CES 2009: Jakks shows off motion-controlled plug n’ play games, now I’m a Jedi

Jakks Pacific’s “Plug It In & Play TV Games” are nothing new; the standalone controller units that plug directly into your television have housed games like Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter II for years.

In 2009, the manufacturer intends to release some new products in its “Plug It & Play” line — the karaoke Sing Scene TV games; an exercise title called Jump Camp Fitness; and the popular deer killin’ simulator Big Buck Pro, complete with plastic rifle. But what I found most interesting was the prototype they had on display for their new “TV Games Motion” series.

Obviously inspired by the frightening success of the Wii, the TV Games Motion line uses accelerometer tech for motion controls. Yes, Jakks Pacific is getting down with the waggle in 2009. The tech will be tossed into the obvious mix of licensed games, ranging from Disney Fairies to Spider-Man, Power Rangers to SpongeBob Squarepants. At a CES preview event last night, Jakks was clearly trying to appeal to the tech-nerd audience of the show — they brought Star Wars TV Games Motion to the show.

Shaped like the steering wheel of a fighter plane (an X-wing or a TIE Fighter, perhaps), you grip both sides of the controller and tilt left and right to shift the plane horizontally across the screen. And while it would make sense to push forward or pull back to change the pitch, it sensitivity of the prototype unit must have been off — I found that I had to move both arms up or down to get the fighter to move at all. Obviously, pulling the triggers would cause the fighter to fire, and these prototype games were simple, mostly involving dodging or shooting rocks, or dodging or shooting other aircraft. Brain surgery this is not.

There’s definitely potential here for consumers who are looking for a quick, cheaper Wii fix — the units are being set with an MSRP of $29.99. But if the games are simple as the Star Wars prototype games on display, and the hardware is as unresponsive as the demo unit Jakks are showing off at CES, consumers may still be trying to tear each other apart for Wiis in 2009.

Nick Chester