. Aesthetically, its joystick resembles SpongeBob, and thankfully, toddlers don´t have to mess with the TV´s remote or insert delicate DVDs into a game console.

Genna Goldberg, JAKKS vice president of corporate communications, said, "Undeniably, the TV Games line appeals to adults because of its nostalgia value. We do find, however, that TV Games are also as popular among children, Tweens and teens because of the fun graphics, the proven and simple—not to mention addicting—game play, and the easy-to-maneuver joysticks. This is different from PS2 or XBox, which are more complicated gaming experiences."

JAKKS´ decision not to stay on the well-trod path of other video game manufacturers isn´t a surprise. TV Games illustrate JAKKS´ burgeoning reputation as a company that buys a license, enters the traffic but takes a detour and lets the bandwagon move on. This is the same manufacturer that produces binder purses unlike anything else in the lucrative scrapbook market, metallic gel pens, and manga and professional wrestler figurines for boys.

So, keep watching to see what´s next at JAKKS-Pacific, the beach company that turns out familiar toys with a twist.




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Tony MaddelaWriter's Bio: Tony Maddela is a Grant Writer/Development Officer for Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. His wife is Susan, who also writes for TDmonthly.com, and they have a playful, clever daughter named Charlotte and Baby No. 2 due later this summer. He is working on another novel and is represented by the Wales Literary Agency in Seattle. Read more articles by this author

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