Whether you want to bang on digital drums or play "Half-Life 2" with pricey new graphics cards, families can now fill their family room with hundreds of game-enhancing accouterments.
While sales of video game accessories have been relatively flat -- $1.2 billion in 2003, according to NPD -- companies continue to roll out new items each year. A popular theme: Getting gamers off the couch.
For the Nintendo GameCube comes the DK Bongo drum controller. One game for it, "Donkey Konga," is a frantic palm-slapping test of timing and rhythm. Players can pound away to more than 30 children and popular tunes alongside Donkey Kong. Parents, be forewarned: earplugs aren't included.
Cateye Fitness showed GameBike, a stationary exercise bike that plugs into any PlayStation and allows you to control games by steering and pedaling.
Powergrid Fitness Inc. has the kiloWatt Intensity Game System. Instead of letting you sedately kick back and munch a bag of chips while you blast aliens, the kiloWatt forces you to push against a mounted controller through 20 levels of resistance.
Not to be outdone by these workout machines, the $250 QMotions-Golf Indoor Golf Simulator lets you hit the links in your living room. You test your swing by whacking a golf ball mounted to a swing arm that you connect to your computer. Golf clubs not included.
Taking PC games to the couch
A few manufacturers pushed to move PC video games into the living room.
Several companies announced deals with Digital Interactive Systems Corp. to make video game consoles that play PC games on televisions, just like Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox or the PlayStation 2. Alienware Corp.'s Digital Home System and Apex Digital Inc.'s ApeXtreme Game Console should be available this summer.
The Phantom Game Console from Infinium Labs Inc. is a white set-top box that runs a version of Windows XP and requires a broadband connection so you can order PC games on demand. The company plans to offer the Phantom for free -- with a two-year commitment to its $29.95-a-month game service.
For enthusiasts who don't mind prying open their computers, ATI Technologies Inc. and Nvidia Corp. have a new round of competing video cards to boost graphics quality. For about $500, both ATI's X800 XT and Nvidia's GeForce 6800 boast visuals approaching those found in computer-animated films like "Finding Nemo."
Nintendo's Game Boy, meanwhile, is getting GPS satellite-tracking capability from a Canadian outfit, Red Sky Mobile Inc. But the system costs $199, double the price of a Game Boy Advance. As of yet there are no games that use the technology.
And from Majesco Sales Inc. comes Game Boy Advance Video -- $19.99 special cartridges for kids to watch entire episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Sonic X and other favorites.
SL-Interphase of Tucson, Ariz., meanwhile, put an oversized spin on handheld game machines with its Rogue prototype. The size of a tablet PC, the system sports a Pentium 4 processor with a 10.4-inch color touch-screen, wireless capability, a trackball and plenty of buttons for waging online battles just about anywhere. Plug the Rogue into a dock, and you have a regular desktop computer.