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A handheld TV game (TV game for short) or plug and play game (plug-'n'-play game for short) is an interactive entertainment device designed for use on a television set that integrates the video game console with the game controller.
The term "TV game" can be used to refer to any number of self-contained, portable game systems operating on either batteries or an electronic power supply which plugs directly into a TV or VCR. The game software is built directly into the unit, which is typically designed to look like a toy or classic game console/controller with the addition of two AV ports. These systems usually contain either highly specialized games or activities, or a collection of classic games. Thus, it could be viewed as a video game console without interchangeable game software. As the game software is integrated into the game unit and almost never designed to be changed by the user, these game systems are typically sold by retailers as electronic toys or collectibles rather than game consoles. Most units sell for prices typically under $50 US.
Although several manufacturers produced these devices before 2002, such systems became better known following the release of Jakks Pacific's Atari Classic 10-in-1 TV game. Most manufacturers have their own trademarked names for these systems, such as Radica's "Play TV" or Majesco's "TV Arcade"; however, most retailers refer to all of them as TV games or Plug & Play games.
From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s three things happened: first, the retro game movement started to gain momentum, secondly, the price of systems on a chip fell dramatically, and thirdly, car television sets became popular. Several unlicensed family games, such as the TV Boy, were produced. These factors led to manufacturers officially licensing classic games. The first TV games included collections of classic games; one of the earliest was the Toymax Activision 10-in-1, released in 2001. Although the first TV games contained collections of classic games many manufacturers started incorporating original content and controls into the device. Criticism that video games were contributing to obesity in children led to the development of TV games such as the "Play TV" series, including Play TV Baseball, Play TV Football, Play TV Barbie Dance Craze, and others in 2003. Nickelodeon also contracted with Jakks Pacific to create original-content games for the SpongeBob and Blue's Clues titles. in 2004 Tiger also started creating paintball and a Lord of the Rings sword-fighting game, using a toy sword as the controller. In 2004 Radica started producing collections of Sega Games. The C64 Direct-to-TV was also released in 2004 by Toy:Lobster and Mammoth Toys and had a copy of the C64 operating system and a virtual keyboard as a hidden extra. In 2005 Jakks Pacific produced original game content for the new Star Wars and Fantastic Four films, while Tiger produced a Jedi light-saber sword-fight game using a light saber as the controller. In 2005 Milton Bradley started producing TV game versions of Whack-a-Mole and Miniature Golf. Radica's titles include Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Columns, and Gain Ground, among others.
- Jakks Pacific
- Jakks TV Games
- Kid Connection WalMart Branded Generic Toys
- Majesco Entertainment
- Mammoth Toys
- Milton Bradley
- Ohio Art
- Polaroid Bundled with Car TV Kit although can be purchased by itself for under $20 USD
- Radica Games
- Retro Computers
- Senario Entertainment
- Techno Source
- Tiger Electronics
- Video Extreme
- vs. Maxx