Here comes Gadget Claus Part II

Pikachu unwrapped!Of course, the digital Christmas goes beyond things you can fit in your pocket. Games makers like Christmas the way camels like water: They drink deep and live off it for the rest of the year.

PC Data says $7bn (£4.2bn) worth of computer and video games will be sold this year, and almost half of that revenue will come during the holidays. Leading the way: Nintendo's Game Boy. The company expects to sell more than 8 million Game Boys this year, thanks to Game Boy Colour and Pokemon.

The Pokemon craze has boosted the four Game Boy titles based on Pikachu and friends to the top slots on the bestseller list for all software. One of those games, Pokemon Yellow, is expected to sell between 1.5 million and 2 million units by year-end, despite only being released in October.

While Nintendo basically owns the handheld gaming market, other platforms also hope to profit from the gift-giving season. Sega believes the holidays will boost Dreamcast's already-brisk North American sales from the 1 million mark in late November to more than 2 million by March 2000. Sega has its work cut out for it, though. Rival Sony Corp. has cut the price of the Playstation to under $100 and Nintendo is offering up a special translucent green video N64 game console, complete with Donkey Kong 64.

But games might get bumped off the sofa by something else: The family DVD player. After years of disappointment, sales of digital video disk players are hopping. Home theatre sales in the first three quarters of 1999 are up 10 percent compared to a year ago, and the Consumer Electronics Association says DVD players are a big reason why.

DVD players rank fourth on the CEA's list of top video products for the Christmas season, behind VCRs and two categories of TVs. The CEA expects more than 3.5 million DVD players to sell this year. And, even though the products are pricey, don't discount personal TV recorders from ReplayTV Networks and TiVo.

While ReplayTV has concentrated its efforts on wooing online shoppers through a partnership with Amazon.com, TiVo has both Amazon.com and traditional retailers such as Sears and Circuit City. It also offers a $100 rebate for DirecTV subscribers who buy the product. Even digital TVs are showing signs of life. The cheapest of these exotic animals costs more than $1,500 for a 32-inch set, but more than 20,000 digital TVs were sold by manufacturers in October. That's almost a quarter of their sales this year.

Once out of the living room, consumers are focusing on staying in touch, according to the CEA's 1999 Holiday Purchase Patterns Report. For the second year in a row, wireless phones look to top the mobile products wish list, ahead of notebook PCs, car stereos, pagers and car navigation devices.

It's probably a little early for the World Wireless Web, though. A connected phone, such as one that uses Sprint Corp.'s WirelessWeb, costs $9.95 a month to current Sprint PCS phone owners, and $59.99 a month for combined voice and data for new customers.

At the other end are "free" wireless devices: Two-way radios with ranges up to 2 miles. While each device can cost anywhere from $30 to $200, they are essentially just walkie-talkies and, thus, have no usage fees. Such devices have been in and out of Amazon's top five best seller list frequently.

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